Are Women Being Misled into a False Sense of Security?
This is an extremely long article that is extremely important.
I'm going to break it down into parts over a few days because
I don't want people to become overwhelmed.
REMINDER: In The Archive is all of the articles that I
have posted since I started this blog. There is TONS OF
INFORMATION there for you to learn from. It's the type
of information that not only saved my life...It also has
given me a better quality of life.
Why Arthritis Drugs Don't Work and the
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The Solution For Disease FREE Health...
By Dr. Mercola
Some days I wonder if this is all a bad dream. How on earth
have we come to this craziness? The latest and greatest preventative
strategy for women genetically predisposed to breast cancer is
amputation, which puts the wheels in motion for this type of
preventive surgery to be covered by health insurance.
I’m referring, of course, to Angelina Jolie’s recent and very
public decision to undergo a double mastectomy as a prophylactic
measure. While she admits this is a very personal decision, the
impacts to the public could be quite significant based on her
Her mother died from ovarian cancer at the age of 56, and
Jolie carries a hereditary gene mutation associated with both
breast and ovarian cancer. According to Jolie, who revealed her
decision in an op-ed in the New York Times:
My doctors estimated that I had an 87 percent risk of
breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer, although
the risk is different in the case of each woman.
Only a fraction of breast cancers result from an inherited
gene mutation. Those with a defect in BRCA have a 65 percent risk
of getting it, on average.
Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be
proactive and to minimize the risk as much I could. ... I wanted
to write this to tell other women that the decision to have a
mastectomy was not easy. But it is one I am very happy that I made.
My chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87
percent to under 5 percent. I can tell my children that they don’t
need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer.
It is nearly incomprehensible to me how any researcher can
give such precise predictions of future cancer risk based on
genetics. The only explanation is near complete ignorance of the
science of epigenetics and the power we all have to change the
expression of our genes.
Why Does US Recommendations Place Women with Gene Defects at
Even Greater Risk?
The genetic test to check for mutations in the BRCA1 and
BRCA2 genes (the BRCA stands for ‘breast cancer susceptibility
genes’) costs about $4,000 in the US, when not covered by
Ironically, if you discover that you carry the mutated BRCA
gene, the standard recommendation in the US is to get a mammogram
and an MRI scan at least once a year thereafter, even if you’re
under the age of 40. This is unconscionable, in my opinion. If
anything, should you have genetic susceptibility for breast cancer,
it would be wise to avoid ionizing radiation as much as possible,
not the other way around!
Several European countries including Britain, the Netherlands
and Spain, have already altered their screening recommendations
for women with BRCA mutations, advising them to get MRIs (which do
not emit ionizing radiation) instead of mammograms before the age
Research has demonstrated that women with these genetic mutations
are more sensitive to radiation, and because the genes in question
are involved in repairing DNA, radiation damage to these genes will
subsequently raise your cancer risk. For example, a study published
just last year in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), found that women
with faulty BRCA genes are more likely to develop breast cancer if
they’re exposed to chest X-rays before the age of 30. According to
Cancer Research UK:
Women with a history of chest radiation in their 20s had a
43 percent increased relative risk of breast cancer compared to women
who had no chest radiation at that age. Any exposure before age 20
seemed to raise the risk by 62 percent.
In response to these findings, Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief
medical officer of the American Cancer Society was quoted as saying:
"This will raise questions and caution flags about how we
treat women with (gene) mutations."
And Anouk Pijpe of the Netherlands Cancer Institute, one of the
authors in the above-mentioned study, told CBS News:
"We believe countries who use mammograms in women under 30
should reconsider their guidelines. It may be possible to reduce
the risk of breast cancer in (high-risk) women by using MRIs, so
we believe physicians and patients should consider that."
Genetic Defects Are Not a Major Contributor to Breast Cancer
A key point for women to remember is that while women with BRCA
defects have a 45-65 percent increased risk of breast cancer, only
about TWO PERCENT of diagnosed breast cancers are caused by BRCA
faults. So this genetic defect is nowhere close to being a primary
cause of breast cancer. Clearly, other non-genetic factors play a far more
As pointed out by H. Gilbert Welch, a professor of medicine
at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice
and a co-author of Over diagnosed: Making People Sick in the
Pursuit of Health, Angelina Jolie's personal story is completely
irrelevant to 99 percent of all women because they simply do not
have the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations. In a recent CNN article, he
Let's be clear, the BRCA1 mutation is a bad thing... It is
a powerful risk factor for these cancers... When people are at very
high risk for something bad to happen, preventive interventions
are more likely to be a good deal... When people are at average
risk, the deal changes... It is a fundamental precept of medicine...
Patients with severe abnormalities stand to gain more from
intervention than patients with mild ones. Patients with mild
abnormalities are more likely to experience net harm from
intervention, simply because they have less opportunity to benefit.
The vast majority of women don't have the BRCA1 mutation.
They are at average risk for breast cancer... They should not have
a preventive mastectomy.
...But there is a second question for women raised by Ms.
Should I be tested for BRCA1?
She seems to believe the answer is yes, pointing to the
half-million women who die from breast cancer worldwide each year.
But she neglects to point out that 90 percent of these deaths have
nothing to do with the BRCA1 mutation. That's because most women
don't have the mutation and because most breast cancer is sporadic.
Furthermore, it’s also important to understand that even if you
do carry a defective gene, that in and of itself does not mean that
the gene in question is destined to be expressed. In other words,
having the BRCA defect is by no means an automatic death sentence.
As you will see below, there are many things you can do to
dramatically decrease your cancer risk through the lifestyle choices
you make, which have a profound impact on your genetic expression.
What Do Gene Patents Have to Do with It?
Since the mid-1940’s, genomics and the patenting of genes has grown
exponentially. At present, nearly 20 percent of the entire human
genome, or some 4,000 genes, are covered by at least one US patent.
These include genes linked with Alzheimer’s disease, colon cancer
and asthma. Myriad Genetics8 owns the exclusive patent for the
BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. As explained by The New Yorker:
"Anyone conducting an experiment on them without a license
can be sued for infringement of patent rights. This means that Myriad
can decide what research is carried out on those genes, who can do
that research, and how much any resulting therapy or diagnostic test
Needless to say, this has profound implications for medicine.
As stated by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU):
Through its patents, Myriad has the right to stop anyone
from using these genes for clinical or research purposes. It has
therefore locked up a building block of human life.
In her op-ed, Jolie states that this has got to be a priority
to ensure that more women can access gene testing and lifesaving
preventive treatment, pointing out that the cost of genetic testing
is an obstacle for many. The root of that problem lies with our
current patent laws, which allow for the patenting of human genes
and other life forms. According to the ACLU, which is the plaintiff
in another gene patent lawsuit heard by the Supreme Court in April,
Myriad recently raised the price of their genetic test from $3,000
to over $4,000, even though gene testing technologies have advanced
to the point where you can sequence ALL of your genes, about 23,000
or so, for as little as $1,000.
The Supreme Court will decide in a matter of weeks whether human
gene patents will continue to be allowed or not, and if they are,
you can expect prices for gene-related medicine to continue to skyrocket
and become increasingly monopolized.
Continued on 1-29-14
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