BRCA1/2 gene mutations, not included in direct-to-consumer genetic testing, are associated with higher rates of ovarian cancer (17-44%) and breast cancer (69-72%). A new study argues that routine testing for these gene vulnerabilities could prevent up to an estimated 2,666 cases of breast cancer per million women, and up to 449 ovarian cancer cases per million women.
Not considered in this study is the important epigenetic mutations on the BRCA genes, brought about by excessive methylation on that DNA region that behaves the same way as a gene mutation would, hampering gene function and increases the risk for those cancers. BRCA genes are important anti-tumor genes, and their reduced activity is what increases cancer risk.
It’s possible that the methylation adaptogens that we refer to often, are useful here. These powerful plant flavonoid compounds, such as EGCG and sulforaphane, work selectively on the epigenome, ‘normalizing’ regions of hypermethylation, and potentially improving anti-tumor gene activity.
Kara Fitzgerald, ND, received her doctor of naturopathic medicine degree from the National University of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon. She completed the first Counsel on Naturopathic Medicine-accredited post-doctorate position in nutritional biochemistry and laboratory science at Metametrix Clinical Laboratory under the direction of Richard Lord, PhD. Her residency was completed at Progressive Medical Center, a large, integrative medical practice in Atlanta, Georgia.
Dr. Fitzgerald is the lead author and editor of Case Studies in Integrative and Functional Medicine and is a contributing author to Laboratory Evaluations for Integrative and Functional Medicine and the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM)’s Textbook for Functional Medicine. With the Helfgott Research Institute, Dr. Fitzgerald is actively engaged in clinical research on the DNA methylome using a diet and lifestyle intervention developed in her practice. The first publication from the study focuses on reversal of biological aging and was published 04-12-2021 in the journal Aging. She has published a consumer book titled Younger You as well as a companion cookbook, Better Broths and Healing Tonics and has an application-based Younger You Program, based on the study.
Dr. Fitzgerald is on the faculty at IFM, is an IFM Certified Practitioner and lectures globally on functional medicine. She runs a Functional Nutrition Residency program, and maintains a podcast series, New Frontiers in Functional Medicine and an active blog on her website, www.drkarafitzgerald.com. Her clinical practice is in Sandy Hook, Connecticut.
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Hello Dr. Fitzgerald,
Thanks for bringing this information forward. Hypermethylation. Disruption of gene activity. Knowing this, should a patient REDUCE consumption of methylating compounds along with using methylation-normalizing agents? For optimizing health, how do we create a balanced methylation level in our body? I hope my question is not too elementary, but I need to know the basics.
You know, Andre-
Its a case-by-case thing. As we age a couple of seemingly paradoxical happenings occur: 1: total body methylation declines, including DNA methylation. Simultaneously, however, regions of DNA become abnormally methylated: either hypo or hyper. Tumor suppressor genes move towards hypermethylation and inhibition as we age….. the solution is two fold: we need loads of methyl donor foods in our diet AND we need loads of the methylation adaptogens in our diet. We need BOTH. And in some cases, we should be using methyl donor supplements- but we probably want to use them with a little more caution (and with evidence of need) that previously. This is particularly true as we age. Additionally, we need the nutrients that work on active demethylation, including vitamin C and vitamin A…. I hope this helps– DrKF