Is Breast Cancer a Sure Thing if You Have Damaged BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 Genes?


Breast cancer is a dominant fear for many women. American women have one of the highest rates of breast cancer in the world. About 12% of American women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime and approximately 2% will develop ovarian cancer.

Everyone has BRCA-1 AND BRCA-2 genes. These genes help suppress tumors because they can repair damaged DNA.

Some people inherit damaged or altered BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 genes, making them at higher risk for breast or ovarian cancer.

Women with family members who have been diagnosed with breast cancer or ovarian cancer before the age of fifty, may decide to opt for genetic testing and counseling.

The mere presence of BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 mutations or any other breast cancer gene does not guarantee you will get the disease. Environmental and dietary factors play a central role in determining whether these genes are actually expressed.

About half of the women who carry these rare, potent genes do not get breast cancer.


Physicians and genetic counselors normally offer women with damaged genes three options:

  • Watch and wait – Get mammograms and/or MRIs every six months to increase your odds for early detection.
  • Radical surgery – Have your breasts, ovaries and/or fallopian tubes removed.
  • Take chemopreventive drugs for the rest of your life – Tamoxifen raises the risks for stroke, uterine cancer, cataracts, deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism.


Watch and wait while eating a diet free of animal-based foods. Add in regular monitoring for those at very high risk.

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is considered one of the world’s leading authorities on diet and cancer. Based on the best available research, their scientists came up with a bottom-line message:

“Diets that revolve around whole-plant foods – vegetables, whole grains, fruits, and beans – cut the risk of many cancers, and other diseases as well.”

There is a good deal of research about breast cancer risk and prevention. I have written much about the whole-food, plant-based diet, so I will let you research and determine how you can incorporate it into your life. My two books, Diet and Cancer: Is There a Connection? and Coco’s Healthy Cooking can help you get started. For a link to the books on Amazon, check the boxes in the right margin.

In this post, I want to offer you some additional information for reducing your risk of breast cancer.


In 2014, the World Health Organization stated that, regarding breast cancer, no amount of alcohol is safe. The carcinogen isn’t alcohol itself. The culprit is actually the toxic breakdown product of alcohol called acetaldehyde, which can form in your mouth almost immediately after you take a sip.


Maximizing melatonin levels may help suppress cancer growth by putting cancer cells to sleep at night. Researchers have found that blind women may have just half the odds of breast cancer as sighted women.

Conversely, women who work night shifts appear to be at increased risk for breast cancer.

Researchers at Harvard University found that meat consumption was the only food significantly associated with lower melatonin production and Japanese researchers have reported an association between higher vegetable intake and higher melatonin levels in the urine. So eat your vegetables and give up the meat.


Studies have found that walking at a moderate pace for an hour or more a day is associated with significantly lower breast cancer risk.


HCAs (heterocyclic amines) are chemicals formed when muscle meat, including beef, pork, fish, and poultry, is cooked using high-temperature methods. Eating well-done meat is associated with increased risk of breast cancer. HCAs appear able both to initiate and to promote cancer growth.

In 2008, researchers discovered that the livers of humans fed cooked chicken were only able to detoxify about half of these carcinogens.

Some environmental chemicals are known to promote the growth of cancer cells, especially in those eating excessive quantities of meat, milk and fish. Ninety to ninety-five percent of our exposure to these chemicals comes from consuming animal products.

Another group of environmental chemicals are found in auto exhaust, factory smoke stacks, petroleum tar products and tobacco smoke. These chemicals have recently been shown to adversely affect the BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 genes of breast cancer cells grown in the laboratory.

Studies have shown that environmental chemicals seem to play a far less significant role for breast cancer than the kind of foods we choose to eat.


Reducing dietary fat from the normal 30% in most American diets to 6% is associated with lower breast cancer risk.

Higher dietary fat is associated with higher blood cholesterol and both are associated with higher female hormone levels and more breast cancer.

Reducing dietary fat was associated with lower breast cancer risk. This usually means less consumption not only of fat but, more importantly, of animal-based foods.

Cancer appears to feed on cholesterol. Tumors may suck up so much cholesterol that cancer patients’ cholesterol levels tend to plummet as their cancer grows. This is not a good sign. The cancer is thought to be using the cholesterol to make estrogen or to shore up tumor membranes to help the cancer migrate and invade more tissue.

In a large study of over a million women, women who had total cholesterol levels over 240 compared to women whose cholesterol was under 160, had a 17 percent increased risk in breast cancer.


In a 2013 study, it was found that women who had been taking statins for a decade or more had twice the risk of breast cancer.


Inadequate fiber consumption may also be a risk factor for breast cancer. Researchers at Yale University found that premenopausal women who ate the equivalent of about a single cup of black beans had 62 percent lower odds of breast cancer. Premenopausal women on a higher fiber diet had 85 percent lower odds of estrogen-receptor-negative breast tumors. Fiber is only found in plant foods. Supplements did not give an advantage.

A study published in the Annals of Oncology found that daily apple eaters (who also ate the peel) had 24 percent lower odds of breast cancer, as well as significantly lower risks for ovarian cancer, laryngeal cancer and colorectal cancer.

Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli boost the activity of detoxifying enzymes in your liver.

Women eating a tablespoon of ground flaxseeds daily can extend their menstrual cycle by about a day. This means you’ll have fewer periods over the course of a lifetime and, presumably less estrogen exposure and reduced breast cancer risk.

Lignan intake is associated with significantly reduced breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women. Ligans are found in berries, whole grains and dark, leafy greens.

Breast cancer survivors who have higher levels of lignans in their bloodstreams and diets appear to survive significantly longer.

Dietary flaxseed has the potential to reduce tumor growth in patients with breast cancer.


Women with frequent urinary tract infections may be at a higher risk of breast cancer. Every course of antibiotics you take can kill bacteria indiscriminately.


Soy seems to lower breast cancer risk.

Women diagnosed with breast cancer who ate the most soy lived significantly longer and had a significantly lower risk of breast cancer recurrence than those who ate less. The phytoestrogens found in just a single cup of soy milk may reduce the risk of breast cancer returning by 25 percent.

Ninety percent of the breast cancer patients who ate the most soy phytoestrogens after diagnosis were still alive five years later, while half of those who ate little to no soy were dead.

Soy appears to reactivate BRCA genes.

Women at increased genetic risk of breast cancer may especially benefit from high soy intake.


Women whose mushroom consumption averaged just about one-half a mushroom or more per day had 64 percent lower odds of breast cancer compared with women who didn’t eat mushrooms at all.

Eating mushrooms and sipping at least half a tea bag’s worth of green tea each day was associated with nearly 90 percent lower breast cancer odds.

There is so much you can do to lower your risk of breast cancer, even if you have damaged BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 genes.

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© 2010-2017 Melinda Coker

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Categories : Blog, Cancer, Prevent Cancer

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