Angelina Jolie’s choice, is that true cancer prevention?

Well I thought I would add my opinion to this celebrity decision that was made.  You probably know that Angelina Jolie decided to have a mastectomy because she was positive for a genetic mutation that increases the probability of her expressing breast/ovarian cancer. These decisions are often made because people want to prevent the possibility of contracting cancer or chronic illness. It seems like a logical decision but I would argue that you are inevitably “kicking the can down the road”.

There is a saying that I like to tell my patients, “you can’t pick your parents, so you are stuck with your genes”. What that means is that we all have a genetic makeup that increases our individual probability for having all sorts of different things happen in our life, not just disease and illness.

So here is how it goes, if your grandmother, mother and sister all had breast cancer, there is a strong probability that you will get it (you can use this same analogy if you are a guy with prostate cancer). If you have the gene that Angelina Jolie has, there is a strong possibility that you will get cancer. What we often overlook is the fact that we all have cancer going on in our bodies all the time. There is a reason why one person gets cancer and another does not. Rather than removing organs and body parts as a preventative approach, we need to be looking at the bigger question around what “turns on/turns off” in the body that allows the cancer to grow out of control.  Why does the cancer begin to take over the body?

Getting back to the grandmother, mother and sister.  It is important to remember that if you do what they did in their lives, the likelihood of you getting cancer is significant. If do not do what they did in their lives, your likelihood of getting cancer will decrease.

Every cell in the body has an ability to become carcinogenic. We luckily though have an immune system that keeps things in check. So why is it then that on average, 1 in 2 people will get cancer in their life? (And the reality is that it will go to 1 in 1.) It is because when we fill our bodies up with sugar, stress, inflammation and toxicity, the body’s resources (immune system) will move away from keeping cancer in check and begin working on the more immediate problem of managing the stress, sugar, inflammation and toxicity. This will allow cancer cells to begin growing out of control.  Even if you remove the probable organ or body part that your genetics points towards, the cancer process will continue. It will just express itself in another area of the body.

The reductionistic (vs. holisitc) approach that we are taking in medicine is driving us further from experiencing the quality of life that we are designed to achieve. True cancer prevention comes by looking at what the contributing causes are in our environment that are overwhelming our immune systems while  keeping our physiology from managing the carcinogenic process.  We will never be able to find the single gene that contributes to illness, disease or cancer. Nature does not run on a single variable system. It is a complex symphony of contributing factors that either work together to help you thrive, or work against you to aid in your degeneration.

Choose to thrive.


PS- good idea Maria.


Naturopathic physician who is educating people about their health in order to empower them to practice self care.