Genetics and Breast Cancer Risk

Genetics and Breast Cancer Risk

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In the evolution of genetic testing as screening for disease prevention, there is still much we have to learn. Genetic screenings are not without false positives, which means that when you were told you tested positive for a breast cancer gene — the result may have actually been wrong. (2,3)

It is very difficult to not let such a “test result” go to your head. If you are told you have the gene for a certain disease, we have to ask the question, “What effect on health does this nocebo mindset have?” A nocebo is the opposite of a placebo. While a placebo employs the mind’s ability to heal the body, a nocebo employs the mind’s ability to make us sick. (4)

It is also a challenge for physicians to navigate around the nocebo effect, even when the genetic test is accurate and the patient now carries the fear of breast cancer or heart disease. (4) This is a difficult question, and the solution will come as this new science evolves.

Recently, there has been a surge in the evolution and understanding of genetic screening for breast cancer. In a study published by the Journal of American Medicine (JAMA), researchers evaluated the genetic tests of more than 40,000 women who were tested for 24 different gene variations (more common than the infamous BRCA gene which was not tested) that have been linked to breast cancer risk. (1)

The results revealed that women who carried these genes can effectively cut their risk for breast cancer by following a healthy lifestyle. The study suggests that women who carry genes that put them at risk for breast cancer are especially benefited by a healthy lifestyle.

The senior researcher, Nilanjan Chatterjee of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, listed four healthy lifestyle factors that he saw linked to a reduced risk of breast cancer. They were:

  1. Maintaining a healthy weight
  2. Not smoking
  3. Limiting alcohol
  4. Not using hormone therapy after menopause

The study concluded that if all white women in the U.S. followed these lifestyle guidelines, almost 30 percent of breast cancers could be avoided. (1) Currently, according to the study, a 30-year-old white woman living in the U.S. has an 11 percent chance of developing breast cancer by the age of 80.

This study suggests strongly that changing one’s lifestyle can change the expression of your genes.

Ayurveda Lifestyle 101

In the study, the lifestyle suggestions listed were quite minimal. Ayurveda suggests living a lifestyle that could perhaps support healthy genetic expression much more than the four listed above. Here are some Ayurvedic basics:

  1. Go to bed early and wake up early.
  2. Exercise daily and include yoga, breathing and meditation.
  3. Eat whole foods, not processed or sugary meals.
  4. Drink water as your primary beverage.
  5. Don’t eat meals late in the evening.
  6. Eat seasonal foods.
  7. Serve and care for others.
  8. Make an effort to show and express love.
  9. Eat calmly and relaxed — never while angry.
  10. Don’t worry — Be happy!



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Dr. John

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