From a Doctor Who Survived Cancer
At any given time, the average person might have thousands of cancer cells in his/her body. Individually, these abnormal cells are harmless, but any one of them could potentially proliferate and form a mass of cells (a tumor) that damages normal tissues and can spread to other parts of the body. About one-third of us eventually will get full-fledged cancer.
Weakened immunity. The immune system normally patrols the body for bacteria and viruses, as well as for cancer cells. When it spots something foreign, it dispatches a variety of cells, including natural killer cells, to destroy the foreign substance. In people who eat an unhealthy diet — not enough produce, too much alcohol, very little fish and so on — the immune system works less efficiently. This means that cancer cells can potentially slip under the radar and eventually proliferate.
Inflammation. Millions of Americans have subclinical chronic inflammation. It doesn’t cause symptoms, but it can lead to heart disease and cancer. Chronic inflammation can be caused by infection, a diet low in antioxidant nutrients and even emotional stress. It’s accompanied by the release of cytokines and other inflammatory chemicals. Inflammation also prevents the immune system from working efficiently.
Angiogenesis. Cancer cells, like other cells in the body, need blood and nourishment to survive. They send out chemical signals that stimulate the growth of blood vessels that carry blood to and from the cancer.
Fatty fish. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish reduce inflammation. Oncologists in Scotland have measured inflammatory markers in the blood of cancer patients since the 1990s. They have found that patients with the lowest levels of inflammation are twice as likely to live through the next several years as patients who have more inflammation.
Low-glycemic carbohydrates. The glycemic index measures the effects of the carbohydrates in foods on blood glucose levels. Foods with a high-glycemic index, such as white bread and table sugar, cause a rapid rise in insulin as well as a rise in insulin-like growth factor (IGF). IGF stimulates cell growth, including the growth of cancer cells. Both insulin and IGF also promote inflammation.
Green tea. Between three and five cups daily can significantly reduce your cancer risk. A chemical in green tea, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), inhibits angiogenesis. Green tea also contains polyphenols and other chemical compounds that reduce inflammation and activate liver enzymes that break down and eliminate potential carcinogens. In men who already have prostate cancer, consuming five cups or more of green tea daily has been associated with reduced risk of progressing to advanced cancer by 50%. In women with certain types of breast cancer, three cups daily reduced relapses by 30%. Because black tea is fermented, it has a lower concentration of polyphenols and is less protective than green tea.
Soy foods. The isoflavones in tofu, soy milk, edamame (green soybeans) and other soy foods help prevent breast cancer, particularly in women who started eating soy early in life. These compounds, known as phytoestrogens, have estrogen-like effects. They occupy the same cellular receptors as the body’s estrogen yet are only about one-hundredth as active. This means that they may slow the development of estrogen-dependent tumors.
Turmeric. No other food ingredient has more powerful anti-inflammatory effects. In laboratory studies, the active ingredient curcumin in the spice turmeric inhibits the growth of many different cancers. It helps prevent angiogenesis and promotes the death of cancer cells.
Asian mushrooms, such as shiitake, maitake and enokitake. They’re available in most supermarkets and gourmet stores and are one of the most potent immune system stimulants. Among people who eat a lot of these mushrooms, the rate of stomach cancer is 50% lower than it is among those who don’t eat them. One to two half-cup servings weekly probably is enough to have measureable effects.
Berries. Berries contain ellagic acid, which strongly inhibits angiogenesis. Aim for one-half cup per day.
Dark chocolate. One ounce contains twice as many polyphenols as a glass of red wine and almost as much as a cup of green tea. Laboratory studies indicate that these compounds slow the growth of cancer cells. Look for a chocolate with more than 70% cocoa. The “lighter” milk chocolates don’t contain adequate amounts of polyphenols — and the dairy component of milk chocolate blocks the absorption of polyphenols.