An Ounce of Prevention

Is breast cancer inherited? My answer is an emphatic no.
Q. I am concerned because my grandmother and my mother had breast cancer. I am in my early 30s. Am I destined to have it, too?
J.O., Dallas, Texas

A. Breast cancer is a serious subject, but right up front I want you to know there are ways to put yourself in a low-risk category. I understand your concern. The threat of breast cancer is preoccupying women all over the world.

In the United States, 12 percent--or 1 in 8 women--will develop breast cancer in their lifetimes. If this type of cancer "runs in the family," the risk increases significantly.

In rare instances (5 percent of breast cancer cases) a genetic mutation in the two genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 has been associated with an increase in risk from the normal 12 percent to a whopping 90 percent.

But are the genes the real threat? I do not believe they are.

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Here's why:

* Even though BRCA mutations increase the risk enormously, they are not the cause. If they were, 100 percent of women with the mutation would develop breast cancer.

*These altered genes must be triggered to convert a normal cell into a malignant one. The same thing happens to a completely normal gene that mutates.

In other words, even though mutated genes are more susceptible to producing malignancy, they still need to be triggered by the same factors that alter a nonmutated, or normal, gene. Let me re-emphasize that only five cases in every 100 breast cancers even have the mutated gene involved.

Is breast cancer inherited in the family genes, you ask? My answer is an emphatic no.

In spite of your family's supposedly challenged genetic code, you can reduce your own risk and avoid cancer triggers by improving your eating habits and lifestyle. It is common for various members in a family to be diagnosed with even different kinds of cancer, and the probable explanation is that they eat the same poor diet, share similar habits of lack of exercise, and live in the same home and environment.

If I were you, I would not worry about predisposed genes. Start to take charge of your life by exercising regularly and eating a high-fiber, low-fat diet.

Adapt a diet similar to those of Bible times. Find a natural-food grocery store where you can purchase organic fruits and vegetables that were grown without the use of pesticides. Eat free-range meats, which don't contain unwanted chemicals.

Q. I just turned 40 and I'm having light hot flashes. My doctor suggests I start ERT. Is there an alternative?
M.G., Exeter, Australia

A. Until 2000, Premarin, an estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) developed from pregnant mare urine, was the highest selling prescription drug in the United States. Unfortunately, many clinical studies showed ERT was strongly associated with a sharp rise in incidents of breast cancer. To neutralize this, the pharmacological industry added progestins, or synthetic progesterone, and as a result ERT evolved into hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

HRT also was unable to reduce the incidents of breast cancer. On July 10, The Wall Street Journal reported on a study by the National Institutes of Health that included some alarming results about HRT. The women who took estrogen combined with progestin had 29 percent more coronary incidents and 26 percent more incidents of invasive breast cancer compared with those who took a placebo (the famous sugar pill).

Many doctors now say menopause is a natural part of life, not a disease. Why then do modern women experience so many menopausal symptoms?

Because God's designed hormonal balance has been devastated through the abuse of hormones by the food industry and by other environmental chemicals.

You can combat this by using natural progesterone (cream). Several studies have shown it will control symptoms of menopause and PMS, reduce incidents of breast cancer and increase bone density. Combining this with exercise and a healthy diet will also protect your heart.

Francisco Contreras, M.D., oversees Oasis of Hope Hospital (, a cancer-care facility in Mexico widely known for alternative-treatment methods. He is the author of several books on health, including his new The Coming Cancer Cure (SiloamPress,

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