Cancer is a war that defeats over a half million people every year and remains the second most common cause of death in the US accounting for nearly 1 of every 4 deaths (1). It is estimated that every family, at some point, will experience the devastating effects of cancer. Many within the health profession fearing that it will someday cripple healthcare. Cancer prevention is in your control, but why is it winning and what if I told you that you have the power and ability to aid in the cure of it? We are not defined by our diseases or sickness. They do not run our lives, we do, but we have to choose to be in charge. You are making the choice on what enters your body every day. Sure some things we can’t always control but a good majority of the big offenders lie in our hands, daily.
So what is cancer and how can you end this war? Here are cancer basics and things you should know to prevent cancer.
Cancer is a term used for disease in which abnormal cells divide without control and are able to invade other tissues. The cancer cells can then spread to other parts of the body through a system of blood vessels and the lymphatic system, beginning at the cellular level. The body is made up of many types of cells and as these cells grow and divide in a controlled way they produce more cells as they are needed to keep the body healthy. Normal cells in the body follow an orderly path of growth, division, and death. This programmed cell death is called apoptosis. When apoptosis breaks down through a change or damage in genetic material or DNA, extra cells may form and accumulate, forming a tumor. Unlike regular cells, cancer cells do not experience programmatic death and instead continue to grow and divide as long as we provide the fuel necessary for that to occur. This leads to a mass of powerful, abnormal cells that grows out of control and can thus spread through the body (2).
How is the genetic makeup of cells altered?
As mentioned above, cancer begins at the cellular level. When the genetic material is damaged within the cell, programmed cell death ceases. The damaged is likely caused through carcinogens or a class of substance that is directly responsible for damaging DNA thus promoting or aiding cancer. Carcinogens could also be classified as free radicals. Free radicals are formed through toxins, abuse and damage caused to our body’s and put in our body’s. These free radicals are like robbers that try to steal electrons from other molecules in the body. This leads to free radical damaged cells which prevent them from functioning normally (3).
Top Sources of Free Radicals in Our Lives:
1. Food Toxins – cereal grains, processed oils, sugar, processed soy, etc.
2. Environmental Toxins – air pollution, second-hand smoke, herbicides, pesticides, drinking water
3. Non-Food Toxins – cosmetics, pharmeceuticals, recreational drugs, mercury fillings, house cleaners
4. Stress – work, family, restrictive diets, insomnia
5. Radiation – cell phones, microwaves, radio towers, diagnostic tests
How Cancer Grows and Spreads
Cancer is spread by metastasis or the ability of cancer cells to penetrate into lymphatic and blood vessels. These cells then circulate through the bloodstream invading and growing in normal tissues elsewhere. Metastasis requires angiogenesis or the growth of a new network of blood vessels. This new network of blood vessels penetrates into cancerous growths, supplying nutrients and oxygen and removing waste products. Essentially the network of blood vessels supplies the ingredients needed to provide life to the cancer.
What is Angiogensis
Angiogenesis is the growth of new capillary blood vessels in the body. It is an important natural process used for the healing and reproduction. The body controls this process by producing a precise balance of growth and inhibitory factors in healthy tissues. When the balance is disturbed, the result is either too much or too little angiogenesis. Abnormal blood vessel growth, either excessive or insufficient is now recognized as a “common denominator” underlying many deadly and debilitating conditions including cancer (4).
In early experiments, researchers asked whether cancer growth requires angiogenesis. Scientists removed a cancerous tumor from a laboratory animal and injected some of the cancer cells into a normal organ removed from the same strain of animal. The organ was then placed in a glass chamber and a nutrient solution was pumped into the organ to keep it alive for a week or two. Scientists found that cancer cells grew into tiny tumors but failed to link up to the organ’s blood vessels. As a result, tumor growth stopped at a diameter or about 1-2 mm. Without angiogensis, tumor growth stopped.
The Questions: Can We Starve Cancer?
There are three keys to the idea of beating cancer. One is through anti-angiogenic foods and therapy, or limiting the growth of new blood vessels to cancer. Two, is limiting the nutrients that allows cancer to grow and three, is fostering a healthy immune system to then come back and encapsulate and destroy cancer on its own.
1. Anti-angiogenic Therapy
It is thought that a key mechanism of anti-angiogenic therapy interferes with the process of blood vessel growth to literally starve the tumor of its blood supply. In order for angiogenesis to occur in the beginning, small activator molecules produced by the cancer cells must have passed out of the cancer cells and signaled angiogenesis in the surrounding tissue. Through the discovery of the angiogenesis inhibitors, including anti-angiogenic foods, some would say that cancer can halt or restrain growth. Angi-angiogenic foods include;
- Herbs and Spices
- Healthy Fats
- Nuts and Seeds
You can find a complete list here.
2. Limiting the nutrients that allow cancer to grow
There is a great amount of research that indicates cancer patients would have a major improvement in their life if they controlled the supply of cancer’s preferred fuel, glucose. Glucose is found in varying quantities in carbohydrate sources. Of course our greatest offenders of glucose are our simple sugars; candy, pop, cookies, granola bars, and most processed foods. By slowing the cancer’s growth through a restriction of sugar or excess carbohydrates in our diets, patients allow their immune system and medical therapies to catch up to the disease. Controlling ones’ blood-glucose levels through diet, supplements, exercise and prescription drugs (when necessary) can be one of the most crucial components to a cancer recovery program (6).
3. Fostering a Healthy Immune System
As mentioned above, if we can slow the process of angiogenesis and take away the preferred source of fuel, glucose, we then are able to allow our immune system to come and fight off the deadly cells. The best way we can do this is to keep our immune system functioning at it’s prime. It is estimated that 70% of our immune system lies in our GI tract (7). This means that tacking care of the digestive system is crucial in whether your body is sick or not. You can do this through eliminated toxins in foods, limiting the use of antibiotics, eliminating processed foods, restoring a good gut microbiome through probiotics and pre-biotics, taking care of yeast overgrowth and eliminating food allergens and/or intolerances.
Cancer doesn’t have to define you, you can define cancer. Choose to nip it before it is too late. Strive for a diet rich in antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables, choose quality foods including animal products and limit sugar. I can’t stress that enough. I’ll leave you with ten tips to increase your immune system and decrease your risk of angiogenesis and cancer growth.
- Eat organic foods, especially those found on the dirty dozen list
- Drink filtered water
- Remove mercury fillings and other heavy metals from your life
- Check your cosmetics, deodorants, lotions and hair products to make sure they are safe
- Make your own or use natural home cleaners
- Beware of laundry detergent and fabric softeners
- Limit radiation from cell phones, radio towers, wireless connections, microwaves and unnecessary diagnostic testing
- Eliminate processed foods
- Cut back on starches and limit if not eliminate added sugar
- Eat Quality Foods