BRCA Carriers: Breast Cancer and Diabetes Risk

In 2006 at my heaviest and in 2011 more than 40 pounds lighter.

Many of us who discover they are at high risk for cancer due to their faulty DNA programming decide to make lifestyle changes to better the odds. While it is never possible to alter one’s genes, it is possible to make matters even worse by doing stupid stuff. We all know what that stupid stuff is. Things like smoking, heavy drinking and recreational drugs. Is being a bit roly-poly really in that same category?  If you are a BRCA positive breast cancer survivor and have been fighting the battle of the bulge like I have all of my life, it is time to fight the fat even harder and this war is not just about cancer. It is about diabetes.

As if it weren’t bad enough to be at high risk for more cancer, being a BRCA positive breast cancer survivor may double the normal risk of developing Type II diabetes. If you are overweight or obese on top of it, the risk of diabetes goes way up. What is a wine-loving  foodie like me to do?

In the May 2011 issue of Cancer, an interesting study entitled Diabetes and Breast Cancer Among Women With BRCA1 and BRCA2 Mutations was published. Here is the link to read the entire article: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cncr.25595/pdf. They concluded that there is a 2-fold increase in the risk of developing diabetes in the fifteen year period after a breast cancer diagnosis for BRCA positive women. If overweight (a BMI greater than 25) the risks are sharply higher.

While I don’t have my knickers knotted up about this one lone study, it is commonly accepted that being overweight is a risk factor for many chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease and some forms of cancer. My current BMI is 22.3 which is well within the normal range. But six years ago my BMI was at an all-time high of 30.3 which is seriously fat. How did I lose nearly 50* pounds? Carbohydrate restriction. I am committed to this as a way of life – not a diet. Every time I veer away, the blubber comes after me in a hurry. Say what you will about cutting carbs. It works for me in my ongoing fight to remain cancer free and now I hope it will also keep the diabetes boogie man from darkening my door.

*The photo of me above in 2011 is prior to my bilateral mastectomies which shaved another nine pounds off. My current weight is 134 pounds. At 5 feet 5 inches tall, this gives me a BMI of 22.3.