Archive for epigenetics


Escape the Code!

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Think it is impossible to escape your genetics? Are you destined and resigned to end up looking just like one of your parents, or Aunt Sally or Uncle Benny?

An interesting study looking at just that was recently released to the news. This research is centered on the genetic risk of breast cancer, and possible explanations for healthy members within clusters of families with strong histories of cancer.

Having a family history of  the BRCA1 and BRCA 2 gene mutation significantly increases a woman’s risk for developing breast cancer. This specific gene mutation is only responsible for some of the incidences of breast cancer. Researchers have been looking at other factors explaining this cluster of familial cancers. This has led to the exciting research regarding epigenetics!

It just may be possible to some degree, to escape your genetic code!

Genetic code is in all of our cells and it is the blueprint from which our cells, organs and bodies will work. Epigenetics is the machinery that actually turns on or turns off this blueprint. It can, and will determine what happens within your cells and your body.

Researchers and scientists are talking about something called methylation. This methylation process can prevent cancer from growing in certain situations, or help it to grow in other situations. It depends on the where in the body it is working, how much methylation is happening, and what is actually making it work.

It turns out that a decrease in the healthy methylation process may be responsible for aging. This decrease of healthy methylation can lead to hyper or hypomethlyation, which can then promote growth of cancer cells. This type of decrease is considered a somewhat natural process associated with normal aging. It then seems that certain life style habits can cause the wrong type of over methylation, leading to problems with glucose metabolism and also to cancer.

Getting back to the study I mentioned above. Unaffected women from high risk families with breast cancer were found to have different methylated blood cells when compared to affected family members. Researchers are not sure yet what this means, but it suggests a changed expression in the genetic code.

Another recent study regarding the incidence of breast cancer in British women revealed another surprising difference. White women residing in the UK were noted to have a higher incidence of breast cancer compared to South Asian women and black women, also residing in the UK. This difference was attributed to a higher consumption of alcohol and decreased amount of breast feeding by white women as compared to women of other ethnicity. When these habits were removed from the equation, the rate of breast cancer was equal throughout the different groups of women.

Diet has been shown to affect the expression of cells, specifically a diet low in folic acid is associated with gastrointestinal malignancies. Use of opiates, nicotine, and over use of alcohol have all shown  changes in cells leading to cancer through abnormal cell repair and DNA expression. This is the route believed to allow cancer cells to grow. Exercise has shown to elevated protective chemicals within our bodies which help prevent this abnormal methylation process.

Why are we talking about this? Researchers are beginning to identify the different affects healthy and unhealthy habits have on the incidence of disease. This empowers us to make decisions that allow us to take more control of our health and hopefully, longevity.

You may not be destined to develop diabetes or heart disease as you age, you may not be at risk for cancers. It may be possible to escape your genetic code by choosing certain habits that are beneficial to your epigenetics.

Think back on all the good advise from our mothers or fathers regarding healthy habits. Teachings such as eat your vegetables, get enough sleep, no drinking to excess or smoking at all; they were talking epigenetics!

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Epigenetics on Blogtalk Radio

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Epigenetics is a word that describes the way the genes in your

DNA are expressed.  This expression can be influenced by multiple factors.

On today I discuss Epigenetics.  Prior to the show

the PDF is available and after the show the mp3 will be available to our free subscribers

to listen to or to download. To get a free 4 week subscription, go to the home page

and sign up. The PDF is below. Listen live most Thursday nights at 730PM EST for 30 minutes.

Epigenetics and You a PDF just for you to use when you listen to

my blog talk radio show on EPIGENETICS


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Double Helix of DNA

Double Helix of DNA

Menopause is usually an age related change in a woman’s established hormone cycle that results in the stopping of the menstrual period.  This of course signals the end of fertility.  Along with these changes comes an age related risk of degenerative diseases.  These are generally viewed as inevitable and we joke about memory loss (old-timers disease), weight gain (middle-aged spread) and vision changes (our arms become too short).

We don’t joke about the really scary stuff like cancer.  Most women can tell you there is a 1 in 8 risk of breast cancer during their life.  They can’t tell you that there is a 1 in 3 risk of heart disease. We also know about elevated blood pressure, the increase in diabetes and that the stresses of modern life contribute to this somehow.

There is a science emerging that is trying to explain how our genetic material – DNA – might be controlling some of these changes by decreases in the expression of some essential genes and the over-expression of others by a process called methylation.  Initially, I thought that all methylation was bad.  I thought that compounds like methylmercury were attaching themselves to genetic material and causing the “good” genes to not be expressed. Sounds great and gives us a villain – modern industry polluting the environment.  We need to regulate these industries and protect ourselves and our families.  No so simple I am afraid. It is never that simple.

We in America have a cultural tendency to look outside ourselves for the source of our problems. Heaven forbid that they might actually be the result of our own behavior.  We like to live in a paternalistic society that provides for and protects us.  We want to punish those who take advantage of our lack of vigilance by suing them or prosecuting them.  But, what if it is more like what the character Pogo, of Sunday comics fame, said, “We have met the enemy and they are us!”

How DNA is affected by enough or not enough methyl groups is being discovered.  This process won’t yield enough information to affect medical treatment in my lifetime – probably.  I don’t intend to wait on science to save me.  Pure science is great, but the politics of science is not.  I don’t trust common sense either. Einstein said that common sense was the group of prejudices we acquired by age 18.  He had something there.

What I want you to know is that scientists know that our diet makes a huge difference.  They know that what a mother eats during pregnancy influences her children for the rest of their lives.  She can set them up for great health success or failure, but by the time we reach menopause (age 50 or so) we have to have been in control and take even greater control of our “wellness destiny”.

Here are some tips that will improve your health during menopause:

  1. If it has more than 3 ingredients on the label don’t eat it
  2. Eat foods that have been fermented like sauerkraut, hard cheeses and Nato if you can stomach it. The vitamin K 2 is essential for you.
  3. Eat 14 ounces of fresh or fresh frozen vegetables daily and 5-7 ounces of whole fruits.
  4. Be afraid of processed fats and fats from animals from agri-biz farms (try to eat locally grown), fat, even saturated fats, are good for you in the right amounts. We tend to eat too much and especially when we combine it with sugar (ice cream, icing on cakes and pastries, etc…) Vegetable oils are dangerous for you unless they are in the vegetables when you consume them.
  5. Stay away from sugar – think of it as fuel for cancer because it is.
  6. Regularly eat less than you want. Keep your calories to just what you need 85-90% of the time

Do you think this is crazy? What has been your experience?  Do you use any of these tips already? What do you know that I left out? We really need you to tell us what you think or want to know in the comments section.  If you want to form some new healthy habits, you might want to talk to Bruce, use the contact page to let him know privately. If you liked this, hit one of the buttons to share this on Twitter, Facebook or elsewhere! Thanks!

If you downloaded the booklet 30 Tips to control your midlife weight, you can login and get the audio file I posted.

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White spot is Breast Cancer seen on a Mammogram

White spot is Breast Cancer seen on a Mammogram

There are many risk factors that can potentiate breast cancer in women; the life time incidence of breast cancer in women is 1 in8. This means for every 8 women you know, one of them will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. So what causes breast cancer and what are women doing to help cause this to happen?

Breast cancer occurs when certain cells within breast tissue divide in a manner which allows uncontrolled growth and destruction of surrounding tissue. The cancer cell can then spread to lymph glands and other organs where they grow in the same destructive way. This growth is not the normal growth that is necessary to the function of the body part it is growing in, in this case, breast tissue. Researchers continue to look for the different factors which can influence the occurrence of breast cancer. They feel that  something happens to the DNA, or genes of the cells, which cause the factors which normally control growth, to be compromised. This could be a genetic mutation a woman is born with, it can be age, exposure to radiation at a younger age, or a host of other lifestyle issues.

At the recent European Breast Cancer Conference in Barcelona Spain,  the head of epidemiology at the University of Milan Dr Carlo La Vecchia spoke of one such risk factor which has been somewhat controversial; that of obesity. He sited figures from  the International Agency  for Research on Cancer that 25-30% of breast cancer may be prevented by maintaining a lean body mass. Epidemiologists note that the incidence of breast cancer is rising, however they speculate that our genes have been essentially the same over the past many decades. (Maybe the Epigenetic expression has changed though.)

So what does fat have to do with breast cancer? The fat cells developed later in life tend to store estrogen, so the more fat there is, the more estrogen the breast tissue will be exposed to.  Since estrogen fuels many breast cancers, this could lead to an increased risk that some researchers feel is as high as 60 %. It is recommended by the American Cancer Society to engage in 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week to lower your risk of breast cancer.  It is also recommended that even lean women continue to work at maintaining increased muscle mass to lessen the creation of new fat cells. As mentioned above, this risk factor is felt to be controversial and not easy to prove. It has been noted however, that the risk of breast cancer seems to occur when weight is gained later in life and not at a younger age. This may in part be due to the fact that weight gain in menopausal years is often visceral fat which is hormonally more active than subcutaneous fat.

What are the other risk factors for Breast Cancer?

  1. Gender- being female means increased amounts of estrogen acting on cell growth in breast tissue
  2. Age- 2/3 s of breast cancer occurs after age 55; 1/8 of breast cancers occur under age 45. Age effects the genes which regulate our bodies function and the older a person is, the more likelihood a mistake in the genetic code will occur
  3. Genetic factors- many women believe that if no one in their family has had breast cancer, they are not likely to get it. Inherited  genetic mutations such as BRCA1 and BRCA2 only account for 5-10% of cancers
  4. Family history- having a first degree relative (mother, sister,  daughter) with breast cancer doubles a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. It is thought that 20-30% of women with breast cancer have a positive family history.
  5. Prior history of breast cancer- this increases the risk of a second cancer not considered a recurrence, by 3-4 times.
  6. Race and ethnicity- there is a slightly higher rate of breast cancer in White women over African American women, however African American women are more likely to die from their cancer as they tend to get more aggressive types of breast cancer. Asian, Hispanic and Native American women have a lower incidence and risk of dying from breast cancer.
  7. Dense breast tissue- make screening harder, there is more glandular tissue and less fatty tissue
  8. Menses- beginning before age 12 and menopause after 55 increases risk due to increased exposure of breast tissue  to more hormonal cycles. For this same reason, no children or children after 30 and less years of breast feeding can also mean more estrogen and progesterone exposure to breast tissue which in turn raises risk.
  9. Previous chest radiation for other conditions such as lymphoma and certain cancers which can occur at young age
  10. DES- Women who were given DES during pregnancy and their daughters in-utero at that time, are at higher risk for breast cancer due to mutations of genes.

There are some life style issues that are felt to affect the risk of getting breast cancer. There is some slight increase in risk to women who have been on Oral Contraceptives for several years although this risk declines when the OCP is stopped and continues to decline there after.

Combined HRT has been shown in studies to increase the risk of breast cancer in as little as 2 years of use. This risk is somewhat attenuated when estrogen is used alone, without progesterone. (HRT = hormone replacement therapy)

Use of more than 7 alcoholic drinks a week can also increase risk of breast cancer, this risk can be as much as 1 ½ times normal if 2-5 drinks per day are consumed on a regular basis.

It is important to discuss with your provider your risk of getting breast cancer in order to decide on screening and proper health maintenance. Having one or more of the above risk factors does not mean you will get breast cancer, it merely reflects your risk may be higher and there are things you can do t0 reduce those risks. Many risks are out of our control, but several of these risks are within our control. In many cases, the diagnosis of breast cancer can be made early, treatments have come a long way and are very effective. There continues to be exciting research  discovering new factors influencing the occurrence and growth of breast cancer, which can and will open up new therapies. An MP3 recording of this post precedes the videos.


Below are some videos about Epigenetics. This is new and important information.

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