The BRCA genes are human genes that produce tumor suppressor proteins, which help repair damaged DNA. Those who have mutations to these genes cannot adequately suppress tumors, and in turn, are more likely to develop cancer. Let’s take a look at the genes and what you need to know.

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Remember in 2013 when Angelina Jolie decided to get a double mastectomy?  This was because she found out that she had a mutation in the BRCA1 gene. Those with mutations on either of the BRCA genes tend to develop breast and ovarian cancers at younger ages than people who do not have the mutations. Environmental factors and exposures, nutrition and lifestyle can also contribute to ovarian and/or breast cancer, but these mutations are a strong indicator of a breast cancer diagnosis.

Only 5–10% of breast cancer cases are hereditary, and of all breast cancer and ovarian cancer cases, 10% of ovarian and 7% of breast have been found to be carriers of the brca mutation. {Source}

The numbers are still small among all cases of those who carry a BRCA mutation, but for those who do have the mutation, the risk of developing cancer is substantial.  Recent meta-analysis has shown breast cancer risk at age 70 to be 57% for BRCA1 mutation carriers and 49% for BRCA2 mutation carriers; and ovarian cancer risk of 40% for BRCA1 and 18% for BRCA2 mutation carriers.{Source}   I have read even higher risks from different studies.  If you have an immediate family member with breast cancer, especially if they are under 40, they should get checked to see if they have the mutation – if they do, the odds are that you do as well.  Those with the mutations can undergo genetic counseling to determine a course of action.

Many companies now do genetic testing and will test for this gene. This can be very costly, so check with your doctor.  23 and me is one of the only companies that I have seen that tests for this that you can do on your own.

For other genes, check out Nutrition Genome which rates highly among these companies though they do not test for BRCA genes.

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Keep your body weight in a healthy range, obesity is a lifestyle factor that increases risk for breast cancer.

Limit alcohol consumption or don’t drink at all.  Even less than one drink a day was shown to have a small increase in breast cancer risk.

Get up and go to sleep at the same time each day. Disruptions in circadian rhythms have been shown to increase breast cancer risk.  Melatonin is thought to suppress tumor growth, and when circadian rhythms are disrupted, so is melatonin production.

Consider eating mostly plant based.  Grilled, barbecued, and smoked meats increased the odds of breast cancer, while fried meat causes DNA damage.  Look up how to safely cook meat for the least chemical exposures.

Eat broccoli sprouts. The sulphoraphane found in broccoli sprouts suppress the ability of breast cancer stem cells to form tumors.

Drink green tea. Drinking green tea saw a reduced risk of a breast cancer diagnosis.

Eat mushrooms. Mushrooms and green tea consumption daily saw a greatly reduced risk of developing breast cancer.

Avoid plastics and all endocrine disruptors.  These endocrine disruptors mess with hormones and breast cancer is a hormone related cancer.


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