The odds are very high that you or someone you know had cancer or had died from it. Cancer is the second most common cause of death in the US, after heart disease. Men have slightly less than a 1 in 2 lifetime risk of developing cancer, while for women, the risk is a little more than 1 in 3.
All cancers involve the malfunction of genes that control cell growth and division. Every cell in the body has a program that tells it what to do, called the DNA or the genetic code.
If the cell DNA code gets changed a bit by hormonal imbalance, chemicals, or free radicals, mutations occur. The cells with mutated DNA no longer look like the original cells we were born with. Also, mutations accumulate with age, that’s why about 78% of all cancers are diagnosed in persons 55 years and older.
About 5% of all cancers are strongly hereditary. However, most cancers do not result from inherited genes but from damage to genes occurring during one’s lifetime.
We all have a few cancer cells in our bodies, which are normally suppressed by our immune system. We need about a billion cancer cells to get to the lump or bump stage, which means a tumor takes years to develop.
Cancer is, by and large, a man-made disease. There is a lot you can do now to significantly reduce that risk. Be aware of the multiple factors that can bring on this disease as well as the many nutritional interventions that can reduce your cancer risk.
Factors That Can Cause Cancer
1. Constant Emotional Stress
Negative emotions are the most powerful aspect of creating illness. Even the CDC (Center for Disease and Prevention) states that 85% of disease is caused by emotions. If you are constantly stressed or harboring angry, fearful, worrying, cynical, depressed or pessimistic emotions, the body can generate free radicals that promote DNA damage.
- Look closely at your life and identify anything that is out of balance. If you have a hard time addressing and resolving it yourself, seek professional help (such as a life coach or therapist).
- Are you always looking at a glass half empty? Changing your attitude from negative to positive can influence a situation and emotional outcome.
- Learn to honor your feelings and be truthful to yourself instead of suppressing them by saying things like “I’m just fine”. People who are capable of releasing their emotions alleviate tension in the body and are generally happier.
- Having a support system along with healthy outlets for stress (such as exercise or playing a musical instrument) are ever so important for emotional wellness.
- Live your life with purpose, passion, and gratitude.
2. Toxins Accumulating In The Body
In modern days, we are continually exposed to numerous environmental and dietary toxins. Once these toxins enter the body, they tend to accumulate (especially in the fat cells) and produce enormous amounts of free radicals which in due course, damage the DNA. Hence, it is crucial to recognize and avoid them in the first place.
- Use of tobacco products and exposure to secondhand smoke
- Air pollution
- Excessive sun exposure
- Toxic chemicals in household cleaners, air fresheners, bug sprays, soaps, personal hygiene products, and cosmetics.
- Radiation exposure from diagnostic exams such as CT scans, X-rays, and mammography. Try to minimize having such exams or if you can afford it, opt for MRI. A much cheaper and effective alternative is thermography, which detects precancerous and cancerous tissues that are hot in contrast to benign lesions that are cool. Unfortunately, most insurance policies still don’t cover it yet.
- Electromagnetic radiation from cell phones and cordless phones. Two recently released long-term studies found that radiation from cell phones substantially increase the risk of salivary gland and brain tumors. For this reason, it is safest to use the speaker, wired headsets, followed by bluetooth headsets (lower radiation than cell phones). Try not to hold wireless phones directly to the ear.
- Pesticides and herbicides in conventionally grown produce
- Antibiotics and hormones in factory-farmed meats and farmed fish. If possible, choose organic, grass-fed meats (second best is organic meats) and wild-caught fish from pristine, cold water. Fish caught from clean waters are void of mercury which is a toxin to the brain.
- Genetically modified foods (GMO) such as canola oil and soy products
- Preservatives and additives in processed foods
- Nitrates and nitrites in processed and smoked meats
- Oxidized or rancid fat from refined polyunsaturated oils made from soy, cottonseed, corn, sunflower, and safflower. These oils are high in omega-6 fats and promote inflammation in the body. They are often found in processed foods, fast foods, and restaurant foods.
- Carcinogens from charred or burned meats. Avoid frying or charbroiling. Instead, boil, poach, steam, or roast at 300 degrees F or below.
- Artificial sweeteners
- Toxic gases released from Teflon and other nonstick cookwares
- Harmful chemicals from plastic water bottles leaching out and contaminating the water. If you leave the bottle in a hot car or reuse it, the exposure is magnified.
3. Extra Pounds
It is crucial to maintain a healthy weight throughout life. Two-thirds of the Americans are either overweight or obese. Extra pounds raise the risk of many cancers, including breast, colon, esophageal, kidney, pancreatic, and uterine. If you need help and support in losing weight healthily, contact me for a complimentary phone consultation regarding the Metabolic Typing Nutrition Program.
4. Hormonal Imbalance
We all have cancer-protective genes in our bodies, they are like light switches. Sadly, when we age, these switches get turned off as our hormonal production declines. Of course, by not managing stress, eating badly, and consuming and living with chemicals, we put even more stress on our entire hormonal system.
To reinstate these cancer-protective genes, we need to live and eat better and restore the hormones to proper balance. When you replace your hormones, it is critical that you use bio-identical hormones that are exactly the same as those produced by the body, not the synthetic hormones manufactured by drug companies as they have been shown to cause cancer. Please consult a healthcare professional who is familiar with bio-identical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT).
Below are some hormones that have a direct effect on cancer growth:
- DHEA is a key hormone that decreases the quantity of an important enzyme involved in the pathway that feeds energy to cancer cells. By keeping DHEA at the right level, this pathway becomes less active. People who are constantly stressed and have fatigued adrenals have lower DHEA levels, which means they are more prone to stimulating the growth of cancer cells.
- Estriol by itself is a weak estrogen. But in the presence of other estrogens such as estradiol or estrone, it becomes an anti-carcinogen and is cancer-protective. As we age, the body makes less estriol, supplementing with proper amounts can reduce cancer risk.
- It is crucial to have the right balance of 2-hydroxyestrogen and 16 alpha-hydroxyestrogen, both are estrogen metabolites (by-products of estrogen in urine). If there is more 2 than 16, breast cancer risk is lower. If it is the other way round, more 16 than 2, the risk is higher. This 2/16 ratio is the single greatest factor impacting estrogen-sensitive cancer risk and is also totally modifiable through dietary interventions (see below).
- 2-methoxyestradiol (another estrogen metabolite) is a very potent anticancer hormone that the body manufactures. It also inhibits the growth of fibroid cells in the uterus.
5. Excessive Alcohol Intake
Studies show that women who drink more than 2 drinks a day significantly increase their free iron (iron not bound to protein) concentrations in breast tissue. Free iron triggers intense inflammation and free radical generation.
However, one’s iron intake does not correlate with risk of breast cancer. It is high alcohol intake and excessive estrogen that lead to a higher incidence of invasive breast cancer.
6. Too Much Or Too Little Exercise
Exercise is crucial as it increases oxygen supply to the cells. Normal, healthy cells require sufficient oxygen to function well, whereas, cancer cells can only multiply and flourish in an anaerobic (no oxygen) environment. What’s more, when you sweat, it carries away a lot of toxins accumulated in the body, especially the toxins in the fat cells.
Having said that, too much exercise is not beneficial either as the body becomes constantly stressed, producing a vast amount of free radicals that can eventually lead to DNA damage.
Diet That Reduces Cancer Risk
- Limit sugar intake as cancer cells ferment sugar to create energy to grow and spread. Sugar also produces excess insulin which acts as a second stimulant for cell growth, cell division, and ultimately multiplication of cancer cells. Therefore, pay attention to how much sugar and refined carbs (which acts like sugar) you consume at one time as increased blood glucose level means more insulin in the body.
- Vitamin D3 (from sun and/or supplements) is the most powerful vitamin in preventing new cancer and inhibiting established cancers by stimulating and strengthening the immune system. When you increase your D3, make sure the body has adequate vitamin K as they work together as a team. Good dietary sources of K are green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, collard greens, swiss chard, turnip greens, mustard greens, brussels sprouts, and broccoli.
- Brassica vegetables boost the body’s level of 2-hydroxyestrogen in reducing breast cancer risk. Eat 3 or more servings a week of broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage, collard greens, Kohlirabi, rutabaga, turnips, bok choy and mustard greens. You can also get the benefits of these vegetables in a supplement called indole-3-carbinol.
- More omega-3 fats and less omega-6 fats as their ratio influences the rate of cell proliferation through hormones called prostaglandins. Omega-3 fats reduce inflammation while omega-6 fats increase it. Good sources of 3s are fish caught in pristine, cold waters and grass-fed meats. Unfortunately, most cows in the U.S. are corn-fed, so their meat and dairy products are much higher in omega-6 fats instead.
- Eat a large variety of vegetables and fruits to get a balanced dose of different antioxidants which protect against the free radicals. Do not over focus on just one particular antioxidant.
- Natural folic acid from green leafy vegetables are far superior in boosting the body’s natural defenses against cancer than the synthetic folic acid in fortified refined flour products. In addition, make sure you have enough vitamin B12 as it works with folate to protect DNA from damage. Vitamin B12 is not found in plant foods but only in animal products, including calf’s liver, meats, poultry, shellfish, fish, and dairy products.
- Drink enough clean, filtered water every day as it keeps the lymphatic system clean and helps the body detox. For an average person, drink 8 to 10 eight-ounce glasses a day.
- Have adequate protein at every meal and snack throughout the day, which will help the liver eliminate toxins through the bile and stool. Protein also helps to maintain an even blood sugar level.
- Increase fiber (soluble and insoluble) intake to reduce the risk of colon, breast, and prostate cancer. Aim for 40-50 grams a day which is more than double what an average American eats every day.
- Lastly, there is also compelling anticancer evidence for resveratrol (in red wine but only drink in moderation), curcumin (in turmeric), green tea, grape seed extract, pomegranate extract, quercetin (in onions, apples, and grapes), Conjugated Linoleic Acid (in grass-fed meats and its dairy), luteolin (in celery, green pepper, carrots, olive oil, thyme, rosemary, and oregano), and ginger.
The Bottom Line
To reduce your cancer risk,
- constant emotional stress,
- accumulation of toxins (environmental and dietary) in the body,
- extra pounds,
- hormonal imbalance,
- excessive alcohol intake, and
- too much or too little exercise.
- limit sugar intake,
- make sure you have enough vitamin D3,
- eat more Brassica vegetables,
- have more omega-3 fats and less omega-6 fats,
- eat a large variety of vegetables and fruits,
- drink enough clean, filtered water, and
- have adequate protein and fiber.