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June 2010 - December 2013
I - Breast cancer risk factors
5. Factors predisposing for breast cancer
There is often no clear dividing line between predisposing and promoting breast cancer factors This is no surprise. Any weaknesses in function at the cellular level do make a cell more vulnerable, to some degree, to damages resulting from exposures that can lead to malignant transformation. Once such transformation has taken place, these same weaknesses and exposures are likely to make it easier for cancer to spread, thus becoming its promoting factors.
So, generally speaking, the main difference between predisposing and promoting breast cancer factors is in the timing of their presence: the former are a part of the cancer-free body, and the latter part of the body in which the disease has formed.
Knowing that breast cancer (BC) - as well as any cancer, or any disease for that matter - is caused by unfavorable combination of cellular vulnerabilities and exposures, leads to the main division of BC predisposing factors:
(1) those present within the breast cell itself, and
(2) those originating outside of it.
Predisposing factors within the cell that make it more vulnerable to cancer are, simply put, any significant deviations from its optimum functioning: from those caused by insufficient nutritional supply to the internal genetic malfunction negatively affecting cellular homeostasis.
Breast cancer predisposing factors originating outside breast cell are those determining its exposure to carcinogens: from external exposures of the body, to the efficiency of the two main protective body systems: one which neutralizes toxins - the detox system - and the other, neutralizing pathogens and dysfunctional body cells - the immune system.
Obviously, adequate diet and efficient digestion are sine qua non for the optimum body function, because all the elements that the body needs for proper functioning must be not only present in the food consumed, but also efficiently metabolized, i.e. absorbed into the bloodstream and broken into components available for cellular assimilation.
Staying healthy, including staying breast-cancer-free, is a complex balancing act between everything that enters the body through the mouth, lungs and skin, and body's efficiency in utilizing the beneficial or neutralizing the harmful.
Since it is the breast cell's cellular genetic code that controls cellular processes, much of the attention lately has been focused on genetic aberrations making women more vulnerable to breast cancer initiation and growth. However, it was mostly limited to the inherent genetic aberrations. While those can be significant for an individual's risk level, this breast cancer risk factor is not only among those that affect relatively small number of women - up to 10%, or so - but also among those few that little can be done about.
However, since the presence of such aberrations can enormously increase the risk of exposure to carcinogens, it is advisable to test for those with the highest incidence in the breast cancer population - BRCA 1 and 2, ATM, TP53 and FOK1 - whenever possible, for assessing one's risk level. If such aberration exists, it entirely changes the criteria of "safe" exposure levels to the factors predisposing for, initiating or promoting breast cancer. These woman can be
many times more sensitive and vulnerable to breast cancer.
Unlike genetic inheritance, the rest of main predisposing breast cancer factors can be influenced to some degree, often significantly. It includes many effects of the lifestyle - beginning with the diet - not only on the quality of body's secondary functions, but also on gene expression and DNA itself.
While diet can be considered to be a part of the lifestyle, it will be addressed separately, in more details, due to its vital importance for the body's very lifeline: cell's nutrient supply. And, in addition to diet and lifestyle, the other two major groups of BC predisposing factors are related to:
- body's exposure to toxins, other than being possibly a part of cancer initiation, can predispose for BC by weakening body's functions, and
- compromised immune system, making the body an easier target for active viral infections in the first place, but also weakening its overall resilience
Most of breast cancer predisposing factors belong to one of these four groups:
▶ diet-related nutritional imbalances and deficiencies,
▶ lifestyle predisposing factors: alcohol consumption, smoking...
▶ inefficient detoxication, due to high level exposure and/or compromised detox system
▶ immune insufficiency, due to internal infections, sugar-rich diet, psychological drain...
It is important to keep in mind that individual BC risk factors, whether predisposing or promoting, if present simultaneously, are likely to produce a higher combined risk level, possibly on exponential scale. In other words, a few relatively minor risk factors combined may produce significant risk exposure.
Let's start with the diet - next.