The Best Diet for Breast Cancer Based on Your Genes
When we think of genes and breast cancer, the first thing that comes to mind is the much-publicized -BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutation. This gene mutation became well known when Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie discovered that she was at high risk for breast cancer when she tested positive for the BRCA1 gene.
She later decided to undergo a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy, thereby reducing her risk for breast cancer. By making this extraordinarily personal and challenging decision public, she made women aware of genetics and breast cancer.
Current studies show that only 12% of women in the general population will develop breast cancer. But for those that have the BRCA gene, this increases to 69% to 72% by age 80. So it is no wonder that some women who test positive choose to have a double mastectomy.
Can You Lower Your Risk for Breast Cancer Even with the BRCA Gene?
Most gene mutations are not that affected by diet, lifestyle, or the environment. Or, we thought anyway.
Increased consumption of vegetables and fruit lowers the risk for breast cancer even for those with the BRCA gene. Consumption of foods high in folate, vitamin B12, and soy products also reduced risk.
On the other hand, women who consumed a high energy diet (high calorie), drank excessive coffee, and alcohol had increased risk even if they didn’t have the BRCA gene.
Could There Be Other Genes or Gene Variances that Increases Risk for Breast Cancer?
One in 500 hundred women will test positive for the BRCA gene. Yet, 1 in 8 U.S. women (about 12%) will develop invasive breast cancer throughout her lifetime.
Researchers have found that there are many different slight gene variances that can increase the risk of breast cancer. Unlike gene mutations, they are very responsive to diet, lifestyle habits, and our environment.
Nutrigenomics is the science of identifying these gene variances known as single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs. And how you create healthy gene response with nutrition, thereby reducing your risk for breast cancer.
What Gene Variants or SNPs can Increase Your Risk For Breast Cancer?
A combination of the gene variances or SNPs known as CYP1B1, COMT, GSTP1, and MnSod increases the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women shown in a recent study.
Most SNPs or variances have little impact on their own. But when combined with other SNPs, it can increase your risk for breast cancer. Want to learn more about nutrigenomic testing, check out my Genomic Solutions.
By testing for these genomic variances or SNPs, you can make sure to eat the right foods or, as I like to say, nourish your genes! And reduce your risk for breast cancer.
Nourish Your Genes, Reduce Your Risk for Breast Cancer
These gene variances or SNPs that can increase your risk for breast cancer when combined are all involved in how your body clears out estrogen. Or how your body detoxes estrogen from your body.
To safely eliminate hormones, your genes need a little help from vitamins, minerals, and bioactives!
Vitamins and minerals act like little helpers or co-factors that upregulate and modulate your genes, safely detoxing your hormones—thereby reducing your risk for breast cancer.
For instance, vitamin B6 plays a critical role in the formation of the queen of antioxidants known as glutathione and supports the SNP – GSTP1.
Bioactives also play a key role in the formation of the glutathione as they trigger your genes to produce this powerful anti-oxidant. Glutathione has been shown to play a major role in the prevention of cancer making bioactives a key player in the fight against cancer.
What are Bioactives and How Can They Reduce Your Risk for Breast cancer?
Bioactives are unique chemical compounds found in food that trigger healthy gene response. The classification of bioactives is flavonoids, carotenoids, organosulfur, and polyphenols. There are other group classifications, but these are the big players in the bioactive world.
Some of the carotenoids we are very familiar with are lycopene found in tomatoes and lutein found in green leafy vegetables.
Another example of a powerful bioactive is curcumins found in the spice, turmeric. Curcumins have been founds to a powerful antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic, and anti-inflammatory.
The best source of curcumins can be found in the turmeric root itself and can easily be roasted like any other roasted root vegetables. Caution should be used when taking turmeric as a supplement as too much turmeric can lead to iron deficiency.
Onions, Garlic, and Cruciferous Vegetables – All High in Bioactives
Onions and garlic are in the same family called the allium vegetables. They are high in allyl sulfur and have chemoprotective effects as well as kick-off healthy gene response reducing your risk for breast cancer.
This is because they contain key compounds that help our body to produce glutathione, the queen of anti-oxidants. They also trigger the master gene known as NrF2 – powerful anti-carcinogenic gene!
Cruciferous vegetables contain sulforaphane, a compound that promotes healthy detoxification of estrogen. And, supports those gene variants known as CYP1B1 and GSTP1! You can find your favorite cruciferous vegetables just about anywhere – cauliflower, cabbage, kale, garden cress, bok choy, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.
Green Tea Supports COMT – Reducing Your Risk for Breast Cancer
The COMT gene can increase your risk for breast cancer when combined with the other gene variants. In most cases, a reduced COMT alone will not significantly increase your risk for breast cancer. But in combination with other SNPs, this gene variant may increase your risk considerably.
Green tea supports the COMT gene because it is high in epigallocatechin-3-gallate – whew! Or, commonly referred to as EGCG. Studies have shown that EGCG can actually reduce your risk for breast cancer especially is you have what is referred to as a reduced COMT. The COMT gene is one of the few gene variances that can be slowed down or speed up depending on the gene variant.
If you are not fond of green tea, which I am not, you may enjoy this recipe for Matcha Green Tea Energy Balls. Matcha has 3-4 times the amount of EGCG as green tea. Super easy recipe – try these energy balls instead of that cup of coffee.
What is the Best Diet to Reduce Risk for Breast Cancer
The Mediterranean Diet is one of the best diets for reducing your risk of breast cancer. This diet offers a rich diversity of vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and clean sources of animal/fish protein. With such diversity, you can easily get in those bioactives.
The color of the vegetables and fruit identifies the bioactives or the polyphenols in the plants. For instance, white-green vegetables are high in allyl sulfides, which help to support that GSTP1 gene.
White-green vegetables would be leeks, garlic, onions, and chives. Red-purple plants like grapes, blackberries, red wine, raspberries, and blueberries are rich in anthocyanins and other polyphenols.
The more color and variety in your diet, the more you can reduce your risk for breast cancer.
The Mediterranean diet offers:
- A vast diversity of plant-based foods
- Rich in bioactive triggering healthy gene response
- Provides a large variety of high fiber foods
- Plant-based sources of protein – legumes, nuts, seeds
- Clean sources of animal/fish protein
It is the balance of good wholesome food that nourishes your genes and reduces your risk. Get my favorite Mediterranean Diet Food Guide.
What about Nutrigenomic Testing and Reducing Your Risk for Breast Cancer?
If you had breast cancer and want to be confident that you are doing everything you can to prevent a recurrence, then nutrigenomics would be worth the investment. Or, if your doctor has told you that you are high risk.
According to Phillip S. Rosenberg, Ph.D., Cancer Epidemiology & Genetics, in the United States, breast cancer rates will increase by 50% by 2020, and 80% will have no family history. Could these other genes be coming into play here?
If you ready to leap into the world of nutrigenomics, I would recommend Nutrition Genome. The report is very comprehensive; however, it does not bring together breast cancer genomics. But can easily do that with my Nutrition Genome Consult. If you want to learn more about nutrigenomics, join my private FaceBook group, Nutrition Solutions Through Genomics.
- BRCA Mutations: Cancer Risk & Genetics Testing
- How Common is Breast Cancer?
- Combined effect of CYP1B1, COMT, GSTP1, and MnSOD genotypes and risk of postmenopausal breast cancer, Cerne, et al Journal of Gynecologic Oncology, 2011
- Molecular Targets for Bioactive Food Components, J. A. Milner, Nutritional Sciences Research Group, American Society for Nutritional Sciences, 2004
- Nutrigenomics and Breast Cancer; State-of-Art, Future Perspectives and Insights for Prevention, Sellami, et al Nutrients 2020
- Cancer Chemoprevention by Dietary Polyphenols: Promising Role for Epigenetics, Link, et al, Biochem Pharmacol, 2010
- Additive and synergistic effect of phytochemicals in prevention of oral cancer, Chandra, et al, European Jounral of General Destistry Vol 1, Issue 3, 2012
Eileen Schutte, MS, CN, FMN – One of my biggest passions is to help clients overcome food intolerances like histamine intolerance and sensitivities so that they can enjoy food again. My other passion is nutrigenomics, speaking to your genes through nutrition with focus on digestive health, autoimmune conditions, and skin health. I hold a master's degree in functional nutrition from the University of Bridgeport, Connecticut graduating Summa Cum Laude. After completing my masters I went on to get my certification in Functional Medicine Nutrition, and am a Certified LEAP Therapist (food sensitivities program). In addition, I am pursuing advanced education in Nutrigenomics through the American College of Nutrition.