Most people do not realize there are two forms of genetic risk for breast cancer. One risk is being a carrier of the BRCA gene while the other risk controls how you eliminate estrogen from your body. Approximately 5% of breast cancer is due to the BRCA gene mutation which has a lifetime risk of 50-70%. Carriers of this mutation require close surveillance, possible prophylactic mastectomy and removal of the ovaries which carry a high likelihood of developing ovarian cancer.
An additional 15% of breast cancers occur in BRCA negative women who have a strong family history of breast cancer. However, the majority of women diagnosed with breast cancer appear to have no genetic predisposition.
One way to determine if there is an increased risk in this large population is to identify estrogen metabolism genes which create enzymes that control how estrogen is detoxified, neutralized and eliminated from the body. To better understand this process and the hormone therapy options, consult with a doctor today.
Estrogen comes from two primary sources in women: one source is the ovaries and the other source comes from oral contraceptives and estrogen replacement therapy.
The body metabolizes estrogen along two major pathways: a safe or protective pathway and a high risk, potentially carcinogenic route. In addition, both pathways form free radicals which need to be neutralized and eliminated from the body. This entire process is controlled by specific gene segments found in your DNA.
Many times genetic mutations occur, called single-nuclotide polymorphisms or SNPs for short. If SNPs predominate along the high-risk pathway estrogen metabolism is directed along this route
Toxic breakdown products can attach to breast cells, alter the way they divide and predispose towards cancer. Depending upon the number and type of SNPs the risk of breast cancer can be many times the risk seen in the general population.
It is important to identify any SNPs present on your DNA. This is easily accomplished by taking a blood test or a swab from the inside of your mouth and sending it to a specialized laboratory. If the number of SNPs are small or absent you are probably clearing estrogen along a protective pathway and safely eliminating harmful metabolites from your body.
On the other hand, if there are a significant number of SNPs directing metabolism down the toxic pathway it becomes important to measure the presence and type of cancer inducing estrogen excreted in the urine.
So here is the critical point: once this information is known you can do something about it. If the carcinogenic pathway predominates the process can be rerouted to the more protective pathway.
This is first accomplished by making environmental changes such as cessation of smoking or reduction of exposure to second-hand smoke, elimination of exposure to pesticides in food, reduction of hydrocarbon intake (charcoal grilling) and by increasing your dietary intake of organic fruits and vegetables.
This is first accomplished by making environmental changes such as cessation of smoking or reduction of exposure to second-hand smoke, elimination of exposure to pesticides in food, reduction of hydrocarbon intake (charcoal grilling) and by increasing your dietary intake of organic fruits and vegetables. Stress reduction, e.g., aerobic exercise, yoga and meditation will definitely have a positive impact.
But most importantly there are specific, well-studied nutritional supplements shown to safely redirect the elimination of estrogen from the body. This will need to be confirmed, so after two to three months of taking supplements, a second urinary test is done to verify the redirection of harmful estrogen to the safe pathway.
Estrogen metabolism testing can determine your specific risk at any age with or without hormone replacement, since your unique DNA sequence exists from birth. Whether you are making or taking estrogen, even bioidentical estrogen, it is essential to determine your breast cancer risk and understand what steps you need to take to reduce that risk.
So what is your next step? Before anything else, determine your specific DNA template by taking a simple laboratory test. The cost is about $300. Unfortunately is not covered by insurance; however it is a very worthwhile investment. If your risk is low or absent nothing further needs to be done. If not, a consultation is recommended.