Why woman carrying the breast cancer gene shouldn't eat avocados

Publish Date
Saturday, 19 August 2017, 3:40PM
Photo / Getty

Photo / Getty

Women with the faulty 'Angelina Jolie' gene should cut back on trendy avocado-based breakfasts to slash their chances of cancer.

Mutated BRCA genes - famously carried by the Hollywood actress - significantly raise the risk of ovarian and breast forms of the disease, reported the Daily Mail.

And new research suggests eating avocado, asparagus and broccoli, which are abundant in folate, could make cancer even more likely.

Folate causes the body to produce a cancer-causing compound that can 'lethally damage' the DNA of mutated cells, early trials show.

This, deemed irreparable, may then trigger deadly tumours to crop up around the body in carriers, British scientists have implied.

It is the first time researchers have revealed a build-up of formaldehyde is caused by a reaction within the body - not just by breathing it in.

Published in the journal Nature, the study showed formaldehyde to be a by-product of a key process called the 'one carbon cycle'.

This cycle uses folate, commonly known as vitamin B9, to create DNA and essential amino acids, which cells need to function and multiply.

Treating laboratory-grown cells with folate lead to the release of formaldehyde, the Government-funded researchers discovered.

They speculated this could lethally damage the DNA of mutated BRCA cancer cells that cannot repair this damage.

Healthy surrounding cells would not be damaged since they have functioning DNA repair mechanisms, they added.

The new study was led by Dr Ketan Petal, from the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology.

He said: "We've known for a while that we must produce formaldehyde in our bodies, but we didn't know where it comes from.

"We've discovered that some of it comes from an unexpected source, a key pathway - that's used to make the building blocks of life, such as DNA and certain amino acids.

"The one-carbon cycle is a fundamental process which is present in all forms of life, right down to bacteria."


Formaldehyde is described by the US government as a 'known human carcinogen' and branded similar by the World Health Organization.

It is given off by MDF and plywood, building and insulation materials, gas stoves, cigarettes and e-cigarettes.

It is deemed a toxin because it can damage DNA. However, cells have two lines of defence against the danger of formaldehyde.

Firstly, an enzyme converts it into a less dangerous chemical, called formate. And secondly, DNA damage caused by formaldehyde can be fixed by repair enzymes.


These findings could provide a new target for developing cancer drugs, as some types of cancer lack the necessary repair enzymes.

Dr Patel added: "The one carbon cycle is already a key target for cancer drugs and this study opens up exciting new opportunities to harness this pathway for cancer research."

The scientists were surprised to find that the toxic formaldehyde also has a positive function in cells, as it paradoxically also fuels the one-carbon cycle.


Dr Patel added: "Folate and formaldehyde have two faces: a beneficial side because they provide the chemical buildings blocks for cells to live and grow, and a dangerous side because formaldehyde can damage DNA."

However, the researchers were keen to point out that the trial was conducted on lab-grown cells, and not humans.

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