Epigenetic Factors to Reduce Breast Cancer Risk – Part 5

In this 11-part series of articles, my goal is to empower you with information about the epigenetic factors and phytochemicals that can be put into place in order to help you heal from breast cancer and to reduce your risk of recurrence.

For more information on my personal reasons for putting this information together, see Part 1 of the series.

This article, Part 5 of the series, covers the nutrients that have the ability to change malignant cells back into healthy cells. And isn’t it great to know that even though cells may have become malignant, we still often have a chance to reverse that process by taking the nutrients that encourage them to differentiate back into normal cells. Here are some of the best things that promote differentiation of cells.


a-Tocopheryl Succinate – a form of vitamin E, available in supplement form from health food shops [1]

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) – from (preferably) organic grass fed beef, organic butter, full fat (preferably raw) dairy products like cream, milk, yogurt, cheese [2], [3]

Curcumin – from turmeric, also available in supplement form from health food shops (be sure to look for the bio-available versions, usually containing piperine which increases absorption) [4], [5], [6]

Dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) – available from most health food shops. Discussed frequently on cancer alternative treatment websites, DMSO research for breast cancer is lacking, however studies in other tumor cells show that it does have the ability to differentiate tumor cells back into healthy cells. Work with a qualified practitioner when using DMSO. [7]

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and arachidonic acid (AA) fatty acids – DHA and EPA are available at most health food shops, while AA is readily available in the diet via vegetable oils, eggs, poultry and meats [8], [9]

Genistein – from chickpeas, kidney beans, quinoa, soybeans [10], [11]

Green Tea [12]

Kaempferol – from amla, Anasazi beans, barley, black beans, black rice, buckwheat bran, chickpeas, chia seeds, flaxseed, green beans, lentils, quinoa, red beans, rice bran [13], [14]

N-acetylcysteine (NAC) – available in supplement form from health food shops [15]

Panax Ginseng – available in supplements or as a tincture from health food shops [16]

Pomegranate [17]

Quercetin – available as a supplement from health food shops or found in adzuki beans, amla, Anasazi beans, apples, apricots, asparagus, barley, berries, black beans, black rice, broccoli, capers, cauliflower, celery, chickpeas, chia seeds, eggplant, gingko biloba, grapes, green beans, green pepper, honey, kale, lentils, lettuce, onions, quinoa, red onions, shallots, tea (black and green), tomatoes [18]

Resveratrol – available in supplement form from health food shops, or found in acai, blueberries, cranberries, dark chocolate, peanuts, peanut butter, pistachio nuts, grapes, black beans, lentils, red wine, white wine [19], [20]

Vitamin D3 – available in supplement form from health food shops (easier to get therapeutic doses this way), or from solar energy on your skin, or from raw milk, salmon, tuna [21], [22], [23]

You will note that the research carried out on some of these isn’t always about breast cancer, but may be for other forms of cancer. When I was able to find research about differentiation of breast cancer cells, I included that, but when it was not, I still felt it was relevant research.

Please note that this is not an exhaustive list, there will be other nutrients that have this effect as well and as I find the research, I will add it here.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Please do not attempt to heal cancer using only a few nutrients. Cancer is a complex process and requires a multi-disciplinary approach. It’s always best to work with an oncologist and/or integrative oncologist and/or oncology naturopath and/or functional medicine doctor to achieve the best results.

For more information on other epigenetic factors that reduce breast cancer risk, please see
Part 1 nutrients that can control regulatory genes
Part 2 nutrients that can reduce damage to DNA
Part 3 nutrients that stop rapid proliferation of cells
Part 4 nutrients that ease cancer promoting inflammation
and stay tuned for upcoming articles in this 12-part series.


[1] a-Tocopheryl Succinate Affects Malignant Cell Viability, Proliferation, and Differentiation – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27677550

[2] Prevention of mammary cancer with conjugated linoleic acid: role of the stroma and the epithelium – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14587866

[3] Fatty Acids of CLA-Enriched Egg Yolks Can Induce Transcriptional Activation of Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptors in MCF-7 Breast Cancer Cells – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5385215/

[4] Curcumin promotes differentiation of glioma-initiating cells by inducing autophagy – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22192169

[5] Curcumin reverses the epithelial-mesenchymal transition of pancreatic cancer cells by inhibiting the Hedgehog signaling pathway – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23563640

[6] Anti cancer effects of curcumin: cycle of life and death – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2572158/

[7] Terminal differentiation of human promyelocytic leukemia cells induced by dimethyl sulfoxide and other polar compounds – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC392573/

[8] Fatty acid modulation of MCF-7 human breast cancer cell proliferation, apoptosis and differentiation – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12550055

[9] DHA blocks TPA-induced cell invasion by inhibiting MMP-9 expression via suppression of the PPAR-γ/NF-kB pathway in MCF-7 cells – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5245160/

[10] Genistein-induced differentiation of breast cancer stem/progenitor cells through a paracrine mechanism – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26794366

[11] Genistein inhibits the proliferation and differentiation of MCF-7 and 3T3-L1 cells via the regulation of ERa expression and induction of apoptosis – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4079435/

[12] Green Tea Polyphenols Induce Differentiation and Proliferation in Epidermal Keratinocytes – http://jpet.aspetjournals.org/content/306/1/29

[13] Augmentation of differentiation and gap junction function by kaempferol in partially differentiated colon cancer cells – https://academic.oup.com/carcin/article/26/3/665/2390827

[14] The role of kaempferol-induced autophagy on differentiation and mineralization of osteoblastic MC3T3-E1 cells – https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1186/s12906-016-1320-9.pdf

[15] Gene expression analysis of human epidermal keratinocytes after N-acetyl L-cysteine treatment demonstrates cell cycle arrest and increased differentiation – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16127296

[16] Ginsenoside Rh2 and Rh3 induce differentiation of HL-60 cells into granulocytes: modulation of protein kinase C isoforms during differentiation by ginsenoside Rh2 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9611775

[17] Differentiation-Promoting Activity of Pomegranate (Punica granatum) Fruit Extracts in HL-60 Human Promyelocytic Leukemia Cells – http://comilac.com.tr/uploads/pdf/pomegranate_differentiation.pdf

[18] Quercetin induces apoptosis and cell cycle arrest in triple-negative breast cancer cells through modulation of Foxo3a activity – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5343054/

[19] Sirtuin 1-dependent resveratrol cytotoxicity and pro-differentiation activity on breast cancer cells – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27358235

[20] Resveratrol Inhibits Breast Cancer Stem-Like Cells and Induces Autophagy via Suppressing Wnt/ß-Catenin Signaling Pathway – http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0102535

[21] Molecular Link between Vitamin D and Cancer Prevention – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3820056/

[22] Association between plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D and breast cancer risk – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3077714/

[23] Loss of the vitamin D receptor in human breast and prostate cancers strongly induces cell apoptosis through downregulation of Wnt/ß-catenin signaling – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5605769/

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