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BRCA – What does it mean for men?

A few years back we heard about Angelina Jolie and her double breast mastectomy because she found out, as I hear most people say it, BRCA. As if BRCA is it’s own disease.

First a little spring cleaning to clarify (since its the season).

What is BRCA? 

BRCA stands for BReast CAncer susceptibility gene. I can see why people would think that if they have the BRCA gene then that means their risk of breast cancer is higher. But in fact, BRCA is PROTECTIVE, as it is a tumor suppressor gene. Its prevents tumor/cancer growth – thats good.

People who have polymorphisms in their BRCA gene have a BRCA gene that doesn’t function as well at preventing cancer. So Angelina had BRCA mutations.

Ok, so BRCA is for Breast cancer. Men are safe…right?

Actually…No. There are 2 BRCA genes, BRCA 1 and BRCA 2. Recent evidence has shown than men who carry the BRCA 2 mutation are at increased risk of experiencing prostate cancer (CaP) especially at a younger age and possibly a more aggressive cancer.

There may even be connections between breast cancer and prostate cancer among families, seeing that families that had breast cancer history had an increase incidence for prostate cancer. Which explains why family history is still the number one question/clue in screening men for prostate cancer.

BRCA mutations, among many others, may explain why some aggressive prostate cancers are resistant to certain treatments like androgen deprivation (chemical castration😣)

So, what does this mean?

The research on BRCA2 and prostate cancer is still accumulating. I don’t think this means you should pull an Angelina go looking for a prostatectomy if you have a BRCA mutation.

Family history and environmental/lifestyle factors are still the biggest risks for prostate cancer (and most cancers at that). What this means is instead of going crazy over the impact of one single gene, consider how preventive you can be by making multiple smart lifestyle changes:

  • More leafy greens – Broccoli family vegetables
    • Broccoli supplements – DIM, I3C, sulforaphanes
  • Exercise – High intensity exercise, not walking on the treadmill reading a magazine and watching a soap opera.
  • A clean diet avoiding charred meats, excess alcohol, and of course high sugar foods (bread, pasta, rice & sweets).
  • Stress modulation – Mindfulness exercises to dampen stress

That’s 4 simple things you can do daily that your body will thank you for in the next 10..20..30… years.

 

 

1. Helen Cavanagh and Katherine M.A. Rogers – The role of BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations in prostate, pancreatic and stomach cancer – 
Hereditary Cancer in Clinical Practice201513:16

DOI: 10.1186/s13053-015-0038-x©  Cavanagh and Rogers. 2015

2. Galina Khemlina, Sadakatsu Ikeda, Razelle Kurzrock, Molecular landscape of prostate cancer: Implications for current clinical trials, Cancer Treatment Reviews, Volume 41, Issue 9, November 2015, Pages 761-766, ISSN 0305-7372, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ctrv.2015.07.001.

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