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Natural Awakenings North Central New Jersey

It’s Not All in the Genes: Treating Breast Cancer as a Metabolic Disorder

Jul 28, 2013 12:54PM ● By Francisco Contreras, M.D.

Cancer genes made headlines and became the water cooler topic earlier this year when actress Angelina Jolie announced that she had had both of her healthy breasts removed as a breast cancer prevention measure. Surely countless women were inspired by Jolie to consider following her example and undergo a prophylactic double mastectomy; after all, breast cancer is hereditary, right? You may be surprised to learn that breast cancer is not primarily a genetic disease; it is a metabolic disorder. Less than 10 percent of all breast cancers are related to genes. Studies show that 90 percent of breast cancers result from other factors — factors that a person can change.

In Jolie’s case, she disclosed that she had the “breast cancer gene” (BRCA1 mutation), which put her at a 50 to 87 percent probability of getting breast cancer at some point in her life. But, clinical studies with thousands of breast cancer patients have shown that only two percent of all women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have the mutated gene.

The study concluded that 98 percent of all women with breast cancer developed it because of lifestyle issues, not genes. The power to prevent cancer, or overcome it, is not a matter of genetic fate.

What Causes Cancer?

Cell mutation primarily results from external factors such as toxic water and air, processed foods, smoking, drinking and a sedentary lifestyle. The first place of attack is not the genes; it is the mitochondria that are present in all cells. Their function is to convert oxygen and nutrients into energy.

When the mitochondria are altered, the respiration (breathing) of the cells becomes deficient, the production of energy is limited and, if the cell is to survive, it must adapt, or mutate, to generating energy in an environment lacking oxygen. This is how healthy cells mutate into cancerous cells. Malignant cells do not need oxygen to survive. They can proliferate even when the mitochondria are not working correctly. Healthy cells need oxygen and good nutrition to survive. Cancer cells can feed on sugar and thrive at low oxygen levels. Cancer’s strength can also be its weakness. Cutting off its supply to sugar and increasing cellular oxygenation levels are keys to cancer prevention and treatment.

How to Lower Your Risk

Researchers have found that you can lower your cancer risk through diet, exercise, nutrition, weight control and lifestyle choices. Let me repeat that. Just by making simple changes in your lifestyle, you could lower your risk of cancer by more than half. A recent study at Harvard Medical School concluded that women who consumed a healthy diet and exercised an average of five hours per week could lower their risk of cancer by 50 percent. Can somebody say Zumba, Pilates, spinning, anyone?

Keep your weight under control. The higher your body mass index, the more likely you will have metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome increases breast cancer risk by 34 percent. The bottom line is that losing weight, especially fat, lowers the risk of breast cancer significantly. Postmenopausal women lower their risk of breast cancer by 57 percent just by losing 22 pounds!

Lower your intake of fat and protein from animal sources and increase your fiber consumption. A low-animal-protein/high-fiber diet is associated with a 40 percent reduction in breast cancer risk. And limit your intake of alcohol: Women who drink more than two alcoholic beverages per day increase their risk for breast cancer by 21 percent. It was found that 4 percent of all breast cancer is related to alcohol. That is twice as much as the cancers related to the breast cancer gene!

Reverse Breast Cancer

Understanding that cancer is a metabolic disorder, not a genetic disease, has inspired researchers to develop treatments that promote cellular respiration. The Department of Physiology at the University of Alberta is using dichloroacetic acid (DCA) to promote respiration and mitochondrial activity, and as a result, cancer cells are being destroyed in vitro and in some animal models. Dr. Peter Pedersen from the Department of Biological Chemistry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine is reactivating mitochondria within malignant cells to promote natural cell death of the cancer.

My personal experience in treating women with breast cancer by approaching cancer as a metabolic disorder instead of a genetic one has rendered promising results. In a five-year prospective study, I worked with 30 patients who had stage IV cancer and had not had any chemotherapy. The five-year survival rate for stage IV breast cancer is only 20 percent, according to the National Cancer Institute. We were able to increase the survival rate to 75 percent by treating patients with a metabolic integrative approach that uses micronized nutrients to regulate healthy and malignant cells through cell signaling transduction, providing the body with foods that are low on the glycemic index, and by administering therapies that increase cellular oxygenation. The results were published one year ago in the Townsend Letter, a peer-reviewed publication. By taking a comprehensive integrative approach to treating cancer, many women are able to reverse breast cancer and add years of quality living to their lives.

It’s Up to You

Be proactive about lowering your risk for breast cancer. The probability that you have a genetic disposition for breast cancer is less than one percent. It is highly likely that if you lose weight, exercise and eat a diet that is high in fiber and low in animal fat and protein, you could lower your risk for breast cancer by nearly 60 percent. If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, there is hope. Consider seeking treatment at an integrative cancer treatment center that uses metabolic therapies.

Francisco Contreras, M.D., is a surgical oncologist with 30 years of clinical experience in integrative cancer treatment at the Oasis of Hope Hospital. He has been a keynote speaker at cancer conferences around the world. His newest book, 50 Critical Cancer Answers (Authentic Publishing) is being released this month. For more information, visit or call 888-500-4673.

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