Cancer - Being faced with a life-threatening illness can be terrifying indeed, from women discovering a lump in their breast, or perhaps a man might notice a lump in his scrotum. It's even been known, that some women seemed to be more distressed over the possibility of losing one breast than dying, but luckily, if the lump is noticed soon enough, the tumour can be removed with only minor surgery followed by a short time of radiotherapy. Cancer sufferers sometimes have some time to reflect on this unfortunate situation, maybe they had been under severe stress for prolonged periods, maybe also neglecting their nutritional needs, resorting to convenience foods and a great many cheese sandwiches - high in fat, of course. If you want to stay alive, it's good to keep to the Healthy Diets on one of the links below, and maybe make some fundamental changes.
A great deal of scientific evidence has now accumulated showing the link between
cancers and inadequate nutrition. Indeed, Dr Sandra Goodman, PhD, has identified
5,000 such references published during the last 15 years or so (see
Bibliography). These come to the following conclusions:
* A study of 11,000 men showed that high vitamin C intake is strongly correlated with low cancer deaths;
* A 19-year study of 3,000 men showed that people with low levels of beta-carotene (pro-vitamin A) have a seven- to eight-fold greater risk of lung cancer than those with high levels;
* The National Cancer Institute of Canada predicted that dietary modification (more fruit, vegetables, vitamin C and less saturated fat) could reduce breast cancer incidence by 24 per cent in postmenopausal women and 14 per cent in pre-menopausal women.
Particularly heartening are the results of a large scale collaborative
study between the United States National Cancer Institute and the Chinese Cancer
Institute involving 30,000 Chinese people in Linxian, an area of that country
where cancer mortality is high. In the group given supplements of vitamin E,
beta-carotene and selenium in doses roughly double the US RDA (see chapter 3),
deaths from stomach cancer were cut by 21 per cent and from all cancers by 13
per cent over a five-year period - a striking result.
So convincing is the evidence that in November 1993 Dr Hendrik Bueno de Mesquita, head of cancer epidemiology at the Dutch National Institute of Public Health, stated that a quarter of cancers affecting Europeans could be prevented simply by switching from a diet high in meat and animal fats to one with more vegetables and fruit. He told a conference in Brussels that the protective effects of fruit and vegetables were most marked against cancers of the digestive system and throat and lungs, and probably also of the breast. He estimated that as many as 50 to 60 per cent of all cancers of the stomach could be prevented by more vegetables and fruit and less salt and salted foods. He reckoned that 30 to 40 per cent of cancers of the colon and rectum could be similarly prevented and some 10 to 20 per cent of breast cancers, as long as intake of animal fats and meat was reduced. Such a change in diet would prevent almost 200,000 cancer deaths in the twelve EU countries annually.
A classic symptom of certain cancers, especially of the stomach, lung, pancreas and colon, is sudden weight loss. It seems that some tumours produce a protein called cachetic factor that causes the breakdown of normal body tissue, especially muscle and fat, in order to sustain itself. Scientists working for the Cancer Research Campaign have found that eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), a substance found in oily fish, not only prevents this from happening, but also causes the tumour to shrink. Professor Gordon McVie, scientific director of the campaign, pointed to the low cancer incidence among Eskimos. This is good evidence that oily fish protects against cancer as well as heart disease.
Of special interest to women is a study completed in 1993 by Dr Aedin Cassidy at the Dunn Clinical Nutrition Centre in Cambridge, which examined the effects on hormone levels of a diet rich in soya protein. Just 60g daily lengthens the menstrual cycle by two to six days, thereby reducing hormonal stimulation to the breast tissue. This could explain why Japanese women are five times less likely to find themselves with breast cancer than those in the West.
Another surprise to the medical profession has been the discovery that Scottish
women raised during the Second World War have lower incidence of breast cancer
than their younger sisters. During those years they would have been restricted
to the `war diet', low in meat and dairy products and high in fibre from
wholemeal bread and home-grown vegetables, with supplements of cod-liver and
halibut-liver oils for vitamins A and D and orange concentrate for C. This
implies that a diet low in calories is as important as one that is vitamin-rich.
Laboratory researchers at the Bristol Medical School have just concluded that natural by-products of high-fibre diets can cause bowel cancer cells to 'commit suicide' in a process known as programmed cell death. The team found that this is triggered off by short-chain fatty adds that are produced by fibre fermented in the gut by ever-present bacteria. Professor Paraskeva said, 'Our work re-emphasizes that diet is very important.'
Anti-cancer diet - Foods to help against cancer - Clearly, it is wise to take heed of so many research findings which come to similar conclusions. Read the section on immunity-boosting foods above and follow the Healthy Diets described from one of the links below, with particular emphasis on fresh vegetables and fruit. Carrots and dark-green leafy vegetables containing carotenoids are especially protective. Cut back substantially on saturated fats and avoid salty foods. Eat fish regularly. Adopt the habit of substituting tofu, tempeh and textured soya protein for meat, and don't forget the beans and lentils. Miso and seaweed have protective qualities also, especially against radiation. Do not eat refined carbohydrates such as white flour and sugar, as these will deplete your immunity. Drink herb teas in preference to fruit juices, once again to keep sugar intake low. Stay well dear of food containing carcinogens, such as smoked fish, smoked cheeses and anything burnt.
People living with cancer will benefit from carrot and other raw vegetable juices. Vitamin supplements should emphasize the antioxidants as follows: beta-carotene at up to 37,500IUs (cut back slightly if your palms turn yellow), vitamin C buffered with calcium building from 2g to 6g daily (reducing amounts if there is any sign of diarrhoea), 15mg of zinc orotate, 200mcg of selenium and 400IUs of vitamin E (not for breast cancer patients as it could stimulate oestrogen production); 500mg of vitamin B complex and up to 3g of evening primrose oil with naturally occurring vitamin E are also prescribed by specialists.
Fortified Soya Drink and vegetable soups (see the Healthy Diets on the link below) will be useful to those with digestive problems, while a teaspoon of orange- or mint-flavoured fish oil daily should be beneficial to patients suffering weight loss, but be careful not to take in too much oily vitamin A as this can be toxic; follow the directions on the bottle.
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