Assert Yourself Against Cancer
Julian Whitaker, MD
Cancer is one of the most feared and least understood diseases. It seems to strike randomly and capriciously: even children and people in the prime of life are cut down. And we feel powerless against it. People who get cancer seem to be at the mercy of their genes or other uncontrollable factors.
We’re also scared of cancer because there is no universally effective cure, and the conventional treatments (surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy) are almost as frightening as the disease itself. Who among us doesn’t know someone who has suffered through long, painful, and ultimately unsuccessful cancer treatment?
Cancer Is Not Inevitable
It is true that cancer is a major scourge. It claims more than half a million lives a year in this country alone and is poised to overtake heart disease as our number one cause of death. It is also true that the current treatment approach of cutting, burning, and poisoning has not made a large difference in survival rates, which for most types of cancer are essentially the same today as they have been for the past 100 years.
But what is unequivocally not true is that you are powerless against cancer. Although cancer treatment is beyond the scope of this article, there are numerous effective and nontoxic alternative cancer therapies that you’ll never hear about from your oncologist.
Even more important, if you are willing to take the bull by the horns and be proactive about your health, your odds of avoiding cancer altogether are very good indeed. Experts estimate that 80 to 90 percent of all cancers can be prevented. Let’s look at the things you can do now to reduce your risk of cancer.
Live a Chemopreventive Lifestyle
Start by doing everything within your power to avoid environmental carcinogens. Stay away from tobacco smoke, including secondhand smoke. Make sure your home and workplace are properly ventilated, and consider using an air filtration system. Pesticides, herbicides, radiation: steer clear of them when you can. Also, avoid excessive sun exposure, but make sure you get at least 10 to 15 minutes of direct sunlight every day—your body’s production of vitamin D, which protects against cancer, depends on it.
Exercise regularly, for there is a well-defined association between moderate exercise and reduced cancer risk. A New England Journal of Medicine study of more than 25,000 women concluded that breast cancer risk was lowest in women who exercised at least four hours per week, and a long-term Swedish study involving more than a million men found similar protective benefits against colon cancer.
Diet Does Make a Difference
Drink lots of purified water as well as green tea, an exceptionally potent cancer fighter. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. And eat right. Saturated fat in meat and trans fats in fried and processed foods are perhaps the most harmful dietary components, for they stimulate tumor growth. On the other hand, omega-3 fatty acids in cold-water fish actually suppress cancer cell proliferation.
Make sure your diet includes lots of vegetables, fruits, and legumes, and if possible, make them organic. Regular consumption of high-fiber, nutrient-rich plant foods has been shown to confer a twofold reduction in cancer risk! Foods that are particularly beneficial include soy and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli in particular, but also cabbage, kale, and brussels sprouts). Also important are carotenoid-rich leafy greens, yellow-orange vegetables, tomatoes (especially cooked), citrus fruits, berries, and garlic.
Arm Yourself With Antioxidants…
One of the best and easiest things you can do to reduce your risk of cancer is to take a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement—but it must contain more than the paltry RDA levels of protective nutrients found in most supplements. Look for at least 800 IU of vitamin D, which supports the breast, prostate, and colon, and 800 mcg of folic acid, which guards against DNA damage.
Make sure you’re getting enough antioxidants. Free radicals contribute to the diseases associated with aging, and cancer is no exception. The body’s repair mechanisms just can’t keep up with years of accumulated DNA damage, which explains why the vast majority of cancers develop in older people.
Vitamin C, vitamin A, beta-carotene, and vitamin E have all been shown to reduce the incidence of cancer, and in recent years, selenium has emerged as one of the most chemopreventive antioxidants. A clinical trial published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that just 200 mcg of supplemental selenium daily could substantially reduce the death rate from cancer.
Another valuable antioxidant, one that you will not likely find in your multivitamin, is coenzyme Q10. Blood levels of this antioxidant are consistently lower in cancer patients than in healthy people, so taking 100-300 mg of CoQ10 a day may offer added protection.
…And Other Supplements
If you eat lots of the all-star cancer-fighting foods discussed earlier, good for you. If you don’t, consider supplementing with extracts from these protective foods and herbs. Soy isoflavone supplements contain genistein, which inhibits angiogenesis (the growth of blood vessels that feed tumors), slows cancer cell growth, and protects hormone-sensitive tissues in the breast, endometrium, and prostate.
Not crazy about broccoli? Take indole-3-carbinol (I3C). I3C blocks tumor growth and increases your body’s production of detoxifying enzymes. It is protective against tumors in the breast, ovary, and prostate. Green tea polyphenols, sulfur compounds from garlic, and lycopene and other carotenoids from tomatoes and other vegetables can also be found in concentrated form.
These are by no means the only natural substances that boost immunity and protect against cancer. There is a growing body of research supporting the benefits of curcumin, a phytonutrient in turmeric, and calcium D-glucarate, which has been shown to enhance the elimination of carcinogens.
I hope you’ll take these recommendations seriously. Cancer is poised to become America’s leading cause of death. Don’t become a statistic.
- Exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes several times a week and eat a nutrient-rich diet with lots of the cancer-preventing foods discussed above.
- Take a high-potency multivitamin and mineral supplement as well as the other supplements mentioned above. Look for them in your health food stores and use as directed. (Isoflavones may stimulate existing breast tumors, so don’t take soy if you have breast cancer.)
- For information on receiving preventive care at the Whitaker Wellness Institute, call (866) 944-8253.
- Block JB et al. Clinical evidence supporting cancer risk reduction with antioxidants and implications for diet and supplementation. J Am Nutraceutical Assn. 2000;3(3):6-16.
- Clark LC et al. Effects of selenium supplementation for cancer prevention. JAMA. 1996;276(24):1957-85.
- Greenwald P et al. Cancer prevention: the roles of diet and chemoprevention. Cancer Control: Journal of the Moffitt Cancer Center. 1997;4(2):118-27.
- Head KA. Isoflavones and other soy constituents in human health and disease. Altern Medicine Rev. 1997;2(6):433-59.
- Simone C. Cancer and Nutrition. Garden City Park, NY: Avery, 1994.
- Thune I et al. Physical activity and the risk of breast cancer. N Engl J Med. 1997;336(18):1269-75.
- Yuesheng Z et al. A major inducer of anticarcinogenic protective enzymes from broccoli. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 1992;89:2399-2403.
Modified from Health & Healing with permission from Healthy Directions, LLC. Photocopying, reproduction, or quotation strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher. To subscribe to Health & Healing, click here.