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Making Decisions…Without All the Facts

Posted By bradford On October 19, 2011 @ 1:54 pm In Uncategorized | No Comments

By Diana Daghofer

How do you make the important health decisions in your life? Do you have a particular approach, or does it depend on the question? Do you make ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ list? Ask trusted friends or colleagues? Opt for quiet reflection or a ‘gut feeling’? Many people will look for the evidence – what does the research say?

In my day job, I’m a health writer. My job is to review and synthesize research on public health issues. I pore over social and medical websites and journals, summarizing the conclusions to help others make health decisions. So, when it comes to personal choices, my approach is to study the research, honing in on the articles that most clearly address the issue I’m looking into. Facts in hand, I then apply my personal ‘lens.’ Is this the right choice for me?

I’m facing such a decision right now. I am happy to report that I just celebrated my five year anniversary being cancer-free. I had estrogen-positive breast cancer, so was put on the recommended five years of hormone treatment. Finally, my course of tamoxifen is over! As great as that feels, it brings me back to the harried days of making treatment decisions. Surgery – will that be a lumpectomy or mastectomy? Immediate or delayed reconstruction, or no reconstruction at all? Chemotherapy – what options are out there to reduce the nausea, fatigue and other side-effects? Radiation – yes or no? And on, and on. Those of you who have been on this journey, or supported a loved one through it, know what I’m talking about. It can be confusing and scary.

This time, the decision is whether to go on a preventive class of drugs known as aromatase inhibitors, or not. So, here I sit with the research articles, the results of randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled research studies, and the meta-analyses of multiple studies. The decision should be easy – the studies have been going on for some time; the evidence is there. The data shows me the difference in recurrence of breast cancer between women in my situation who were put on aromatase inhibitors, and those who weren’t.

But wait a minute, where is the data demonstrating the difference between these anonymous research subjects and me? I am a well-informed and highly motivated practitioner of prevention. As a result, I am now a vegetarian. I eat mainly organic, unprocessed food. When I drink alcohol, I stick to a glass or two of red wine. I exercise and take vitamin D daily. You won’t find toxic cleansers, personal care products or pesticides in my house. Most importantly to my mental state, I have reduced the stress in my life markedly. (Moving from a big city to a small mountain town helped a lot!) I surround myself with positive people, laugh a lot and make a point of treasuring the things and people that make me happy.

Where are the studies that compare a vegetarian diet to a drug like Arimidex? What is the role of maintaining a healthy weight, versus pharmaceutical approaches to reducing hormone levels? How do the other preventative measures I take line up against medical approaches to prevention? Unfortunately, this type of research is sadly lacking.

Most cancer research is funded by the pharmaceutical industry. Our public institutions – government organizations, universities and non-profit groups – devote only a little over 2% [1] of the total research budget to primary prevention. Almost 2/3 of these research dollars – our taxes and donations – are spent on the biology and treatment of cancer. How can we hope to turn the tide on cancer if so little emphasis is put to prevention?

Whether you are making a personal health choice, or are a policy-maker trying to protect the health of an entire population, you need the right information to make the right decisions. When will our public institutions step up their efforts on prevention and help us all do what we can to prevent cancer?

Food sources of aromatase inhibitors

There are many natural sources of aromatase inhibitors [2] in foods. Some research indicates that chrysin, a flavonoid found in passion flower plant, bee propolis, bee pollen and raw honey is the most potent (1). It is normally available as a supplement, along with piperine (from black pepper) which greatly enhances its bioavailability.

Other foods that significantly decreased aromatase activity are red wine, alcohol-free red wine, green tea, and black tea. To be on the safe side, it’s probably best to get your aromatase inhibitors [3] from a variety of sources. There are lots!

(List courtesy of Healing Pastures [2])

Quercetin: Found in cabbage, kale, brussel sprouts, onions and garlic, citrus fruits, apples, parsley, tea, and red wine. Olives and olive oil, grapes, black currants, cranberries, dark cherries, and dark berries such as blueberries, blackberries, bilberries, lingonberries and red raspberries are also high in flavonoids, including quercetin. Quercetin seems to work better when used in conjunction with bromelain, a digestive enzyme found in pineapples.

Naringenin: Found in all citrus fruits, like orange, tangerine, lemon and lime. Avoid getting it from grapefruit or grapefruit juice, which can interfere with reducing estrogen levels.

Apigenin: Found in celery, parsley, artichokes, basil, chamomile, thyme, peppermint, gingo biloba, and other herbs like horsetail herb, lemon balm herb, perilla herb, vervain herb, and yarrow. The highest concentrations of apigenin seem to be in chamomile and thyme.

Genistein : This isoflavone is found in herbs like red clover, parsley, sage, green vegetables, fruits and particularly pulses and legumes like chick peas and beans, and soy. Soy and soy foods contain high amounts of plant estrogens or phytoestrogens. These estrogens are very weak and have almost no harmful effects. They compete with the estrogen receptor sites in the body, and prohibit the more potent and harmful estrogen.

Diadzein: Another isoflavone found in soy products. Genistein accounts for approximately 50% of total soy isoflavones, whereas daidzein accounts for about 40%.

Resveratrol: Good sources are the skin and seeds of red grapes, grape seed extract, and black and red berries. Muscadine grapes, often used to make red wine, have the highest content.

Linoleic Acid: An essential fatty acid from the Omega-6 family found in common mushrooms like button mushrooms, shitake, portabello and crimin, as well as vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains and seeds. Good sources are oils made from safflower, sunflower, corn, soya, evening primrose, pumpkin, olives and wheat germ.


(1) Monteiro R, Azevedo I, Calhau C, Modulation of Aromatase Activity by Diet Polyphenolic Compounds J. Agric. Food Chem., 2006, 54 (10), pp 3535–3540

Also in this issue on An Ounce …

Article printed from Prevent Cancer Now: http://www.preventcancernow.ca

URL to article: http://www.preventcancernow.ca/making-decisions%e2%80%a6without-all-the-facts/

URLs in this post:

[1] a little over 2%: http://www.ccra-acrc.ca/PDF%20Files/Annual_2008_EN.pdf

[2] natural sources of aromatase inhibitors: http://healingpastures.com/2009/10/18/natural-aromatase-inhibitors/

[3] get your aromatase inhibitors: http://www.raysahelian.com/aromatase.html

[4] Canada at heart of global asbestos lobby: http://www.preventcancernow.ca/canada-at-heart-of-global-asbestos-lobby

[5] Group invokes spirit of John Lennon to ‘ Give People a Chance’: http://www.preventcancernow.ca/group-invokes-spirit-of-john-lennon-to-give-people-a-chance-calls-for-a-clear-symbol-on-all-products-that-contain-carcinogens

[6] “Prevention is the Cure” presentation now freely available to public: http://www.preventcancernow.ca/“prevention-is-the-cure”-presentation-now-freely-available-to-public

[7] My story: http://www.preventcancernow.ca/my-story

[8] Dying too early: http://www.preventcancernow.ca/dying-too-early

[9] PCN incineration campaign update: http://www.preventcancernow.ca/pcn-incineration-campaign-update-2

[10] Physician activism: Doctors lead Canada’s anti-pesticide movement: http://www.preventcancernow.ca/physician-activism-doctors-lead-canada’s-anti-pesticide-movement

[11] Scented laundry products emit hazardous chemicals through dryer vents: http://www.preventcancernow.ca/scented-laundry-products-emit-hazardous-chemicals-through-dryer-vents

[12] Support Prevent Cancer Now Today – We Need You!: http://www.preventcancernow.ca/support-prevent-cancer-now-today-–-we-need-you

[13] Important Notice: PCN has a new Facebook page!: http://www.preventcancernow.ca/important-notice-pcn-has-a-new-facebook-page-2

[14] PCN shorts: http://www.preventcancernow.ca/pcn-shorts-3

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