On my weekly radio program this past Saturday I addressed the issue brought to our attention by Angelina Jolie's recent decision to  have her ovaries removed to make sure ovarian cancer has no place in her future.  Angelina Jolie, as you will remember, previously underwent bilateral mastectomy for the same reason.  Having lost her mother to cancer in 2007, and having been tested for the BRCA gene mutations that can increase a person's risk for these kinds of cancers and found positive for one variant, the BRCA1 gene mutation, she was afraid.

Unfortunately, Ms. Jolie was unaware that genes are not determinate in themselves; we can in many, many cases modify gene expression significantly if we just know how.  My "job" on the radio show Saturday was to begin to tell people how to do that.  This is the exciting frontier of epigenetics! We talked about:

  • The BRCA genes and what they do for us if they are normal:  in short, suppress tumor growth
  • How these genes do that by supervising and maintaining the health of our DNA
  • How seemingly simple nutrients such as the trace mineral selenium can come from behind and do the work the defective gene is failing to do.  A study has shown that women with the BRAC1 gene mutation with higher levels of damage to DNA came down to the same level as a control group with simple supplementation of selenium for three months (read here). Selenium boosts glutathione; glutathione is the most potent catalyst of apoptosis - programmed cell death as soon as a cell's chromosomes begin to misbehave
  • The incredible effect of the humble trace mineral iodine on breast cancer prevention (and treatment, actually, though I did not touch on that in the program)
  • That 85% of cases of breast cancer are not associated with either the BRAC1 or BRAC2 mutations
  • That a review of all of the pertinent literature regarding worse outcome or prognosis after initial treatment does not support the view that those with BRAC gene mutations are at greater disadvantage than those that don't (read here)
  • That there are other genetic mutations that also increase the risk of breast cancer and other cancers and that these can be outsmarted, too, using similar key nutrients

I also talked about the misdiagnosis via mammogram of 1.3 MILLION CASES OF BREAST CANCER in the US in the last 30 years and wrongly treated!  WHAT?  This is found in a disturbing new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (read here).

This information led me to recommend an excellent and insightful book - How We Do Harm - A Doctor Breaks Ranks About Being Sick in America by Otis Webb Brawley, MD, the chief medical and scientific officer of The American Cancer Society.  This is eye-opening, beyond disturbing, and a must read.

Another important resource recommended during this program was the book Iodine - Why You Need it; Why You Can't Live Without It by David Brownstein, MD.