Genomics and Breast Cancer: Case Study
Meet Alicia. She’s 67, vibrantly healthy, and loving life.
But 12 years ago she lived in constant fear. That’s when her mother died from estrogen receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer.
Alicia was told it was not the hereditary kind, so not to worry and there was nothing she could do except to get regular mammograms and live a healthy lifestyle. Then her sister was diagnosed with the same disease.
With this family history of breast cancer, she felt was just waiting for the inevitable. But she didn’t want to live in fear, so she decided to seek a proactive approach. Alicia was told that there was no definitive way to prevent this disease, but she did have an option to take a medication that inhibited estrogen levels in her body. As with many medications, it had significant potential side effects. Alicia wanted to know if there were any other options, so researched the internet for months, looking for a different solution.
What she found changed her life.
Although BRCA1 and BRCA2 hereditary gene mutations are the most well-publicized causes of breast cancer, they only account for about 10% of all cases. The majority of breast cancer is related to estrogen – about 80% of all cases, in fact. Estrogen can potentially cause breast cancer by stimulating growth of breast tissue that at some point can become cancerous. Medications such as tamoxifen, as well as some adaptogens like soy, act to reduce this impact and potentially prevent breast cancer this way. Estrogen can also cause breast cancer when it is not metabolized efficiently, damaging DNA directly. This may be one of the main causes of breast cancer in postmenopausal women, and one that give us great potential for prevention today using genomic medicine.
Alicia discovered this new science called genomics, and how it is being used to personalize prevention and treatment programs based on a person’s DNA. Using genomic testing, personalized nutritional strategies can be created based on a person’s DNA to prevent ER+ breast cancer in women. This is called Nutrigenomics.
Alicia learned from her genomic test results that she was indeed predisposed to ER+ breast cancer because of SNPs, or small changes called single nucleotide polymorphisms, in genes related to the processing of estrogen in her body. She also learned that even post-menopausal women produce estrogen, and if the right combination of genes responsible for metabolizing this hormone are impaired, then according to the scientific literature, it can increase their breast cancer risk significantly. Most importantly, Alicia was thrilled to learn she could do something proactively to reduce her risk without medication.
Using her genomic data as a guide, integrated into the GENESIS Matrix® whole-person approach to health, she received a personalized plan involving diet, stress management, and nutritional supplements to better support her genes and the enzymes they produced. And best of all, she could follow how that was working using biomarker testing, and adjust her regimen as needed.
Alicia became part of an ongoing study with Genoma co-founder Dr. Veltmann. This group of more than 200 women were either at risk of ER + breast cancer, or had been diagnosed and treated for ER+ breast cancer. They all knew the odds: one in six women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime, and on average 25% of women diagnosed and treated conventionally for ER+ breast cancer have a recurrence within 5 years, according to data from several research studies. This group of women have been following individualized DNA-directed protocols for more than 12 years. None of the women in either of the two groups has developed breast cancer or a recurrence of the disease. They have all beaten the odds.
Alicia feels empowered by Genomic Medicine, knowing how to stay healthy because she has a proactive and individualized plan. She no longer worries about what she believed to be her genetic destiny, and lives today without fearing she will suffer the same fate as her mother and sister.
Clinicians, learn more about using genomics in your practice in our Genomic Medicine Certification Program.