Cancer – Is it only in the genes?

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  • Many people believe that cancer is inevitable, that it is someone’s fate to have cancer and that each person’s risk is “written in their genes”. This myth is fueled by a large portion of doctors who do not give any advice on diet and cancer and discourage their patients to use a nutritional approach in their treatment plan.

    Many, if not most oncologists, tell their patients that they can eat whatever they want and that their disease progression has nothing to do with their diet. However, in the last decade, the scientific knowledge on the role of dietary components on cancer cell survival, progression and metastasis has increased dramatically. Scientists from all over the world have presented strong proof on the role of diet at all stages of cancer development.

    In this article we are going to present the scientific truth, debunking the myth that cancer is simply “written in the genes”.

    Cancer CAN be prevented

    Data from the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute and other official organizations agree that only 5 to 10% of all cancer cases are linked to genetic factors and hereditary cancer syndromes.

    The majority of cancers (90-95%) are caused by changes in our genes that occur throughout our lifetime and are triggered through our environment and lifestyle. Revolutionary researchers have discovered that our genes interact with our environment and with the foods we eat. Food is an important epigenetic modulator – it can change our DNA and how it is expressed, it can basically turn cancer genes on / off. 

    A healthy lifestyle and a healthy diet can be remarkably

    effective in preventing many types of cancer.

    This diet-gene interaction can have a profound effect on

    one’s risk of developing cancer and on preventing metastasis,

    the spread of cancer to other parts of the body.


    What about people with an increased genetic risk?

    A team of researchers at the University of Montreal studied a group of 738 women with an increased genetic risk, who carried the Breast Cancer Gene-1 and Breast Cancer Gene-2. When the team examined the lifestyle and diet of those high risk women, they found that their diet had the power to change the risk status that was imprinted in their genes. The fruit and vegetable intake of those high risk women had a strong interaction with their genes. The women eating the more fruit and vegetables had the lower risk. Those who ate the more variety, up to 27 different fruits and vegetables per week, had an amazing risk reduction of 73% compared with women carrying the same genes that had the least intake and poorest variety of fruit and vegetables. This study is an inspiration to me, as it provides strong evidence that cancer is not just “written” in one’s genes. It reinforces a very important message: that we all have a role and responsibility in protecting our bodies against cancer by the choices we make.

    Optimum nutrition can be significantly protective even in people with high genetic risk.

    So, do you still believe that cancer is only written in people’s genes? Do you still believe that what you eat has nothing to do with cancer development? Let’s have a look at the 5 main reasons why we should be choosing our foods more carefully in order to prevent and treat cancer.


    1. National Cancer Institute accessed on:<

    2. American Cancer Society accessed on:

    3. Ghadirian P1, Narod S, Fafard E, Costa M, Robidoux A, Nkondjock A. Breast cancer risk in relation to the joint effect of BRCA mutations and diet diversity. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2009 Sep;117(2):417-22. 


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