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Intervening to prevent breast cancer: a study

Intervening to prevent breast cancer in African-American women.

We love this article because it focuses on aggressive breast cancer in African-American women and attempts to identify possible points of early intervention in an effort to PREVENT the cancer from developing!!

"What’s new about our study is that we can find activation of some of the things that are bad in triple-negative breast cancer in precancerous cells,"

The researchers’ goal was to evaluate abnormally behaving pre-cancerous cells from the breast tissue of high-risk African American woman and discover what *causes* them to become abnormal.  Which pathways are activated that changes the cell from a normally functioning cell, into a cancerous cell.

They discovered that:

1.  abnormal (pre-cancerous) breast cells used more than the normal amount of glucose (sugar), which is known as the Warburg effect.

Warburg effect: In oncology, the Warburg effect is the observation that most cancer cells predominantly produce energy by a high rate of glycolysis followed by lactic acid fermentation in the cytosol, rather than by a comparatively low rate of glycolysis followed by oxidation of pyruvate in mitochondria like most normal cells.[1] The latter process is aerobic (uses oxygen). Malignant rapidly-growing tumor cells typically have glycolytic rates that are up to 200 times higher than those of their normal tissues of origin; this occurs even if oxygen is plentiful.

2.  a particular cancer-signaling pathway is activated in these abnormal (atypical/pre-cancerous and cancerous) cells called AKT/mTOR.  It is known that insulin stimulates AKT/mTOR.  So it is reasonable to deduce that insulin stimulates aggressive triple negative breast cancer formation in pre-menoupausal African American women!

“If untreated, someone with prediabetes or diabetes, in which the body produces more sugar, might stimulate precancerous cells and promote a conversion to cancer cells every time they ate.”

The researches believe that they can use this (Warburg effect) measurement of how much glucose is being used by the cells as a marker for early detection of abnormal cells (before they are aggressive cancers).  And if a woman’s breast tissue demonstrated this increased glucose utilization, they could start preventative intervention and treatment that involve lowering blood insulin levels.

How to lower blood insulin levels (even in women who may not be diabetic)?  They propose that weight loss, exercise, and metformin would do the trick.

Metformin is a medicine that increases insulin sensitivity in the body, decreased glucose absorption from the gut, and decreases the amount of glucose made by the liver.  Collectively these actions of metformin cause the body glucose burden to decrease so less insulin is needed.  AND it helps the body use the insulin that IS there, so lower doses actually control the blood sugar levels.

Lower insulin means lower activation of the AKT/mTOR signaling pathway.  Lower cancer signaling pathway stimulation means less cancer.


Changing your diet and lifestyle in an effort to prevent diabetes will serve you well.   In addition to avoiding diabetes, you avoid the entire metabolic syndrome (obesity, vascular disease, cholesterol issues) AND breast cancer as well!  Especially if you are a woman of color!