For the past 30 years, I have been surrounded by family, friends, and patients with cancer. Accompanying them on their journey has been a blessing and an honor. It has also pushed me to grow my knowledge, experience, and capacity in ways I didn’t know I could. What a surreal journey to feel another’s pain, their fears, their confusion, their losses, and grief while witnessing their victories, strengths, courage, determination, resilience, and spiritual uprising.

A cancer diagnosis is not easy to hear, but it pushes us (as patients, family members, or health care providers) to step out of our comfort zone to overcome the challenge. It forces us to make shifts, to see things from a different perspective, and to transform in ways we wouldn’t have otherwise. Making changes in our lives, mindsets, daily habits, and lifestyle practices to reduce our risks for cancer creates difficulties of their own. Such shifts not only decrease our own cancer risks but, more importantly, they optimize our lives toward a more fulfilling, productive, healthy, and happy material and spiritual life. — Dr. Nooshin K. Darvish

Is the risk for breast cancer mainly in women with a family history of breast cancer?

While women with a strong family history of breast cancer, like mine, have a higher risk of breast cancer, every year in the U.S., 80 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer never have had a family history of cancer. As women, we all need to be aware we have risks, because of our modern-day stressors, chemical exposures from environment and food, lifestyle, and nutrition. On the other hand, by incorporating some simple practices into our daily lives, we potentially can reduce our cancer risks whether we have a family history of cancer or not.

Does diet matter when it comes to cancer prevention?

Diet and lifestyle do matter when it comes to cancer and its prevention. Diets high in sugar, including alcohol, wine, fruit juices, natural and artificial sweeteners, as well as processed foods, feed cancer cells. All of us have cancer cells in our body, but when we feed them, over time, is when we get into trouble. Limiting sugar and alcohol intake, as well as processed foods, while increasing intake of organic whole foods helps reduce feeding cancer cells, while simultaneously supporting and protecting our healthy cells.

Are there certain foods that are considered “cancer fighters”?

Organic plant-based foods, such as green leafy vegetables and the cruciferous family of veggies, such as broccoli, cauliflower, arugula, bok choy, and cabbage, contain a naturally occurring compound called sulforaphanes. Multiple studies have shown sulforaphanes inhibit breast cancer stem cells and are cancer preventative. Because “toxic estrogens,” such as estrone, produced by our fat cells increase risks of breast cancer, sulforaphanes have shown to be effective in improving estrogen metabolism, and assisting the liver in their elimination, thereby reducing breast cancer risk.

Are there any other foods or spices that have cancer-preventative properties?

Turmeric, the yellow spice found in Middle Eastern cooking (there are more than 1,200 published research articles about it), provides potent anti-inflammatory and immune-supportive activity while inhibiting cancer cell growth through a variety of biochemical pathways. All of us should be using this spice in our cooking or in our hot drinks daily. Turmeric is most effective when consumed warmed, either in cooking or in hot liquid. Absorption of turmeric is further potentiated when it is mixed with some type of fat or oil combined with black pepper.

What are some of your favorite cancer-prevention supplements?

Depending on the individual and their medical history and laboratory tests, I personalize supplements for each individual. However, there are a few supplements that commonly stand out for cancer prevention. First is vitamin D in a dry powder capsule (not in an oil base). The immune system and the gut microbiome require vitamin D for proper function and immune production to fight cancer cells. Extracts from broccoli sprouts called sulforaphane or indole-3-carbinol (both of which support proper estrogen metabolism) and curcumin (turmeric extract) are probably my favorite for many women. Occasionally, I will throw in green tea extract (EGCG) or encourage women to drink organic green tea.

Dr. Nooshin K. Darvish, a licensed naturopathic physician who has been practicing integrative cancer therapies for more than 25 years, shares some tips to reduce breast cancer risks. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Find Darvish and the team at Holistique Naturopathic Medical Center in Bellevue.