BREAST HEALTH TIP #19: Flaxseeds When it comes to breast health, flaxseeds are one of the most protective foods you can eat. Just 3 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds a day provides an astounding amount of defense.
If you were given only one choice of a food to take as medicine, your best choice would be the tiny seeds from flax. Flaxseeds have more potent medicinal qualities—especially those that fight breast cancer—than any other known edible plant. This small seed provides a fortress of protection against this deadly killer.
OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS
The intelligence contained in flax is so spectacular that it coordinates a sensational offense against breast cancer. Flax has three notable distinctions. First, it's the richest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids. Research has found that women who eat the highest amounts of omega-3s have the lowest risk of breast cancer.
Omega-3 fatty acids help to lower the risk of breast cancer by quieting inflammation and by decreasing the rate at which breast cells divide in response to estrogen. Inflammation is a key factor in the initiation and progression of a variety of diseases including heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, skin diseases, and cancers such as breast cancer. If you have breast cancer, omega-3s have been found to help shrink breast tumors and prevent them from spreading to other parts of the body.
The second exceptional quality of flax has to do with something called "lignans." Lignans are natural plant compounds that help to give stiffness to the structure of plants. They also possess extraordinary anticancer properties with an astonishing ability to help protect against and fight breast cancer. Lignans are found abundantly in certain fruits, vegetables, beans, seeds, and legumes—for example, garlic, carrots, broccoli, asparagus, dried apricots, and prunes. But, the amount of lignans in these plants is miniscule compared to that in flaxseeds. Flaxseeds contain at least 100 times more lignans than any other known edible plant!
Lignans deter and arrest the growth of breast cancer in a multitude of ways. First, they act as a weak estrogen and block strong cancer-promoting estrogens from attaching to the estrogen receptors in the breast. Second, lignans change the structure of the breast making it more resistant to toxins that induce cancer. Third, if you have breast cancer, lignans can stop the tumor cells from growing and help to prevent the metastasis of your tumor. They do this by decreasing two growth factors that fuel the fires of breast cancer: insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) and something called “epidermal growth factor.” IGF-1 is thought to be one of the most dangerous and potent risk factors for breast and prostate cancer.
There is another cancer-enhancing growth factor that lignans thwart, called "vascular endothelial growth factor" (VEGF). VEGF stimulates new blood vessels to grow. In order for a tumor to grow larger, it needs more nutrients--nutrients that can only be delivered by new blood vessels. So the more blood vessels that grow into a tumor, the more food that is delivered to it, and the faster it will grow. On the contrary, without new blood vessels, tumors can’t grow larger. Cancer specialists recently discovered that this anticancer tactic used by lignans--blocking VEGF--is so powerful at stopping tumor growth that they have created a new anticancer drug that works this same way. It is called Avastin (bevacizumab) and was released on the market in 2004. Avistan is currently only approved for the treatment of metastatic colon cancer and must be given in combination with another chemotherapy drug called 5-FU.