Breast Cancer and Environmental Causes: Links not as clear as we’ve hoped.

The latest research is finding that real links between environmental causes, genetics and occurrence of Breast Cancer continue to be elusive. Perhaps, it’s for a reason. Are we thinking of cancer in the wrong way?

Published in Aquila Style (click to read original article)

Published in Aquila Style
(click to read original article)

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The above graphic is from an interesting article titled, Suprises in Hunt for Environmental Links to Breast Cancer, published by , 6:30 pm Monday, 11th November 2013 on http://www.aquila-style.com. The article is about one of the latest studies trying to find a definitive link to breast cancers’ origins. Many studies have tried to find links to environmental and genetic causes. So far the research has not been definitive to say the least. We do know that genetic mutations are present in many cancers, but we also know that they are sometimes not there in some – where we expect them, and are there in many – where do not see the cancer develop.

“We have still got 80 percent that has got to be environmental,” said Reinlib, who is part of the Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program (BCERP) program that has received some $70 million in funds from the US government since 2003.

The above quote from the article seems to indicate that there is clear evidence that the causes simply have to be environmental because we have ruled out that family history is the main indicator. Yet, this may be a false premise as well.  Just because a white jelly bean is not vanilla flavored, does not mean it must therefore be coconut flavored. It can be any flavor at all or have none! Most of the research into environmental, family history and genetic mutation indicators have shown relatively slight correlation to the actual development of breast cancers.  These indicators may statistically increase the chances a few percent but they do not provide definitive guidance that one will, or will not, get cancer.

Recently, some researchers are starting to discuss cancer, less as a disease — even though the outcome is devastating on the individuals and the family — but more of a naturally occurring process — perhaps necessary in the species. Perhaps this same process that sometimes evidences as cancer, is a natural part of the core engine that drives natural selection to improve the species. Changing how we think about and classify cancer may have more of an effect on how we learn to adapt to it than “cure it” as time goes on.

We have found many genetic markers in the past decade or so that we felt were the main drivers of disease, like the BRACA genes for breast cancer, only to find that they turned out to not be specific. BRACAs were considered a key indicator specifically for breast cancer but recently has been shown to exist for prostate — not much of a surprise as prostate and breast tissues are histologically very similar — lung and now many other cancers as well. BRACAs are more likely broad based cancer markers as time will likely tell.  Most genetic markers are likely relatively nonspecific. In fact, our genes may be good blueprints for building the body and its systems but may not be the control point for what happens with these things when they are built.

Further, genetic markers themselves have been know to not be definitive for the occurrence of a cancer. You can have the markers and not get the cancer, and you can sometimes have the cancer and not have the markers. Some other researchers now believe there is a different biochemical system at work. Undiscovered, this other system has been dubbed epi-genetic — meaning above the gene. Numerous studies over the past 15 years have indicated the presence of some other control point. Don’t forget that it took many decades for actual chemistry of DNA to be identified and proven; even though we understood the theory of its presence for many years.

It is likely in the years to come we will find more answers to these new questions and new theories will fundamentally change how we think of cancer and reset our expectations on its treatment and occurrence.

Please remember all those who have died due to this horrible disease!

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