Life Extension Magazine®

Issue: Sep 2000

Methylation and Cancer

Questioning 5-HTP, methylation and cancer, and more…

Scientifically reviewed by: Dr. Gary Gonzalez, MD, on January 2021.


Q: I read that methylation has something to do with cancer. Now, I am afraid to take methylation-enhancing supplements, including SAMe.

A: The article you read was very misleading. Methylation does have something to do with cancer, but taking methylation-enhancing supplements does not cause cancer. Just the opposite. Methylation plays a role in cancer in a very specific way. DNA contains areas that are supposed to be methylated, and areas that are not. In these areas, methylation acts as a switch, turning genes off or turning them on. Tumor suppressor genes and cancer genes are two areas that depend on the methylation switch. Should the methylation patterns in these areas become disrupted because of a methylation-deficient diet, the switch can be thrown. Researchers have repeatedly shown that if rats are deprived of methylation in their diet, the switches to cancer genes will be thrown.

The good news is that even in precancerous conditions, methylation supplementation will protect the methylation patterns and reverse the trend towards throwing the switch. Once the switch is thrown, however, supplemental methylation cannot restore the switch. We will be exploring this complicated issue in a future issue of Life Extension magazine.

Q: A few years ago, I read about Life Extension’s position on 5-hydroxy-tryptophan, but don’t remember why Life Extension chose not sell it. Any change in your position?

A: We don’t believe that 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) by itself is effective. The successful published studies have combined 5-HTP with carbidopa to stabilize it in the blood so it can cross the blood-brain barrier and boost serotonin levels in the brain. Without a decarboxalase inhibitor, such as carbidopa, too much 5-hydoxytryptophan (5-HTP) converts to serotonin in the blood and therefore does not reach the brain. We have been seeking a natural decarboxalase inhibitor for years, but have not found an effective one. Tryptophan, on the other hand, is less likely to decarboxalate in the blood.

The FDA allows sales of 5-HTP, but not tryptophan. At this time, we do not believe that 5-HTP is effective by itself, and certainly not in people who take a lot of decarboxalase-promoting vitamin B6.

Q: Does HGH or GH3 increase the production of estrogen in men?

A: There is no evidence that HGH directly increases the production of estrogen. However, HGH may increase your metabolism and thereby indirectly stimulate your estrogen production. We recommend that you have a Male Hormone Modulating Profile blood test done by your physician. DHEA can be converted into testosterone and/or estrogen. We suggest that you read up on the subject by reviewing our DHEA Restoration Therapy protocol for a better understanding of DHEA.