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Can DIM Lower Breast Cancer Risk?

You’ve probably heard that there are components of cruciferous vegetables that are extremely healthy. One of them, diindolylmethane – better known as DIM – is a naturally occurring compound found in broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and other vegetables in this family.

DIM is formed from enzyme activity on certain compounds in these plants. One of DIM’s best attributes is its ability to shift estrogen to good pathways in the body – so it does beneficial work, like reducing the risk of severe menopause or PMS symptoms, fat accumulation, and even inhibiting the development of cancer.

That’s because DIM and proper estrogen detox is very closely linked to breast cancer risk. For example, some women are more at risk of breast cancer risk because they lack required levels of one of the body’s methods of fighting off tumors – a gene and its protein called “BRCA1”. This Canadian clinical study found that women in the supplemental DIM group saw a 34 percent increase BRCA1 expression, which researchers consider could be a potentially major shift in the way we think about treating breast cancer.


Kotsopoulos J, Zhang S, Akbari M, et al. BRCA1 mRNA levels following a 4-6-week intervention with oral 3,3'-diindolylmethane. Br J Cancer. 2014 Sep 23;111(7):1269-74. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2014.391. Epub 2014 Jul 15.

Background: Haploinsufficiency may contribute to the development of breast cancer among women with a BRCA1 mutation. Thus, interventions that enhance BRCA1 expression may represent avenues for prevention. Studies have shown that 3,3'-diindolylmethane (DIM) can upregulate BRCA1 expression in breast cancer cells. This has yet to be demonstrated in vivo.

Methods: We conducted a study to evaluate the ability of oral DIM to upregulate BRCA1 mRNA expression in white blood cells. A total of 18 women were enroled in the study, including 13 BRCA1 mutation carriers who received 300 mg per day of Rx Balance BioResponse DIM for 4-6 weeks (intervention group) and 5 BRCA1 mutation carriers who did not take DIM (control group). BRCA1 mRNA expression was assessed at baseline and at 4-6 weeks by real-time, quantitative PCR and the relative change in BRCA1 mRNA expression (that is, 2(-ΔΔCT)) was calculated.

Results: The relative change in BRCA1 mRNA expression among women in the intervention group achieved borderline significance (P paired t-test=0.05). In the intervention group, BRCA1 mRNA expression increased in 10 of the participants, decreased in 2 and remained unchanged in 1 of the participants following DIM intervention (P sign test=0.02). On average, women in the intervention group experienced a 34% increase in BRCA1 mRNA expression (range -24 to 194%). There was no significant difference in the relative change in BRCA1 mRNA expression among women in the control group (P paired t-test=0.45).

Conclusions: Under the tested conditions, oral DIM was associated with an increase in BRCA1 mRNA expression in women with a BRCA1 mutation. The possibility of mitigating the effect of an inherited deleterious BRCA1 mutation by increasing the physiologic expression of the gene and normalising protein levels represents a clinically important paradigm shift in the prevention strategies available to these high-risk women. Future studies with a larger sample size and higher doses of DIM are warranted.

Here is the link to the complete study:

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Terry is happy to provide his opinion on diet and nutrition, supplements and lifestyle choices. This information is for educational purposes only. It is not meant to replace the advice of your physician and is not to be considered medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Should you have any concerns please contact your physician directly.
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