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The Wellness Library

DNA: Decoding Destiny or Empowering Choice? Unraveling the Secrets of Genomics in Medicine 

by | Aug 4, 2023 | Cancer Care

Advancements over the years

The 21st century has witnessed astounding advancements in medicine, and among them, genomics stands tall as one of the most captivating fields. Genomics has opened up new possibilities for understanding and addressing health issues, with oncology being at the forefront of its applications. While many people may have heard of the BRCA genes in relation to breast cancer, the influence of genetics on cancer is far more intricate. In this blog post, we will explore the fascinating world of genomics in the context of naturopathic medicine, shedding light on the significance of germline and somatic DNA, as well as the influence of genetics on cancer predisposition. Germline and Somatic DNA: The Key to Our Life Story At the heart of every individual lies a unique genetic blueprint known as germline DNA. This genetic makeup remains unchanged throughout one’s life, capturing the essence of our being. However, in the realm of cancer, mutations can arise within specific tissues, leading to somatic mutations. These alterations cause the tumor’s DNA to differ from the individual’s germline DNA, creating a critical distinction between the two types. 

RELATED: Integrative Cancer Care: Enhancing Healing and Well-being 

The guardian gene – TP53: a tale of faulty brakes 

Imagine TP53 as the guardian of the cell, acting like brakes on a car to regulate cell growth and prevent tumor formation. Variants in the TP53 gene can either be inherited from parents, present in germline DNA, or acquired later in life due to environmental factors or spontaneous errors during cell division, manifesting as somatic mutations. Inheriting a TP53 mutation can predispose individuals to early-onset cancers, such as breast carcinomas, sarcomas, brain tumors, and adrenocortical carcinomas. Although TP53 mutations contribute to about 17% of all familial cancer cases, it is essential to note that not all TP53 mutations are inherited. Surprisingly, TP53 mutations are observed in almost every type of cancer, irrespective of family history. This underscores the role of both genetics and lifestyle choices in cancer development, emphasizing the significance of predisposition. 

RELATED: Integrative Cancer Care Part Two

Lynch Syndrome: when DNA becomes destiny 

Within the intricate world of genetics, not all genes exhibit the same penetrance or clinical effects. Lynch syndrome is a prime example of this phenomenon, following an autosomal dominant inheritance pattern. For individuals with Lynch syndrome, there is a 50% chance of passing it on to their children. The syndrome carries an increased risk of colorectal and endometrial cancers, particularly before the age of 50. A single copy of the gene mutation from either parent is sufficient to elevate the risk for the children. Here, the DNA can indeed become destiny.

Harnessing genomics for cancer prevention: 

In light of these genetic revelations, testing options to screen for germline and somatic variants have become invaluable tools for clinicians and patients alike. Such data empowers medical practitioners to make informed decisions about early screenings, identify environmental factors to avoid, and provide crucial insights for at-risk family members. Nevertheless, genetics is not the sole determinant of cancer risk. Lifestyle choices play a pivotal role in cancer prevention and overall health. To minimize the risk of cancer and keep cells healthy, consider incorporating the following practices: 

1. Maintain a Healthy Weight: Strive for a balanced diet and regular exercise routine. 

2. Avoid Tobacco: Say no to smoking and smokeless tobacco products. 3. Embrace a Nutrient-Rich Diet: Incorporate antioxidant-rich foods, such as berries and leafy greens. 

4. Sun Protection: Shield yourself from harmful UV rays to protect your skin from DNA damage. 

5. Safe Sexual Practices: Protect against sexually transmitted infections, including the DNA-linked HPV virus. 

6. Regular Screening: Stay proactive with recommended screening tests to catch potential issues early. 

Conclusion: 

The fusion of genomics and naturopathic medicine has unlocked a new era of understanding human health, particularly in the context of cancer predisposition. By recognizing the roles of germline and somatic DNA, we gain deeper insights into our life story and the genetic factors that can influence our health journey. While genetics certainly play a role, lifestyle choices also significantly impact our well-being. Armed with this knowledge, individuals can take proactive steps to mitigate risk factors and embrace a healthier, happier life. Remember, genetics may set the stage, but it’s up to us to direct the play. 

Sources 

Ligtenberg, Marjolijn JL, et al. “Heritable somatic methylation and inactivation of MSH2 in families with Lynch syndrome due to deletion of the 3′ exons of TACSTD1.” Nature genetics 41.1 (2009): 112-117. 

Vos, Janet R., et al. “Evaluation of yield and experiences of age‐related molecular investigation for heritable and nonheritable causes of mismatch repair deficient colorectal cancer to identify Lynch syndrome.” International journal of cancer 147.8 (2020): 2150-2158.

Frebourg, Thierry, et al. “Guidelines for the Li–Fraumeni and heritable TP53-related cancer syndromes.” European Journal of Human Genetics 28.10 (2020): 1379-1386. 

Hanson, Helen, et al. “UKCGG Consensus Group guidelines for the management of patients with constitutional TP53 pathogenic variants.” Journal of Medical Genetics 58.2 (2021): 135-139. 

Dou, Yanmei, et al. “Detecting somatic mutations in normal cells.” Trends in Genetics 34.7 (2018): 545-557. 

Gullett, Norleena P., et al. “Cancer prevention with natural compounds.” Seminars in oncology. Vol. 37. No. 3. WB Saunders, 2010. 

Godic, Aleksandar, et al. “The role of antioxidants in skin cancer prevention and treatment.” Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity 2014 (2014).

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