This month, October, we celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness month! Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for 8.2 million deaths in 2012 (1). The most common causes of cancer death are cancers of:
lung (1.59 million deaths)
liver (745 000 deaths)
stomach (723 000 deaths)
colorectal (694 000 deaths)
breast (521 000 deaths)
Breast cancer, although it is the 5th common type of cancer, has one of the strongest survival rates. For stage I and II breast cancer, the survival rate is 100% and 93%, respectively (2).
About 1 in 8 U.S. women (about 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. While you may think women are the only ones who can have breast cancer, men can too. About 2,350 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in men in 2015. A man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 1,000 (3).
As with many cancers, there is a genetic component. About 5-10% of breast cancers can be linked to gene mutations (abnormal changes) inherited from one’s mother or father. Mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are the most common. On average, women with a BRCA1 mutation have a 55-65% lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. For women with a BRCA2 mutation, the risk is 45%. Breast cancer that is positive for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations tends to develop more often in younger women. An increased ovarian cancer risk is also associated with these genetic mutations. In men, BRCA2 mutations are associated with a lifetime breast cancer risk of about 6.8%; BRCA1 mutations are a less frequent cause of breast cancer in men (3).
Other factors? About 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer. These occur due to genetic mutations that happen as a result of the aging process and life in general, rather than inherited mutations.The most significant risk factors for breast cancer are gender (being a woman) and age (growing older) (3).
What can we do? Prevention and screening are the best chance to curb breast cancer as stated eariler, sooner awarenes of the cancer, increases survival rates. Hence the marketing campaigns for this disease across multiple industries - the more aware the public is, the better chance for survival. Other options such as herbal supplements are becoming more and more evident. A couple of unique supplements that have evidence-based research on breast cancer are below.
Grifola frondosa (aka Maitake) - Also know as the "Hen of the Woods" or "Dancing Mushroom," the Maitake mushroom has alot of research showing its anticancer potential. Preclinical studies are showing an extract of maitake, beta-glucans, are potent cancer cell destoyers, inducing apoptosis (cell death) of muliple breast cancer cell lines (4, 5, 6).
Ganoderma lucidum (aka Reishi (Japan), Ling Zhi (China)) - Also known as the "Mushroom of Immortality," the ganoderma mushroom has numerous properties linked to their beta glucans as well as ganoderic acids. Of these, breast cancer as well as prostate cancer seem to have the strongest response in preclincial tests showing their anticancer properties (7, 8). Additionally, ganoderma has been shown to work very well in complement to traditional radiation therapy (9).
Cordyceps sinensis - Cordyceps first became known to the world when Chinese women sprinters smashed world records in the Olympics and when asked what was their supplementation program, they stated, "Cordyceps mushrooms." (10). In regards to breast cancer, a specific cancer cell line, MC-7, appears to respond and ultimately induce apoptosis (cell death) at a 47% reduced rate (11).
Laminaria Japonica - Commonly known as "Kombu" has the most evidence-based research and its main extract, fucoidan, shows to be one of the most promising anticancer substances on the planet. Showing not only anticancer potential alone (12) but also in complement to traditional chemotherapy, suggesting a positive synergy of seaweed and chemotherapy options (13).
There a many other supplements that may have purported evidence for breast cancer prevention or treatment, but know much of the research today is in preclinical stage, not enough research has been done in humans, yet. As with all healthcare needs, be sure to consult with your physician on if you are able to add these to your daily health maintenance needs.
1. World Cancer Report. (http://www.iarc.fr/en/publications/books/wcr/wcr-order.php). Date Accessed 10/5/2015.
2. Breast Cancer Survival Rates by Stage. (http://www.cancer.org/cancer/breastcancer/detailedguide/breast-cancer-survival-by-stage). Date Accessed 10/5/2015)
3. U.S. Breast Cancer Statistics. (http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/understand_bc/statistics). Date Accessed 10/5/2015.
4. Jiang J, et al. Int J Oncol. 2010. Novel medicinal mushroom blend suppresses growth and invasiveness of human breast cancer cells. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/21042722/?i=3&from=breast%20cancer,%20grifola.).
5. Soares R, et al. J Med Food. 2011. Maitake (D fraction) mushroom extract induces apoptosis in breast cancer cells by BAK-1 gene activation. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/21480800/?i=2&from=breast%20cancer,%20grifola)
6. Alonso EN, et al. J Med Food. 2013. Genes related to suppression of malignant phenotype induced by Maitake D-Fraction in breast cancer cells. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/23875900/?i=1&from=breast%20cancer,%20grifola).
7. Suarez-Arroyo IJ, Rosario-Acevedo R, Aguilar-Perez A, et al. Anti-Tumor Effects of Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi) in Inflammatory Breast Cancer in In Vivo and In Vitro Models. Gallyas F, ed. PLoS ONE. 2013;8(2):e57431. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0057431.
8. Martínez-Montemayor MM, Acevedo RR, Otero-Franqui E, Cubano LA, Dharmawardhane SF. Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi) Inhibits Cancer Cell Growth and Expression of Key Molecules in Inflammatory Breast Cancer.Nutrition and cancer. 2011;63(7):1085-1094. doi:10.1080/01635581.2011.601845.
9. Chen S-N, Chang C-S, Hung M-H, et al. The Effect of Mushroom Beta-Glucans from Solid Culture of Ganoderma lucidum on Inhibition of the Primary Tumor Metastasis. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM. 2014;2014:252171. doi:10.1155/2014/252171.
10. Chen S, Li Z, Krochmal R, Abrazado M, Kim W, Cooper CB. Effect of Cs-4®(Cordyceps sinensis) on Exercise Performance in Healthy Older Subjects: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2010;16(5):585-590. doi:10.1089/acm.2009.0226.
11. Yong Wu, et. al. Phytomedicine, Volume 14, Issue 1, 10 January 2007, Pages 43–49. Inhibitory effects of ethyl acetate extract of Cordyceps sinensis mycelium on various cancer cells in culture.
12. Li, B.; Lu, F.; Wei, X.; Zhao, R. Fucoidan: Structure and Bioactivity. Molecules 2008, 13, 1671-1695.
13. Zhang Z, Teruya K, Yoshida T, Eto H, Shirahata S. Fucoidan Extract Enhances the Anti-Cancer Activity of Chemotherapeutic Agents in MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7 Breast Cancer Cells . Marine Drugs. 2013;11(1):81-98. doi:10.3390/md11010081.