Saturday, February 24, 2024

Cancer Predisposition & the Role of Genetic Testing

By: Dr. Roberta Kline

Cancer comes from one of two ways. One is that you have inherited genetic mutations that significantly increase your risk for specific types of cancer. But overall, that's a minority of cancer cases. The majority of cancers occur because of an interaction between your individual genes and the environment that they've been exposed to throughout your lifetime. Both of them can be tested for.  And if you know what you're dealing with, you can create a plan that's specific for you that enables you to be proactive. This enables you to have that locus of control, that you know what's going on in your body, but you don't know if you don't test. Therefore, TEST- DON'T GUESS!  And then you can create your roadmap that works for you.

Especially with breast cancer, we know that 90% of the cases are not due to known inherited genetic mutations like BRCA1. The majority of them are due to very small changes in your DNA that interact with your environment over your lifetime that predispose you to developing breast cancer. But if you don't know that you have these predispositions, you can unknowingly be exacerbating the problem. If you've been tested and you know what your genes are doing, you can proactively create a plan to minimize your risk throughout your lifetime. 


We understand genetic mutations to cause severe diseases, predominantly causing certain types of cancers. But rather than living in fear of what you may or may not have inherited from your parents, and whether you may or may not develop the same diseases that they carried- get tested, so you won't find yourself guessing.  Through gene testing protocols, you can precisely identify where you need to focus your resources, your attention- and when you can let go of that (unnecessary) fear.

Because genetic testing can be very specific, one of the biggest challenges for proactive people about their health is to know WHAT to test for. What test do you use? Is there a test that's better for you than others? These are important questions and the amount of information available (while great) can be quite overwhelming. The best suggestion is to speak to a trained medical professional or a genetic specialist who can help you navigate through the vast collection of available tests to find what is right for you.  What you want is a test that has value. And in order to have value, it needs to answer your questions and provide you a roadmap for what you can do proactively for your health for the future. 


So when you look at the issue of breast cancer in Long Island and how it is tied to these environmental toxins, what you're seeing is these environmental toxins can potentially, if it's a large enough dose, create mutations in somebody's DNA, but what is most likely happening (and this I do have to check on,)what is most likely happening is it's overwhelming the body's ability to process these toxins. When your body processes any kind of chemical, including these toxins, it produces oxidative stress. When you have too much oxidative stress for your body to handle, that creates DNA breaks. So it's not the toxin directly causing DNA breaks necessarily, it's that your body can't get rid of that toxin fast enough or efficiently enough. And so its own biological processes that are supposed to deal with this are the ones that actually cause the DNA breaks (mutation) and the changes in the DNA that increase the risk of breast cancer. 

This is the second part of that pathway by which estrogen as well as other chemicals can cause breast cancer.  Conventional medicine pays attention to the binding of estrogen to the estrogen receptor causing proliferation. Excessive proliferation can lead to a higher chance of DNA breaks. Every time that DNA replicates, (which is what happens when you create proliferation) when the cells grow, every time that DNA replicates, there's a chance that it will cause an error in that replication and leave a mutation in the DNA. Now, we have lots of processes that are built in to safeguard against that. We have DNA repair mechanisms, we have all sorts of machinery that is designed to catch breaks in the DNA before they get integrated into the person's biology. If you overwhelm that, those breaks stay. 

To note, estrogen itself is a toxin, even though we produce it ourselves. Studying the other part of estrogen metabolism, which is the same process that happens with all of these toxins  is that it goes through what we call DETOXIFICATION or BIOTRANSFORMATION. You're transforming something that's potentially toxic, ultimately into a molecule or a chemical that is non-toxic and gets eliminated from the body. Within that process, you are often creating even more toxic chemicals in the intermediary stages, and that's what requires a high level of antioxidant defense as well as other biological systems to keep those contained and keep them in check and funnel them quickly into the benign molecules out of the body. This is the second way that you can create DNA damage, that you can create cancer because you are overwhelming the body's ability to neutralize those toxic compounds that your body is creating as a result of whatever it's taking in. This has to do with oxidative stress, which is linked to INFLAMMATION, which we know underlies almost every cancer process. 


ROBERTA KLINE, MD (Educational Dir. /Women's Diagnostic Group) is a board-certified ObGyn physician, Integrative Personalized Medicine expert, consultant, author, and educator whose mission is to change how we approach health and deliver healthcare. She helped to create the Integrative & Functional Medicine program for a family practice residency, has consulted with Sodexo to implement the first personalized nutrition menu for healthcare facilities, and serves as Education Director for several organizations including the Women’s Diagnostic Health Network, Mommies on a Mission. Learn more at

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