Breast Cancer – A Genetic Breakthrough

It is not often that “good news” and “breast cancer” appear in the same sentence.

Recent research published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology however has made this possible.

Where previously (2007 research) it was suggested that having a relative with the breast cancer gene BRCA1 or BRCA2 increased a woman’s chance of developing cancer between two – five times, scientists now say this is not the case. 

“We’ve done a very large population-based study both here in Australia, United States and Canada and we’ve now found that those women without mutations but from mutation-carrying families are not at increased risk”, states Professor John Hopper from the University of Melbourne.

This is reassuring information for many women. 

Approximately 10% of breast cancers are genetic with the majority of these cases triggered by mutations in the two genes. Women with these mutations have a very high risk of developing cancer – at least 10 times an increased risk. 

The current practice is for family members to be screened when these mutations appear. It was previously a case of guilt by association – faulty BRCA1 or BRCA2 in one family member meant all related women were equally at risk of the development of cancer. 

Dr Judy Kirk who runs the cancer service at Westmead Hospital in Sydney states that “…a negative test will really reassure [women] that they are back to the average risk – not to zero risk – but back to the average risk and can have the same screening that other women in the population have.”

Previously, a preventative mastectomy was considered one way to prevent or reduce the risk of breast cancer. While a positive gene mutation of BRCA1 or BRCA2 was rightly deemed a factor that increases a woman’s risk, so too was having a family history of breast cancer.

This new research means that a woman’s option to reduce the risk does not have to initially be so dramatic.


Emed Comment

Breast Cancer is the most common cancer in women. A sobering thought is that one in nine women will be diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 85.

It is a cancer whose incidence is on the rise. According to statistics provided by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre, by the year 2015, the number of new breast cancer cases among women will be 22% higher than way back in 2006.

The good news is that the five year survival rate has increased to 88% of cases thanks to increased awareness, early detection and targeted treatments.

Knowledge of the risk factors for breast cancer is your first line of defence. Some are well known, others less so:

  • Increasing age
  • A Family history of breast cancer
  • Fewer than 2 children or having your first child after the age of 30
  • Early menarche – first period before the age of 12
  • Menopause after the age of 55
  • High doses of ionising radiation before the age of 35
  • A history of cancer of the colon, thyroid, endometrium or ovary
  • A diet high in animal fat and excessive alcohol consumption
  • Obesity
  • A history of breast implants

Some research from the National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre has also identified height as a potential risk factor. Women taller than 175cm have a 42% increase in the risk of breast cancer if premenopausal and a 28% increase if postmenopausal.

Research has linked exposure to oestrogen or the storage of oestrogen as a key risk factor for the development of breast cancer.

Oestrogen is stored in fatty tissue and is often a feature of plastics and containers, as well as a part of many chemicals (including shampoos). Even microwaving food in plastic containers can produce more xenoestrogens.  

Xenoestrogens have been insidiously entering our systems via plastic bottles.  The component of these plastic bottles and containers BPA (Bisphenol-A) is a documented carcinogen and even affects hormonal signalling.  

The Cheeki range of bottles are a great way to avoid ingesting BPA. 

What Diet is best when diagnosed with Cancer?

Dietary “cures” for cancer can number in the thousands. While some diets can be considered fads, dietary factors account for approximately 30% of cancer cases in developed countries.

The Western diet has a lot to answer for. The most common dietary link to cancer is the lack of fruit and vegetables and the over-consumption of meat, sugar, alcohol and fat. 

A 2008 study determined that high meat consumption particularly through adolescence was a key risk factor for premenopausal breast cancer. And what is often the staple diet of an independence-seeking adolescent? McDonalds, Hungry Jacks and KFC – all high meat and saturated fat products.

While studies tend to focus on a specific component of a diet in its effect on cancer, the general consensus is that cleaning up the diet is of benefit for the prevention and treatment of cancer. 

Foods that have the potential to increase oestrogen levels in the body are to be avoided. Poultry, dairy, red meat, sugar, white flour and refined foods are all on this list.

Including more coloured fruits and vegetables, vegetarian sources of protein, fibre and omega 3 fatty acids can be your dietary insurance against breast cancer.

Supplemental Assistance

Indole-3-Carbinol – this is a main ingredient of the humble brussel sprout and broccoli. It has the ability to convert oestrogen to 2-hydroxyestrone (2-OHE1) instead of 16-hydroxyestrone (16-OHE1). Women with breast cancer have been found to have higher levels of 16-OHE1.

Indole-3-Carbinol: Oestrogen Detoxification can assist with converting the harmful oestrogen to its safer form.

Also, Cell Logic EnduraCell and EnduraCell Plus are rich in cruciferous vegetable extracts shown to be important in promoting an increase in the protective 2-OHE1 oestrogen metabolite which is important for glandular health and oestrogen metabolism. Research has shown protection against breast and prostate cancer due to glucosinolate compounds in cruciferous vegetables.

Coenzyme Q10, Vitamins B9 and B12 – Increased oxidative stress has been observed in breast cancer patients leading to the further promotion of cancer cells. Decreasing this oxidative stress while improving antioxidant status is beneficial in preventing further cancer development. 

MH Enhance Methyl Factors provides the protective methylating nutrients. 

Bioceuticals CoQ10 Excel 150 contains the powerful antioxidant Coenzyme Q10.

Vitamin D3 – Low serum levels of Vitamin D3 are very strongly associated with an increased risk for cancers including breast.

Bioceuticals Vitamin D3 Forte can provide a potent dose of easily absorbed Vitamin D.

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