October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
A return to the office, coinciding with kids returning to school, and evenings filled with some combination of extra-curricular activities and the new Fall TV Season, becomes the norm for some.
For many more, while fall still entails all that goes with a return to a consistent day-to-day routine, it also means a renewed focus on the societal and charitable causes that most affect us.
In September, millions of people across 30 different countries take part in the Terry Fox Run, honouring the most heroic of Canadians, and this is followed in October with Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
In both Canada and across Europe, Breast Cancer is among the most commonly diagnosed forms of cancer and, according to the Canadian Cancer Society, it is estimated 26,800 Canadian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2022, representing 25% of all new cases.
On the whole, the known risk factors for Breast Cancer are numerous and they vary greatly in the manner in which they can be controlled by an individual. For example, risk factors such as ‘tall adult height’ or ‘late menopause’ are more products of chance than a matter of choice. However, proactive steps can be taken to lessen your overall cancer risk.
It has been determined through research that physical inactivity increases the risk of Breast Cancer in women, while further studies have provided consistent evidence that adult weight gain is a probable cause of post-menopausal breast cancer.
Therefore, working to blend exercise opportunities into your schedule seems a logical adjustment to your daily routine. The are many opportunities to do this at home, and there are also practical options for increasing physical activity in the workplace.
Because a lack of time and energy can be a deterrent to a healthier lifestyle, it is important to find practical whole-body solutions to improve overall health. To that end, Cordyceps mushrooms are effective. In human studies, participants taking Cordyceps showed enhanced oxygen utilization during intense exercise[i]; this is noteworthy because increased aerobic capacity will improve outcomes by prolonging and intensifying workouts.
Additionally, research on Cordyceps has provided positive evidence towards the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular disease brought on by an increase in lipid levels. Specifically, administration of cordycepin – the extracted component of Cordyceps - was able to reduce the accumulation of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, total cholesterol and triglycerides effectively, ultimately offering itself as a potent nutraceutical agent for reducing hyperlipidemia caused by high fat diets.[ii]
Prolonged exposure to high levels of estrogen has been linked to an increased risk of a Breast Cancer diagnosis; such increases in exposure can be caused by starting menstruation early, going through menopause late, being older at first pregnancy, and never having given birth. Conversely, having given birth is a protective factor for breast cancer. [iii]
Of course, decisions surrounding reproductive timing and choice are both personal and unpredictable, but understanding how these milestones may affect your risk level will allow for proactive choices in other areas of life.
Limiting Alcohol Consumption
Studies have repeatedly shown drinking alcohol can lead to a marked increase in Breast Cancer risk which is why moderation is key. For some, this may mean a subtle lifestyle change but for others it may entail undoing or reversing the pandemic related increase in drinking habits that have affected many.
Thankfully, there is no shortage of alcohol-free activities to choose from and, compared to a booze filled night out, there is virtually no chance you will regret any of these activities the next day.
Know Where To Begin
Naturally, the spectre of a cancer diagnosis is frightening for many reasons, not least of which is the way cancer often acts in an indiscriminate manner, affecting otherwise healthy individuals. Early screening, including breast self-examination and mammography when you and your doctor agree that its appropriate, help to maximize the ability of medical professionals to provide the best treatment. More information is available here.
Then, even if we understand there is no one thing we can do to guarantee a cancer-free existence, it is comforting when scientific research provides evidence for ways to minimizing the likelihood of a diagnosis.
To wit, a recently completed systematic review and meta-analysis of 17 cancer studies published from 1966 to 2020 examined the relationship between mushroom consumption and cancer risk.
The study utilized data from more than 19,500 cancer patients and found individuals who ate 18 grams of mushrooms daily had a 45% lower risk of cancer compared to those who did not eat mushrooms, with the strongest association being for those who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. [iv]
In describing the findings to Science Daily, Djibril M. Ba, a graduate student in epidemiology at Penn State College of Medicine noted the important role played by Ergothioneine (Ergo).
As noted by Ba, "Mushrooms are the highest dietary source of ergothioneine, which is a unique and potent antioxidant and cellular protector.”
Ergo has a unique role in protecting your mitochondria from oxidation, which is important because mitochondria play an essential role in creating energy to drive cellular function, including basically all our biological processes.[v]
Ba further explained that, “replenishing antioxidants in the body may help protect against oxidative stress and lower the risk of cancer."
These findings complement previous research in which different varieties of mushrooms, including Lion’s Mane (labelled as Hericium erinaceus in this table), have been identified as a significant source of Ergo, with additional research beginning to confirm the role it may have in easing stress-induced cell death.[vi]
The ongoing and evolving nature of cancer research is nowhere near finished but, when it comes to prevention, mushrooms present as a great place to start.
-- Written by Jared Stephens --
[i] Yi, X., Xi-zhen, H. & Jia-shi, Z. Randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial and assessment of fermentation product of Cordyceps sinensis (Cs-4) in enhancing aerobic capacity and respiratory function of the healthy elderly volunteers. Chin. J. Integr. Med. 10, 187–192 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02836405.
[ii] Ashraf, S. A., Elkhalifa, A., Siddiqui, A. J., Patel, M., Awadelkareem, A. M., Snoussi, M., Ashraf, M. S., Adnan, M., & Hadi, S. (2020). Cordycepin for Health and Wellbeing: A Potent Bioactive Metabolite of an Entomopathogenic Cordyceps Medicinal Fungus and Its Nutraceutical and Therapeutic Potential. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 25(12), 2735. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules25122735
[iii]Risk Factors: Hormones. (2015, April 29). National Cancer Institute. Retrieved September 19, 2022, from https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/hormones.
[iv] Djibril M Ba, Paddy Ssentongo, Robert B Beelman, Joshua Muscat, Xiang Gao, John P Richie, Jr, Higher Mushroom Consumption Is Associated with Lower Risk of Cancer: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies, Advances in Nutrition, Volume 12, Issue 5, September 2021, Pages 1691–1704, https://doi.org/10.1093/advances/nmab015
[v] Why Mitochondria Is The Organelle Of The Moment | Pfizer.” Why Mitochondria Is The Organelle Of The Moment | Pfizer, www.pfizer.com, https://www.pfizer.com/news/articles/why_mitochondria_is_the_organelle_of_the_moment#:~:text=As%20the%20power%20plants%20in,all%20of%20our%20biological%20processes. Accessed 29 July 2022.
[vi] Mori K, Inatomi S, Ouchi K, Azumi Y, Tuchida T. Improving effects of the mushroom Yamabushitake (Hericium erinaceus) on mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Phytother Res. 2009 Mar;23(3):367-72. doi: 10.1002/ptr.2634. PMID: 18844328.