Thursday, November 21, 2013

Kicking Cancer's Ass

2013 has been brutal.  Cancer took my mother in January, and everywhere I look, it seems to be wrapping its nasty hands around someone else I know.  I don't know if it's just in my own circle, or if cancer cases are growing exponentially.  Whatever the case, though, while I know full well there are no guarantees, I also strongly believe that we can give our bodies the very best possible defense against cancer (and lots of other diseases) through diet, exercise, and lifestyle.

There are all kinds of things that can cause cancer in our world.  However, there are certain lifestyle changes that are particularly important to change.  What to avoid:
  • Smoking (duh)
  • High levels of meat consumption, and processed meats in particular (1) (2) (3) (4)
  • A sedentary lifestyle (1) (2) (3)
  • Being unhappy (1) (2) (3)
  • Working the night shift (1) (2)
  • Poor sleep (1) (2) (3)
What about cell phone use?  There is some evidence to support a link between cell phone use and brain cancer, but the jury is still out.  (1) (2) (3) (4)

What about artificial sweeteners?  As much as I'd love to hate them, so far, there is little evidence that artificial sweeteners cause cancer.  I still don't like using them, though.  (1) (2) (3)

Here are some of the things my research has shown me are cancer's worst enemies:

Eat Your Fruits And Veggies.  There appear to be genetic variables in the ability to glean benefit from the many cancer-killing veggies out there (2), as well as in the ability to fight the cancer-causing effects of carcinogenic foods.  The cooking method will also affect the effectiveness of fruits and vegetables' health-giving properties. (2)  That having been said, however, a high vegetable intake has been associated with a decrease in the risk for many kinds of cancer, (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) although some studies show that the association is not significant,  (1) (2) (3) (4) and some studies report mixed evidence,  (1) (2), although there are those that question these statistics (1).  As with all dietary science, the data changes often and new findings pop up constantly.  The key here is not to become too focused on one food in particular; eat a wide variety of brightly colored fruits and vegetables to glean the most benefit from their various properties.  The most effective cancer fighters in the fruits and veggies group appear to be:

  • Carotenoid-rich fruits and veggies (yellows, oranges, and greens), for lung cancer in particular, but possibly other cancers as well (1) (2) (3) 
  • Lycopene rich fruits and veggies (especially canned tomato products) for prostate cancer (1) (2)
  • Mushrooms for breast cancer and other cancers (1) (2) (3) (4) (5)
  • Cruciferous vegetables (1) (2) (3) and, in particular, their sprouts (1) (2) (3)
  • Beans, including soybeans (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6)
  • Berries and cherries (1) (2) (3) (4)
  • Grapes and grape seeds (1) (2) (3) (4)
  • Hot peppers (capsacin) (1) (2) (3)
  • Citrus fruits (1) (2
  • Beets (1) (2) (3)
Spice up your life.    There are several spices that not only add flavor to your food, but also do great things to fight disease, including cancer.  Some of the greatest are:
  • Turmeric, one of my very favorite anti-inflammatories, has been found to have tremendous cancer-fighting properties, and can even help symptoms stemming from cancerous lesions when used topically. (1) (2) (3) (4) (5)
  • Alliums (garlic, leeks, onions) (1) (2) (3) (4) although there have been studies showing an increased risk of colorectal cancer for garlic consumption. (1)
  • Rosemary (1) (2) (3)
  • Basil (1) (2) (3)
  • Licorice, particularly for breast cancer (1) (2) (3)
Have teatime.  Tea contains numerous polyphenols that send cancer running for its mommy, but the type of tea consumed is important, as is the temperature.  
  • Black tea There is mixed evidence both for (1) and against (1) (2) (3) (4) black tea in the fight against cancer.  For the most part, the evidence is not promising for black tea, and its consumption might actually increase the risk of prostate cancer.
  • Green tea, on the other hand, has a ton of evidence showing its usefulness as a cancer-fighter.  (1) (2) (3) (4) (5)
  • White tea has significant evidence as a chemoprotective agent.  (1) (2) (3)
  • Rooibos/Red tea also shows great cancer-killing promise.  (1) (2) (3)
  • Pu-erh tea is a fermented black tea, and may have significant health benefits, although there may be some issues with toxicity as well.  (1) (2) (3)
Go nuts.  And seeds. Various nuts and seeds show chemoprotective promise.
  •  Flaxseed has shown some promise as a cancer-fighter, although more study should be done.  (1) (2) (3) (4) (5)
  • Chia seeds are a nutritional powerhouse with lots of potential for helping to keep the body cancer-free:  (1) (2) (3) (4)
  • Hemp seeds are great additions to salads and other edibles, and are great health-boosters: (1) (2
  • Caraway seeds aren't just for rye bread any more.  (1) (2) (3)
  • Almonds may be useful in battling colon cancer in particular.  (1) (2) (3
  • Brazil nuts are a rich source of dietary selenium, which is one reason why they help fight cancer.  (1) (2)
  • Walnuts show higher levels of antiproliferative activity than most other nuts.  (1) (2) (3)
What about coffee?  There is mixed information on whether or not coffee has a link to cancer.  For the most part, it does not seem to have any carcinogenic effect (1) (2) (3), although there may be some evidence of a positive relationship between coffee and lung cancer (1) (2).  This relationship, however, might be skewed by cigarette smoking or other lifestyle choices.   Coffee may have a protective effect against colon and rectal cancer.  Three cups a day seemed to help protect men from pancreatic cancer in one study, and four cups seemed to protect against premenopausal breast cancer in another.  For the most part, coffee seems to have a neutral or protective effect against many types of cancer, and little evidence exists linking coffee to increased risk of cancer.

Indulge in chocolate.  Eat high-cacao content chocolate-- besides being awesome, the stuff helps fight cancer.  (1) (2) (3) (4)

A few other soldiers in the cancer war:
  • Spirulina/algae (1) (2) (3)
  • Astaxanthin (1) (2) (3)
This is by no means an exhaustive list; as much as we have environmental and lifestyle choices working against us, we have lots of ammunition at our disposal, too.  Arm yourself.

Questions?  Comments?  Post 'em here!

1 comment:

  1. Sorry for CA striking so close to home and taking your Mom...the big CA took both of my parents too. CA sucks. No better term than that!
    Working in health care for the last 25 years now, I've definitely seen an increase in CA. I truly feel it's from what we put in our mouths, how we live our lives, how we treat/neglect our bodies and so on and so on and so on....
    People seem to think that if they get their "DNA" checked out to see what they're possibly going to get, they just have that body part removed and all will be well. The whole Angelina thing sparked my opinion, even if you have a CA gene, it does NOT mean you're going to get it. We can treat our bodies like we want them to treat us. I never want to hear that diagnosis in my life. Do I do everything perfect? No, but I try and I educate myself and I appreciate your blog helping in that education area!
    Thanks for putting so much great (and needed) information!