Can You Take
Steps to Cut Your Risk of Cancer?
Since you can indulge in habits that increase your chances of developing cancer, I guess it follows that you can reduce your cancer likelihood by avoiding or giving up those habits. But assuming that you've already played those cards, what can you do to further minimize your cancer risks?
There's no guarantee that
The surprising power of aspirin, ibuprofen, and other NSAIDs
Several recent studies have indicated a powerful role for aspirin, ibuprofen, and other NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) in reducing the risk of developing cancer of the breast by as much as 49%. Aspirin has also been found to be effective against cancer of the mouth, larynx, esophagus, pancreas, lung, bladder, prostate, ovaries, and cervix. Inflammation has been recently discovered to play an important role in the etiology of cardiovascular disease and of cancer. Inflammation involves the release of cytokines--highly corrosive chemicals that are used by the immune system to destroy invaders such as bacteria and viruses.
Unfortunately, these cytokines can do great damage to ordinary tissue.
There has been a suggestion that aspirin also provides salicylates, which are less prevalent in our modern diets than they were in the past. Perhaps this plays a role in aspirin's cancer protection role. (I'll try to add references for these assertions.)
cyclooxygenase-1 COX enzymes "enhance the progress of cancer tumours by supporting cell division (mitosis), the growth of blood vessels in the tumour (angiogenesis), and by reducing the rate of cell death (apoptosis)"
Not much dietary influence shown in lowering smokers' lung cancer risk,
After decades of research, this isn't an easy question to answer: "Experts outline cancer, diet evidence". The authors of this paper conclude that probably about 30% of cancers in the developed world, and 20% of cancers in poor countries are consequences of poor diet. One consideration that might be contributing to this conservative estimate might be the fact that a number of prospective studies have been conducted in which attempts were made to protect smokers from lung cancer by supplementing their diets with beta-carotene and vitamin E. None of the attempts worked, and there was evidence that beta-carotene actually raised their odds of their contracting lung cancer.
On the other hand...
Prostate cancer rates among Asian men are 10 to 20 times lower than they are in North America... until they adopt a North American diet. Then the cancer odds of their grandchildren come up to those of the rest of us.
but diet influences breast cancer quite a bit,
A just-completed study of breast cancer mortality rates and dietary factors for 35 countries, "Diet Called Most Important Breast Cancer Risk Factor", concludes that vegetable products are quite protective against breast cancer compared to animal products. The study also finds that sunlight has a highly protective effect against breast cancer. The paper states:
"For example, breast cancer mortality rates in the southwestern part of the U.S. are only half what they are in the northeast, and, in Europe, the breast cancer mortality rates are found to increase with increasing latitude as long as corrections are made for diet. Thus, the most cost-effective way to reduce breast cancer mortality rates for adult women in the U.S. and Europe is likely by sufficient UV-B radiation without burning and the use of vitamin D supplements, especially in winter in the NE U.S. and northern Europe."
On average, there's a two-to-one protective effect solely on the basis of sunlight from the southwest to the northeast! Add in the effects of a vegetarian diet and it might make quite a difference. And these numbers are based upon averages.
The roles of sunlight and of vitamin D as moderators of breast cancer seem surprising to me.
See also the Life Extension Foundation's Breast Cancer.
and diet matters quite a bit with esophageal and stomach cancers.
In another National Cancer Institute study ('"Cancer and Your Diet"), people who ate diets high in red meat and dairy products were 3.5 times as apt to develop esophageal cancer and twice as apt to present with stomach cancer as those who consumed a more balanced diet. Another study in Nebraska showed that 33% of stomach cancer patients and 35% of esophageal cancer patients consumed a diet high milk or red meat.
Dr. Bruce Ames observes that the 25% of the U. S. population with the lowest intake of fruit and vegetable micronutrients has twice the cancer rate of the 25% with the highest intake of fruits and vegetables
The Ames Laboratory (at UC-Berkeley)
Dr. Ames lists some causes and preventive measures for cancer.
How Great a Role Does Random Chance Play in the Etiology of Cancer?
Environmental Factors to Avoid
Smoking is of course, the number one risk factor for lung and heart disease, and for other cancers.
Diesel fumes have been implicated in cancer of the bladder.
Foods like ham, bologna, wieners, bacon, and sausage that have been salt-cured with nitrosamines carry warnings by the American Cancer Society (much as I love bacon!).
Red meat seems to have risks apart from its saturated fats, as do dairy products. It also contains nitrosamines.
Slap on the sunscreen!
Some Cancer-Fighting Foods
Lycopene is very effective in warding off cancer of the prostate. Lycopene is found in tomatoes, tomato sauces, watermelon and ketchup, but it's most effective in cooked sauces such as ketchup and tomato sauces. The cooking seems to break down cell walls of the tomato, and to release the lycopene better than tomato juice. "New Pilot Study Suggests Flaxseed And Low-Fat Diet Can Be Protective Against Prostate Cancer", "Citrus Product May Help Prevent Prostate Cancer", "Soy Extract Reduces Prostate Cancer Growth In Mice, Cell Culture", "
Lycopene supplements don't work well
Another important prostate-cancer fighter is fish oil from cold-water fish, such as mackerel, salmon, tuna, whitefish and sardines (but not codfish). These fish contain the omega-3 essential fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Blueberries, bilberries, and strawberries are being touted as effective cancer fighters, together with black raspberries ("Black Raspberries Show Multiple Defenses In Thwarting Cancer") and, perhaps, blackberries. Berries are phenomenally high in antioxidants.
The cruciform vegetables, such as cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower, possess a substance (sulphoraphane) that protects against cancer of the colon: "Fighting cancer from the cabbage patch"
Orange juice and orange pulp have been cited as cancer deterrents. See "How Vitamin C prevents cancer--but apples are better".) Orange pulp contains citrus pectin, which is thought to be a major preventative of, and possibly, a treatment for cancer. However, the good stuff is found in its pulp, so eating oranges, or possibly, Tropicana's Grovestand orange juice, with pulp, are the preferred ways to get this.
Purple grapes contain resversatrol, which protects against both cancer and heart disease. They also contain antioxidants that are more powerful than vitamins C and E.
Apples are evidently particularly good for us. That old bromide about "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." may contain some folksy wisdom.
Ancient Chinese Folk Remedy May Hold Key to Non-Toxic Cancer Treatment
Green tea and its disputed role in the prevention of stomach cancer
Garlic and onions have long been recognized for their roles in combating heart disease. (Garlic was fed to race horses before humans tumbled to its cardiovascular protection.) Now, though, they are being examined for their cancer prevention qualities. Garlic is twice as potent as the equivalent weight of onions, but onions are on sale everywhere. If you're going to get a Big Mac, get it with catsup and onion. Garlic has anti-cancer properties say scientists.
Another surprising cancer fighter is that Swiss army knife of medications, aspirin. Aspirin is protective against a variety of cancers... e. g., cancer of the colon. The reason given is that we need salicylates, but our foods no longer have a lot of salicylates in them.
Dietary Guidelines Upon Which the Medical Community Can Agree.
|Fruits and Vegetables||Eat at least 5, and preferably 9, half-cup servings of brightly colored fruits and vegetables a day (per the National Cancer Institute) (Low-sodium V8 juice?)|
| Tops on the list are blueberries
and strawberries, followed by other
Then come apples, purple grapes, and oranges, followed by other kinds of fruit (peaches, pears, cherries, etc.)
Tomatoes, sweet potatoes, Onion,
cauliflower, carrots, other dark-green,
leafy vegetables, beans,
Minimize corn, peas, rice, and potatoes (starchy vegetables)
Avoid avocadoes, and cocoanut products.
Spinach is a folate vegetable, high in folic acid and a myriad other nutrients. Popeye ate it for instant power (and generations of children have tried to sneak it to the dog under the table).
|Oatmeal, bulgur wheat, rye, sesame, etc. Ideally, I suppose, these grains should not be baked or roasted.|
|Fish||Eat fish, and especially, northern, pelagic, fatty fish like mackerel, salmon, tuna, whitefish, and sardines (for their omega-3 fatty acids), but be careful about high concentrations of mercury and PCB's in these fish. I've found a local supermarket that carries farm-bred salmon, so twice a week, we feast on salmon steaks. Eating farm-bred salmon, we (hopefully) won't be exposed to mercury and to PCB's (although oceanic salmon aren't thought to be high in these pollutants, in contrast to tuna).|
| Avoid red
meat. Eat pork, chicken
and turkey sparingly. Avoid fatty
cheeses and whole milk (I'm not sure about low-fat or
no-fat dairy products.) Soy products, and soy milk are good substitutes.
Yogurt is also recommended. I've switched to soy milk yogurt.
|Cholesterol||Since we generate our own cholesterol, it's hard to find anyone who won't recommend a low-cholesterol diet.|
|Eggs||Tommie and I eat mostly Egg-Beaters or their equivalent. When eating eggs, we eat mostly (but not exclusively) egg whites.|
(synthetic) and saturated animal fats. (I would rather eat a
little bit of butter than a little bit of margarine.
At least, butter is a natural product. Only liquid margarines with no
hydrogenated fats are safe. These are available at our supermarket.)
|Low-Fat Diets||One shift in dietary recommendations is that we need certain kinds of ("good") fats. Also, carbohydrates, and particularly, simple carbohydrates, are seen as worse than fat.|
|Sugars and Starches|| Potatoes, rice,
pasta, and baked goods are the same as their dry weight in refined
sugar. They're converted to sugar almost immediately in the
body. They should be eaten slowly and in moderation.
Diabetics can eat like others eat, but can't eat large quantities of sugars or starches at a sitting, and must eat at regular intervals during the day to keep their blood sugar levels fairly constant. We would probably benefit ourselves if we all ate like diabetics, with 4 or 5 smaller meals a day, and with an eye toward avoiding blood sugar surges.
|Sugar Substitutes|| I don't know enough
yet to offer an opinion. Aspartame is a lifeline for diabetics. Stevia
is a natural sweetener that isn't processed as a sugar. You can probably
find it at your local health food store. The only problem is that it
isn't used in sugar-free products.
I'm using Splenda, which is available at our supermarket.
In 1979, saccharine was said to be a carcinogen. Since it's still everywhere, and since the hullaballoo has died away, I presume that no one was able to prove that it was really harmful. The same may also be true of aspartame. The argument against it is that it's metabolized to methyl alcohol and formaldehyde in the body. However, it's 200 times sweeter than sugar, and a gram of it equal to two teaspoons of sugar. The counterargument is that the amount of methyl alcohol and formaldehyde that's produced is less than that found in a piece of fruit.
|Salt||Most of us eat too much salt. I've learned to like low-sodium products, and to flavor them with a salt-free salt substitute. When I first tasted potassium chloride, it tasted bitter and terrible. However, when I season food with it now, it tastes like salt (although the potassium chloride itself still tastes bitter and terrible).|
|Tomato Sauce||Surprisingly, cooked tomato products are being advised because of the lycopene in them. Lycopene is released during cooking, and is quite effective in staving off cancer of the prostate (and, no doubt, other villains.)|
|Purple grapes and grape juice contain resversatrol and pycnogenols, procyanidins, polyphenols, isoflavones, and flavenoids (such as quercetin)|
Hot Dogs, Ice
|We get Lean-Cuisine-type pizzas. Once in a while, we'll eat real pizza. Our occasional hot dogs are low-fat or fat-free. Low-fat, sugar-free ice cream, or fat-free, sugar-free cones at Baskin-Robbins are on our menu, as are occasional 97%-fat-free hamburgers. Wendy's is off-limits.|
It must be difficult to get
the medical community to agree on a set of nutritional guidelines. There are
conflicting results from competing studies, and besides that, it's always
difficult to get a consensus. The medical dictum, "First, do no harm."
probably enters in.
It's worth noting that the above dietary guidelines agree well with those for other degenerative diseases such as cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's Disease, and with the mitigation of aging.
Tommie and I have been following fairly closely these guidelines for a period of years. However, the significance of berries is something new. We've begun buying frozen blueberries and frozen strawberries at the grocery store, along with mixed frozen berries. We're using them to flavor a bowl of breakfast oatmeal. along with one packet of Splenda. I've also learned to flavor Eggbeaters with a chopped-up olive in lieu of ham or bacon. We also snack upon apple and orange slices, and drink some orange juice with its pulp.
We love potatoes, we love rice, and we love pasta, but we're eating them sparingly, We also love bread, but we're eating a slice or two of 5-grain bread.
I snack on almonds.
The omega-3 fatty acids were first thought to protect Eskimos from the effects of their all-meat diets by reducing blood clotting. Later, however, it was realized that the brain and the cardiovascular system are built with omega-3 fatty acids. Now, omega-3 fatty acids have been fingered for possible prostate cancer prevention.
We've begun using ketchup or pizza sauce to flavor our steamed vegetables.
The information below is taken from from the Maximum Life Foundation's The Owner's Manual for the Human Body.
In addition to protecting collagen and elastin, the bioflavenoids offer some protection against cancer.
The carotenoids are a group of antioxidant molecules found in fruits and vegetables that may be effective in reducing the risks of some cancers.
There are several factors that aid the body as we age.
I have copied below the links that I presented in last night's write-up.
Links to Cancer Prevention Articles::
General Cancer Discussions
Factors That Increase Cancer Risks
General Cancer Prevention
paper, with active hyperlinks, may be found at: