October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and during this month, organizations around the world are tasked with increasing awareness about the risk factors for this disease and encouraging women to have regular screenings.
Each year in the United States alone, an estimated 400,000 women die from breast cancer. There’s plenty you can do to reduce your risk – including maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, limiting exposure to carcinogens and getting enough of the right nutrients to boost your body’s disease-fighting response.
Here are two supplements with science-backed results to naturally support breast health.
It’s tough to get enough of this fat-soluble vitamin from food sources alone, and basking in the sun’s rays for your daily dose of D increases skin cancer risk. Luckily, supplementing with D is easy and inexpensive. Scientists say the National Institutes of Health’s recommended daily intake of vitamin D (600 IU/day up to age 70 and 800 IU/day for those over 70) is way too low considering the number of vitamin-D deficient Americans. Current research suggests that vitamin D not only supports healthy bones, but may also boost mood and improve cancer survival rates.
A meta-analysis published in the journal Anticancer Research found that breast cancer patients with higher vitamin D levels had lower mortality rates than those with lower vitamin D levels.
Another study projected that raising vitamin D levels to 40 to 60 ng/mL would prevent about 58,000 new cases of breast cancer each year, as well as reduce fatality rates of patients who already have the disease. A daily dose of 2000 IU of vitamin D3 would add about 20 ng/mL to blood serum levels without causing adverse health effects.
Selenium is a trace mineral that is essential for DNA synthesis, thyroid metabolism and in helping protect the body against oxidative damage.
Antioxidants like selenium are essential to breast health because they can protect epithelial cells in the breast by scavenging free radicals that can cause cancer.
A study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention found that the number of chromosomal breaks in carriers of the BRCA1 gene mutation was similar to that of non-carriers after 1-3 months of oral selenium supplementation.
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of selenium for adults is 55 micrograms. Brazil nuts have more selenium than any other food, supplying over 500 micrograms per ounce. Fish such as tuna and halibut are also good source of this mineral.
The safe upper limit of selenium is 400 micrograms daily, so be careful when regularly consuming foods with a high selenium content.
Karen Morse, MPH, is a freelance health and nutrition writer. In her free time, she enjoys Pilates, exploring nearby hiking trails and cooking up fresh, seasonal eats in the kitchen. Her work has appeared in Clean Eating, Weight Watchers, YouBeauty.com and others.