Friday, October 06, 2017 by Isabelle Z.
When actress Angelina Jolie found out that she inherited the BRCA1 gene that places women at a high risk of ovarian and breast cancer, she decided to undergo a double mastectomy. Her mother died of ovarian cancer at age 56 after a decade-long battle with the illness.
Opinions on the wisdom of taking such an extreme step are divided, but one thing that should not be controversial is her doctor’s advice to other women who want to avoid breast cancer. Board-certified breast surgeon Dr. Kristi Funk, who performed Jolie’s double mastectomy four years ago, has unexpectedly found herself coming under fire for tips she gave women on Good Morning America.
What did Dr. Funk say that was so awful that Cancer Council Australia CEO Sanchia Aranda branded her as dangerous? Did she tell women to eat toxic chemicals and bathe in radiation? Did she recommend gaining weight and eating a diet of sugary sweets and junk food?
It turns out that Dr. Funk’s dangerous advice was the suggestion that women eat organic vegetables! That’s right, she’s a risk to the world’s female population because she said they should increase their intake of cruciferous vegetables like kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and bok choy every day. She also suggested that eating foods like turmeric, mushrooms, and Indian Gooseberry could help reduce the risk.
In addition, Dr. Funk said that women should consume antioxidant-rich berries such as blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries. She said that berries essentially cause cancer cells to kill themselves.
“It all begins with diet,” she told Good Morning America. “Diet, nutrition, exercise … so many things we can control.”
Perhaps most importantly, however, she stressed that women should eat organic as often as they can, saying it’s particularly important when it comes to fruits and vegetables where you eat the skin.
Keeping your environment clean is also vital in preventing breast cancer. Dr. Funk said that dusting and vacuuming regularly keep toxins out of the air, and toxins can be further eliminated by filling your home with house plants to absorb them.
It’s unclear why Professor Aranda felt the need to describe her claims to The New Daily this way: “They are seriously dubious. It’s basically garbage.”
“To bring in these quirky tips from people who profess to have expertise in these areas, I think can be very confusing for women or for the Australian public.”
The concept of eating organic vegetables is hardly a “quirky” tip, but perhaps Professor Aranda has her own reasons for considering positive lifestyle changes to be so troubling.
Let’s take a look at some of Dr. Funk’s claims. The idea of eating cruciferous vegetables is backed by a study from UC Santa Barbara that showed that compounds in the vegetables known as isothiocyanates have cancer-preventive and anti-carcinogenic properties.
Eating organic is also sound advice. Many studies have found a link between pesticides and cancer, including a Canadian study which found that women’s risk of breast cancer was tripled if they were exposed to farm pesticides and other chemicals.
Last year, a study in the British Medical Journal showed that teenage girls who ate the recommended five servings of fruit and vegetables per day reduced their risk of developing breast cancer later in life by as much a quarter.
Many women are frightened of developing breast cancer, and it’s only natural that they want to do all they can to stack the odds in their favor. Criticizing a doctor for suggesting that women eat a healthy, pesticide-free diet is not doing women any favors. It might be a good idea to take everything that doctors on TV say with a grain of salt, but this is one case where the research backs the advice. The only thing dangerous here would be continuing to live an unhealthy lifestyle full of toxin exposure.