Many men and women are afraid that they are doomed to cancer if their family members have been diagnosed. For example, we are led to believe that if our parents or their siblings had breast or colon cancer, then we are more likely to be diagnosed as well. But fears are unjustified and based on myth, not fact. The truth is, up to 95% of all cancers are caused by lifestyle, not inherited genetics. It’s less about the genes we are born with, and more about how we live and impact our DNA and gene expression: epigenetics.

Up to 95% of Cancers are Caused by Lifestyle

Everyone is born with flawed or mutated DNA. However, according to the National Institutes of Health, “Inherited genetic mutations play a role in about 5 to 10 percent of all cancers.” This means that up to 95% of all cancers are caused by lifestyle induced cellular mutations.

Do You Know Your DNA is Damaged Daily?

DNA damage occurs in our cells on a daily basis:

Each of our cells experience more than 60,000 occurrences of DNA damage each day.

With enough damage, DNA mutations can be induced, leading to propagation of flawed, mutated cells in the tissue – even cancer.

Genetic vs Lifestyle Cellular Mutations

Germline, genetic mutations exist in the germ cells (egg and sperm), and are passed on to offspring. The genetic mutation is present in all the cells of the body. Genetic mutations may be silent, may cause disease, or may contribute to genetic diversity.

Somatic, or lifestyle, mutations in a cell are neither inherited, nor passed on to offspring. They are also referred to as acquired mutations. Acquired mutations are lifestyle induced and can occur spontaneously in any cell in the body (“soma”) except germ cells.

These mutations are limited to the descendants of the original cell that developed the mutation and not present in other cells in the body. Somatic mutations may be silent, may cause disease and cancer, or may contribute to genetic diversity.

What Causes Lifestyle DNA Damage?

DNA damage that leads to abnormal chemical structure in DNA occurs in our cells as a result of naturally occurring cellular processes inside the cell (endogenous) and exposure to outside the cell (exogenous) agents.

When our cells are exposed to exogenous agents from things like tobacco smoke, radiation, heavy metals, microbes, toxic chemicals, etc., DNA damage occurs. DNA damage can also occur as a result of cellular metabolism and activities, as each cell hosts endogenous agents, can experience oxidative stress, and creates waste products.

How Does DNA Damage Cause Cancer?

According to Wikipedia, “DNA damage and mutation have different biological consequences. While most DNA damages can undergo DNA repair, such repair is not 100% efficient. Un-repaired DNA damages accumulate in non-replicating cells, such as cells in the brains or muscles of adult mammals and can cause aging.

In replicating cells, such as cells lining the colon (and breasts), errors occur upon replication of past damages. These errors can give rise to mutations or epigenetic alterations. Both of these types of alteration can be replicated and passed on to subsequent cell generations… and possibly contribute to progression to cancer.”

We Can Repair Some DNA Damage

While unhealthy lifestyles, i.e. excessive eating, drinking, smoking, drugs, stress, etc. are common causes of DNA damage, many of us are compromised in our natural ability to repair DNA damage. While our bodies are incessantly repairing DNA damage, our ability to repair is limited. Hence we age, a consequence of living.

For some individuals, methylation (a process by which methyl groups are added to DNA), histone modifications (histone proteins associated with DNA), and/or important detoxifying processes are not functioning optimally and pre-dispose cells to DNA mutation and disease. For some individuals, DNA damage is so acute that it is irreversible and can lead to mutation, epigenetic alteration (lifestyle induced gene mutation or expression) and cancer.

How Can We Reduce DNA Damage?

While it is impossible to eliminate DNA damage completely, we can reduce it by reducing cellular exposure to harmful exogenous and endogenous agents. We can do this by attempting to sustain an optimal healthy environment for our cells.

As an example, consider the carrier of cells, the blood. Plasma is the fluid in the blood that suspends and bathes blood cells. This fluid is composed of about 92% water, 7% vital proteins and clotting factors and 1% mineral salts, sugars, fats, hormones and vitamins. Each red blood cell it suspends carries about one billion molecules of oxygen.

So the quality of ingredients like water, oxygen, minerals, fats, etc. effect the quality of the environment for our cells and bodily functions. But other factors affect the environment as well, like stress, in its many forms.

Genes load the gun. The environment pulls the trigger. – Dr. Francis Collins

Control Your Environment

We have some control over some of what comes into our bodies, i.e. food, drink, supplements, skin products, sun and medical radiation, but less control over the quality of environmental air, noise, electromagnetic fields, chemical and heavy metal exposure, microbial infections, etc.

A logical strategy is to optimize those environmental factors for which we have control and hope it overcompensates for the things for which we have no/little control. To learn more, consider the articles categorized under “Environmental Factors” and “Lifestyle factors” at Preventive Support.

Understanding our gene mutations also affords us the opportunity to employ lifestyle, nutraceutical and dietary modifications to compensate.

Our Best Defense

To learn more about any nutritional deficiencies, metabolic or detoxifying process compromises, or the genetic mutations that may be putting you at risk, consider consulting with a functional genomics specialist for testing and consultation. These specialists can help you to implement compensatory plans. One such specialist can be found at, with TeleHealth for nationwide support.

Given that “we are what we eat, assimilate and don’t eliminate,” attempting to be optimally nourished and detoxed is crucial to minimize DNA damage and support DNA damage repair. For self-care support, consider the articles categorized under “Dietary Factors” and “The Gut Microbiome” at Preventive Support.

For Those Concerned About Breast Cancer

The National Institutes of Health reports that only 5% to 10% of all breast cancers have a genetic cause. So 90% to 95% are lifestyle induced. Hence the importance of being nourished and detoxed, managing the risk factors that contribute to breast cancer, and proactively living a preventive lifestyle.

From, “Everyone has BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. The function of the BRCA genes is to repair cell damage and keep breast cells growing normally. But when these genes contain abnormalities or mutations that are passed from generation to generation, the genes don’t function normally and breast cancer risk increases… About 2% of all people with breast cancer have an abnormal BRCA gene.”

PubMed and PubMed report that 55% to 65% of women who inherit a BRCA1 mutation and around 45% of women who inherit a BRCA2 mutation are expected to develop breast cancer by age 70. If you have inherited either gene mutation, you may be able to improve your odds with the before-mentioned strategies.

by Tirza Derflinger
Founder, Author, Lead Educator, Speaker, CTT, MBA
Better Breast Health – For Life!™
Reduce Your Risk of Cancer Now
303-664-1139  ●

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