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 Breast Health Tip #19: Flaxseeds 
The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Dr. Christine Horner's Natural Secrets for Breast Health by . View all columns in series

Lignans have several additional ways that they reduce the risk of breast cancer. They create more of the “good” protective kind of estrogen and less of the "bad" cancer-promoting type. They also reduce the production of estrogen in fat cells by blocking the aromatase enzyme. Aromatase converts androgens to estrogens (The new anti-breast cancer drug Arimidex works in the same way). According to a 1993 study from the University of Rochester, lignan-rich flaxseeds also lengthen the menstrual cycle. For example, if a woman has a menstrual period every 28 days and then starts consuming flaxseeds, her cycles may lengthen to every 32 days. The longer your menstrual cycles are, the fewer the number of cycles you will have over your lifetime, and the less estradiol you will produce. Simply put, the longer your menstrual cycles are, the lower your risk of breast cancer is.

All of the very effective schemes that lignans use to combat breast cancer add up to lots of protection. Research shows that women with the highest amounts of lignans in their urine—a reflection of how much they consume in their diet—have the lowest risk of breast cancer.

Brevail is made of isolated, purified, and concentrated lignans from flaxseed. The dose in one daily capsule was strategically designed to create levels of lignans in the body that are in the same range as that found in women with the lowest risk of breast cancer. There are two major benefits to taking supplemental lignans. First, the amount of lignans in flax can vary from crop to crop by as much as 300 percent, whereas those in the supplement are standardized so you always get the optimal amount. Secondly, studies show that the lignans in Brevail are absorbed eighteen times more effectively than they are from ground flaxseed. So, taking lignans in this supplemental form guarantees that you get the healthiest dose of lignans every day. Brevail is not recommended for women who are pregnant or currently breast feeding, not because it isn't safe, but because no studies have been conducted yet on this special group of women to analyze the effects and proper dose.

Taking Brevail with other cancer drugs is also not recommended because this product hasn’t been studied in women currently undergoing cancer treatment. However, that may change in the near future. A study published in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment in July 2003 found that lignans enhance the effectiveness of the common cancer medication Tamoxifen. Researchers J. Chen and Lillian Thompson found that lignans and Tamoxifen, alone and—better yet—in combination, reduce the ability of estrogen-receptor-negative tumor cells to stick together, invade, and migrate—all important properties in cancer's ability to grow and spread. More research is needed to determine the exact role this supplement may play in cancer treatment.

Brevail is standardized to one type of lignan found in flax, "secoisolariciresinol diglycoside" (SDG). Of all the lignans found in flax, SDG is the one found in the highest amounts and is possibly the most potent. If you decide to take Brevail, I think it’s a good idea to eat flaxseed, too. In addition to the advantages of lignans, flax has many other anticancer properties that you wouldn’t want to miss out on.

The third property of flax that lowers your risk of breast cancer is its abundant fiber. High-fiber diets are associated with a 54 percent lower risk of breast cancer. Fiber helps to lower the amount of estrogen in your body by binding to it in your intestines and then expelling it from your body.

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 About The Author
Christine Horner, MD is a board certified and nationally recognized surgeon, author, professional speaker and a relentless champion for women's health. She spearheaded legislation in the......moreChristine Horner MD, FACS
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