Breast Cancer Gene- Preventive Surgery?

By Ellen Kamhi PhD RN

If you have a gene for liver cancer, should you have your liver removed? If you have a family history of heart disease, should you cut out your heart?  Slicing off your breasts to prevent breast cancer follows the same absurd reasoning!

Of course if you no longer have breasts, you have an 80 % less chance of developing breast cancer- even this number is ridiculous- it should be 100 % unless the breast cancer develops in some other area of your body.

In addition, removing your breasts certainly does nothing to reduce your risk of developing other cancers, such as uterine, lymph, colon, lung, blood disorders or any other kind of cancer. Cancer is actually a SYSTEMIC illness, and we know a host of natural interventions, including state of mind, diet, nutrients and herbs that can vastly decrease your chances of getting cancer.

If someone finds out that they have a gene that puts them at higher risk for developing any kind of cancer, such as the BRCA 1 (breast cancer type 1 susceptibility protein) , the best approach is to actively lead a life style that inhibits the activation of this gene. Cutting your body parts off is NOT the answer, and does not protect you against cancer!

Lets look at the normal function of BRCA 1 (breast cancer type 1 susceptibility protein).  This gene is important in the normal repair of DNA in the cell. If an individual tests positive to a BRCA 1 mutation, it means that their body may not be as efficient in terms of repairing DNA. DNA that is not repaired may begin to develop into cancer. If someone has this particular gene mutation, it means that they should take greater care to avoid substances, such as environmental toxins that break down DNA, since they may be less able to repair damaged cells. (Friedenson B ,November 2011,”A common environmental carcinogen unduly affects carriers of cancer mutations: carriers of genetic mutations in a specific protective response are more susceptible to an environmental carcinogen”. Med. Hypotheses 77 (5): 791–7. doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2011.07.039. PMID 21839586.)

In addition, there is scientific evidence that specific healthy eating patterns offer high levels of protection against the development of Breast Cancer in people who have a genetic mutation in BRCA1 and BRCA 2. In one study, entitled Diet quality and BRCA-associated breast cancer risk, (Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2007 Jul;103(3):361-9. Epub 2006 Oct 25.), the researchers concluded “dietary guidelines reflected by the DQI-R(Diet Quality Index Revised) and CHEI ( Canadian Healthy Eating Index) may constitute preventive strategies for reducing BRCA-associated BC risk.”

In addition, natural substances such as resveratrol have been specifically shown to silence the expression of the genetic mutation to BRCA, and thereby inactivate the process that may lead to cancer. (Resveratrol prevents epigenetic silencing of BRCA-1 by the aromatic hydrocarbon receptor in human breast cancer cells. J Nutr. 2010 Sep;140(9):1607-14. doi: 10.3945/jn.110.123422. Epub 2010 Jul 14.)

Specific foods, such as cabbage, Brussel sprouts and Broccoli contain indole-3-carbinol, which has been shown to suppress the development of breast cancer due to BRCA 1 mutations. (Suppression of breast cancer invasion and migration by indole-3-carbinol: associated with up-regulation of BRCA1 and E-cadherin/catenin complexes. J Mol Med (Berl). 2000;78(3):155-65. PubMed PMID: 10868478.)

Therefore, due to both COMMON SENSE and science, a much more prudent and effective approach to decreasing the risk of developing cancer, whether or not a person has any specific genetic mutation, is to become more aggressive at avoiding known cancer causing agents, such as chemicals in food and the environment, and including a lot of vegetables such as cabbage in their daily diet, along with supplements known to have a protective effect- or is it better to cut off body parts and hope for the best????

Ellen Kamhi PhD RN, The Natural Nurse®, can be heard on radio daily.  She is the author of several books, including ARTHRITIS, the Alternative Medicine Definitive Guide. Dr. Kamhi has been involved in natural health care for over 4 decades. She answers consumer questions at,  offers Natural Health Certification Courses , and private consultations.   800-829-0918.

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  5. Dr Daniel de Viana says:

    Unfortunately you simplify the situation a little to much and your figures are wrong. Lifestyle modification is important but may modify risk by 25-30 % across a population but there is no hard data to apply this to a high risk group such as BRCA mutations. So your comments are pure speculation. Subcutaneous mastectomy reduces risk by over 95%, for getting breast breast cancer, with good cosmesis in the majority. Your comparisons with heart disease show a lack of understanding of medicine in general, and actually people do have other organs removed such as the colon and rectum in conditions such as familial polyposis coli. There is no single right way to manage your risk with BRCA mutations and you shouldn’t judge others on this particularly with a lack of understanding the facts.


    • Hello Dr. Danny,
      Thank you for your comment. Of course mastectomy reduces chances of getting breast cancer, since the patient no longer has breasts! I am actually a strong proponent of surgery for cancer treatment, and always support my patients in choosing to have the least invasive surgery possible if they are diagnosed with any form of cancer. By the way, I am not judging Angelina, or anyone else who decides, after reviewing all data, to use surgery as a path to optimum wellness and disease prevention.
      In terms of all medical procedures, as health professionals, I believe the best course of action is to access the overall risk benefit ratio. If we look at the risks of surgery in general, we find the following:
      In the United States, figures suggest estimated deaths per year:
      • 12,000 due to unnecessary surgery
      • 7,000 due to medication errors in hospitals
      • 20,000 due to other errors in hospitals
      • 80,000 due to nosocomial infections in hospitals
      • 106,000 due to non-error, negative effects of drugs
      Iatrogenesis may cause 225,000 deaths per year in the United States (excluding recognizable error.) Starfield B (July 2000). “Is US health really the best in the world?” (PDF). JAMA 284 (4): 483–5. doi:10.1001/jama.284.4.483. PMID 10904513.
      In addition, Breast Surgery has additional risk factors. According to Anne Rosenberg, MD, Breast Surgeon at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital:

      Question: What are the risks associated with surgery?
      Answer: The risks associated with surgery or breast surgery include all those things that can happen to you when you have any kind of a surgical procedure, besides those that are specific to operating on the breast. So while people can have infections, bleeding, trouble with the anesthesia; some women have some nausea after the anesthesia. Those are complications that you might have just from any surgical procedure. The complications relative to breast surgery have to do with the fact that you may have some distortion in the breast if a big enough piece of tissue is removed. You may have some numbness. If you operate on the armpit you may have some issues with swelling of the arm, which is what we call lymphedema, or some numbness in the underarm area.
      The following is from the American Cancer Society Website:


  6. Agree with you completely. Thank you for being specific on both on why this idea doesn’t make sense, and what are excellent preventatives. Also, the influence of mind over matter is crucial.



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