So many peoples life’s are affected by cancer that I felt compelled to write an investigative article on how to prevent/fight cancer to survive.
(Important: read the whole article to the end to get a correct understanding…)
So many emails and documents appear on internet on the subject that the first step is to separate the hoaxes from the truth.
The following email has been doing the rounds for the past 2 years – Interesting info with a bit of a twist.
AFTER YEARS OF TELLING PEOPLE CHEMOTHERAPY IS THE ONLY WAY TO TRY AND ELIMINATE CANCER, JOHNS HOPKINS IS FINALLY STARTING TO TELL YOU THERE IS AN ALTERNATIVE WAY …
[Cancer Update from Johns Hopkins ]
- Every person has cancer cells in the body. These cancer cells do not show up in the standard tests until they have multiplied to a few billion. When doctors tell cancer patients that there are no more cancer cells in their bodies after treatment, it just means the tests are unable to detect the cancer cells because they have not reached the detectable size.
- Cancer cells occur between 6 to more than 10 times in a person’s lifetime.
- When the person’s immune system is strong the cancer cells will be destroyed and prevented from multiplying and forming tumors.
- When a person has cancer it indicates the person has multiple nutritional deficiencies. These could be due to genetic, environmental, food and lifestyle factors.
- To overcome the multiple nutritional deficiencies, changing diet and including supplements will strengthen the immune system.
- Chemotherapy involves poisoning the rapidly-growing cancer cells and also destroys rapidly-growing healthy cells in the bone marrow, gastro-intestinal tract etc, and can cause organ damage, like liver, kidneys, heart, lungs etc.
- Radiation while destroying cancer cells also burns, scars and damages healthy cells, tissues and organs.
- Initial treatment with chemotherapy and radiation will often reduce tumor size. However prolonged use of chemotherapy and radiation do not result in more tumor destruction.
- When the body has too much toxic burden from chemotherapy and radiation the immune system is either compromised or destroyed, hence the person can succumb to various kinds of infections and complications.
- Chemotherapy and radiation can cause cancer cells to mutate and become resistant and difficult to destroy. Surgery can also cause cancer cells to spread to other sites.
- An effective way to battle cancer is to STARVE the cancer cells by not feeding it with foods it needs to multiple. What cancer cells feed on:
- a. Sugar is a cancer-feeder. By cutting off sugar it cuts off one important food supply to the cancer cells. Note: Sugar substitutes like NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful, etc are made with Aspartame and it is harmful. A better natural substitute would be Manuka honey or molasses but only in very small amounts. Table salt has a chemical added to make it white in colour. Better alternative is Bragg’s aminos or sea salt.
- b. Milk causes the body to produce mucus, especially in the gastro-intestinal tract. Cancer feeds on mucus. By cutting off milk and substituting with unsweetened soy milk, cancer cells will starved.
- c. Cancer cells thrive in an acid environment. A meat-based diet is acidic and it is best to eat fish, and a little chicken rather than beef or pork. Meat also contains livestock antibiotics, growth hormones and parasites, which are all harmful, especially to people with cancer.
- d. A diet made of 80% fresh vegetables and juice, whole grains, seeds, nuts and a little fruits help put the body into an alkaline environment. About 20% can be from cooked food including beans. Fresh vegetable juices provide live enzymes that are easily absorbed and reach down to cellular levels within 15 minutes t o nourish and enhance growth of healthy cells. To obtain live enzymes for building healthy cells try and drink fresh vegetable juice (most vegetables including bean sprouts) and eat some raw vegetables 2 or 3 times a day. Enzymes are destroyed at temperatures of 104 degrees F (40 degrees C).
- e. Avoid coffee, tea, and chocolate, which have high caffeine. Green tea is a better alternative and has cancer-fighting properties. Water–best to drink purified water, or filtered, to avoid known toxins and heavy metals in tap water. Distilled water is acidic, avoid it.
12. Meat protein is difficult to digest and requires a lot of digestive enzymes. Undigested meat remaining in the intestines will become putrified and leads to more toxic buildup.
13. Cancer cell walls have a tough protein covering. By refraining from or eating less meat it frees more enzymes to attack the protein walls of cancer cells and allows the body’s killer cells to destroy the cancer cells.
14. Some supplements build up the immune system (IP6, Flor-ssence, Essiac, anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals, EFAs etc.) to enable the body’s own killer cells to destroy cancer cells. Other supplements like vitamin E are known to cause apoptosis, or programmed cell death, the body’s normal method of disposing of damaged, unwanted, or unneeded cells.
15. Cancer is a disease of the mind, body, and spirit. A proactive and positive spirit will help the cancer warrior be a survivor.
Anger, unforgiving and bitterness put the body into a stressful and acidic environment. Learn to have a loving and forgiving spirit. Learn to relax and enjoy life.
16. Cancer cells cannot thrive in an oxygenated environment. Exercising daily, and deep breathing help to get more oxygen down to the cellular level. Oxygen therapy is another means employed to destroy cancer cells.
Now for the bad news…
Above is a hoax email and was never released by the claimed author. The following statement released by Johns Hopkins:
Cancer Info From Johns Hopkins Hoax Email
Emailed collection of cancer related tips and information claims to originate from world-renowned medical research facility, Johns Hopkins.
None of the claims in the message were published or in any way endorsed by Johns Hopkins. In fact, Johns Hopkins has released a statement denying any involvement. While some of the anti-cancer tips may contain elements of truth, the fact that they are not supported by Johns Hopkins as claimed in the message robs them of credibility. Many are anecdotal, oversimplified and in no way endorsed by the medical establishment.
My view of the content of the hoax email?
Cancer is not something to take lightly – it is a wake up call and you have but one choice to deal with it…correctly. Many (many) people have survived chemo.
I must admit, I HATE hoaxes and hate it even more when they steal identity of a trusted source to prove their validity.
That said – I do believe that some of the points in the hoax email is actually valid, whether it is preferred above chemo…that is a choice each has to make for him/herself…I would still go the trusted and proven path that is backed up by medical science. But prevention is better than cure and by following some of the hoax email suggestions will add GREATLY to a preventative situation.
A detailed analysis of some key points in the HOAX email:
The Truth: Cancer is a genetic disease resulting from a variety of mutations and alterations either inherited from our parents or, more commonly, acquired over time due to environmental exposures and behaviors, such as smoking and poor diet. These alterations turn off important cell growth regulators allowing cells to continually divide unchecked, explains Luis Diaz, a clinician-scientist in Ludwig Center for Cancer Genetics at the Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins. This type of cell is called a malignant or cancer cell. Among the trillions of cells in the human body, inevitably everyone has some abnormal or atypical cells that possess some of the characteristics of cancer cells, most resolve themselves and never result in cancer, says Diaz.
There is no single or standard test for cancer. There are ways to screen for certain cancers with tests such as colonoscopy for colon cancer, mammography for breast cancer, PSA for prostate cancer, and the Pap smear for cervical cancer, and these tests can detect cancers in a very early and curable stage. For many cancers, there currently are no screening tests, and they are diagnosed when they begin to cause symptoms.
Diaz and other Kimmel Cancer Center researchers are working on new tests that detect abnormal DNA shed by cancer cells into blood and body fluids and have the ability to find cancers before they cause any symptoms. Approaches like this could lead to a broad-based screening test for cancer.
Tests like these also are being used to detect cancer recurrences and malignant cells left behind following surgery, and can find cancers that are not detectable under the microscope or in x-rays.
Other researchers are studying cancer stem cells. They are stealth cells that make up just a tiny fraction of a tumor. While small in number, investigators believe they may be the cells that drive certain cancers and lead to cancer recurrence. Therapies that target these cells are now being tested in clinical trials.
A team of our breast cancer researchers has developed a method that could make it possible to detect breast cancer from the DNA contained in a single drop of blood.
But, while evasive cancer cells are a challenge and the focus of ongoing research, it does not mean, as the email contends, that all patients, even those treated successfully for cancer, have cancers-in-waiting—undetectable but still there. People are treated and completely cured of cancer everyday.
The Hoax: A Strong Immune System Destroys Cancer
The Truth: When it comes to cancer and the immune system, it is not a matter of strong or weak as the fictional report contends, but rather an issue of recognition. “The immune system simply does not recognize cancer. In its complexity, the cancer cell has learned to disguise itself to the immune system as a normal, healthy cell. Cells infected with viruses or bacteria send out danger signals setting the immune system in action. But cancer cells do not, explains Elizabeth Jaffee, co-director of cancer immunology and leading expert on cancer and the immune system.” By deciphering the methods cancer cells use to make them invisible to the immune system, Jaffee and team have developed cancer vaccines that have successfully triggered immune reactions against prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, leukemia, and multiple myeloma.
The Hoax: Cancer is caused by Nutritional Deficiencies and Supplements Will Correct Them
The Truth: Dietary habits and lifestyle choices, such as smoking, contribute to the development of many human cancers, says Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center director William Nelson. Our experts recommend a balanced diet as a way of reducing cancer risk. In terms of supplements, Nelson points out that while they may help mediate vitamin deficiencies, taking doses above what the body needs provides no added benefit.
The Hoax: Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy Harms Normal Cells. Surgery Causes Cancer to Spread
The Truth: Chemotherapy and radiation therapy kills cancer cells with remarkable selectivity, says Nelson. There are some temporary and reversible side effects common to cancer therapies, including hair loss and low blood counts. Limiting and managing these side effects is an integral part of treatment.
Surgery is the first line of treatment for many types of cancer. It does not cause cancer to spread. Cancers spread to other tissues and organs as a tumor progresses and cancer cells break away from the original tumor and travel through the bloodstream to other body sites.
The Hoax: Cancers Feed on Certain Foods
The Truth: The premise is that cancer cells feed on certain foods, and if a person refrains from eating these foods, the cancer will die. According to our experts, a poor diet and obesity associated with a poor diet is a risk factor for the development of cancer. However, there is no evidence that certain foods alter the environment of an existing cancer, at the cellular level, and cause it to either die or grow.
While there is such a thing as tumors that produce mucus, the mucus made by a tumor does not result from drinking milk. And, eating less meat, while a good choice for cancer prevention, does not free up enzymes to attack cancer cells, explains cancer prevention and control expert Elizabeth Platz.
Moderation is key, says Platz. As part of a balanced diet, sugar, salt, milk, coffee, tea, meat, and chocolate—the foods the “Update” calls into question—are all safe choices, she says. The real concern with many of these, particularly sugar, is that it adds calories to a diet and can lead to obesity, and obesity is a major risk factor for cancer. A balanced nutritious diet, healthy weight, physical activity, and avoiding alcoholic drinks may prevent as many as 1/3 of all cancers. Platz recommends eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day and limiting red and processed meats, like hot dogs.
Several Johns Hopkins experts participated in the World Cancer Research Fund – American Institute for Cancer Research report Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective, published in November 2007, which is considered by cancer prevention experts to be an authoritative source of information on diet, physical activity and cancer. Their recommendations for cancer prevention and for good health in general are:
- Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight.
- Be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day.
- Avoid sugary drinks. Limit consumption of energy-dense foods (particularly processed foods high in added sugar, or low in fiber, or high in fat).
- Eat more of a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes such as beans.
- Limit consumption of red meats (such as beef, pork and lamb) and avoid processed meats.
- If consumed at all, limit alcoholic drinks to 2 for men and 1 for women a day.
- Limit consumption of salty foods and foods processed with salt (sodium).
- Don’t use supplements to protect against cancer.
Our experts recommend that people meet their nutritional needs through their food choices. While vitamin supplements can be helpful in people with nutritional deficiencies, evidence suggests that supplementation above what the body can use provides no added health benefit.
The Hoax: Cancer is a Disease of Mind, Body, and Spirit
The Truth: Cancer is a disease caused by genetic alterations. Many times, these alterations occur through our own behaviors—cigarette smoking, a poor and unbalanced diet, virus exposures, and sunburns, says cancer prevention and control expert John Groopman.
How stress, faith, and other factors influence this is largely unknown. We would like people to be happy, loving, and stress free, simply because it is a nice way to live and can contribute to an overall feeling of well being, says Platz. There is no evidence, however, that a person prevents or causes cancer based on his or her state of mind.
Read more about Cancer Genetics in “A Genetic Revolution”
The Hoax: Oxygen Kills Cancer Cells
The Truth: Platz recommends regular exercise as a part of any healthy lifestyle, but says there is no evidence that breathing deeply or receiving oxygen therapy prevents cancer.
On its Web site, the American Cancer Society includes the following statement about oxygen therapy, “Available scientific evidence does not support claims that putting oxygen-releasing chemicals into a person’s body is effective in treating cancer. It may even be dangerous. There have been reports of patient deaths from this method.” Read more
The following extract from: http://pcrm.org/health/cancer-resources/diet-cancer:
Diet and Cancer Research
What we eat and how we treat our bodies on a daily basis have a very powerful effect on our health and quality of life. Although cancer can affect many different parts of the body, the foods that prevent cancer and deter cancer growth are generally the same. Fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes all have important nutrients and other cancer-fighting substances like phytochemicals and pectin that strengthen immune function and destroy cancer-causing substances before they cause harm. Research has shown that people who eat a diet free of animal products, high in plant foods, and low in fat have a much lower risk of developing cancer.
Foods for Cancer Prevention
Of the many diseases that affect people these days, cancer is among the most feared. But despite a wealth of scientific data, most people remain unaware of how they can reduce their risk of developing cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, as much as 80 percent of all cancers are due to identified factors, and thus are potentially preventable. Thirty percent are due to tobacco use, and as much as 35 percent to 50 percent are due to foods. It is easy to control these and other risk factors.
What Is Cancer?
Cancer begins as a single abnormal cell that begins to multiply out of control. Groups of such cells form tumors and invade healthy tissue, often spreading to other parts of the body. Carcinogens are substances that promote the development of cancerous cells. They may come from foods, from the air, or even from within the body. Most carcinogens are neutralized before damage can occur, but sometimes they attack the cell’s genetic material (DNA) and alter it. It takes years for a noticeable tumor to develop. During this time, compounds known as inhibitors can keep the cells from growing. Some vitamins in plant foods are known to be inhibitors. Dietary fat, on the other hand, is known to be a promoter that helps the abnormal cells grow quickly.
Fiber Fights Cancer
In 1970, British physician Dennis Burkitt observed that a high-fiber diet reduces diseases of the digestive tract. He observed that in countries where diets are high in fiber (that is, plant-based diets), there were fewer cases of colon cancer. Around the world, this has proven true. The highest fiber intakes are found in nonindustrialized nations where meat is scarce and plant foods fill the menu. Animal products contain no fiber. The United States and other Western nations whose diets are based upon animal products have the highest rates of colon cancer.
While no one is certain exactly how fiber protects against digestive tract disorders, there are several possibilities. By definition, fiber cannot be digested by humans early in the digestive process. It moves food more quickly through the intestines, helping to eliminate carcinogens. It also draws water into the digestive tract. The water and fiber make fecal matter bulkier, so carcinogens are diluted.
Bile acids are secreted into the intestine to help digest fat; there, bacteria can change the acids into chemicals that promote colon cancer. Fiber may bind with these bile acids and evict them from the intestines.1 Also, bacteria in the colon ferment the fiber creating a more acidic environment which may make bile acids less toxic.
Fiber is also protective against other forms of cancer. Studies have shown that stomach cancer and breast cancer are less common on high-fiber diets.2,3 Fiber affects levels of estrogens in the body. Estrogens are normally secreted into the intestine, where the fiber binds with the hormone and moves it out of the body.4 Without adequate fiber, the estrogen can be reabsorbed from the intestine into the bloodstream. High levels of estrogen are linked to a higher risk of breast cancer.
In the U.S., the average daily fiber intake is 10 to 20 grams per day. Experts recommend 30 to 40 grams per day. The best sources of fiber are whole grains, beans, peas, lentils, vegetables, and fruits. Foods that are closest to their natural state, unrefined and unpeeled, are highest in fiber.
Fat Raises Cancer Risks
Cross-cultural studies have revealed that the populations with the highest levels of fat consumption are also the ones with the highest death rates from breast and colon cancer. The lowest rates are in groups with the lowest consumption of fats.5 Migration studies help to rule out the influence of genetics.6
Many studies indicate that fat in foods increases one’s risk for cancer, and it may also adversely affect breast cancer survival rates for those who have cancer.7
Although the total amount of fat one eats is of concern, there is evidence that animal fat is much more harmful than vegetable fat. One study noted a 200 percent increase in breast cancer among those who consume beef or pork five to six times per week. Dr. Sheila Bingham, a prominent cancer researcher form the University of Cambridge, notes that meat is more closely associated with colon cancer than any other factor.8 Meat and milk are also linked to both prostate and ovarian cancers.9
How Fat Affects Cancer Risks
Fat has many effects within the body. It increases hormone production and thus raises breast cancer risks. It also stimulates the production of bile acids which have been linked to colon cancer.
The average diet in the United States is about 37 percent fat. The National Cancer Institute suggests that people lower that percentage down to 30 percent; however, studies have shown that fat intake should be well below 30 percent to have an anti-cancer affect. Ten to 15 percent is more likely to be helpful.
The Importance of Vegetables
Not only are vegetables low in fat and high in fiber, they also contain many cancer-fighting substances. Carotenoids, the pigment that gives fruits and vegetables their dark colors, have been shown to help prevent cancer. Beta-carotene, present in dark green and yellow vegetables, helps protect against lung cancer and may help prevent cancers of the bladder, mouth, larynx, esophagus, breast, and other sites.
Vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, kale, turnips, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts contain flavones and indoles which are thought to have anti-cancer activities.
Vitamin C, found in citrus fruits and many vegetables, may lower risks for cancers of the esophagus and stomach. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant, neutralizing cancer-causing chemicals that form in the body. It also blocks the conversion of nitrates to cancer-causing nitrosamines in the stomach.
Selenium is found in whole grains and has the same antioxidant effects as vitamin C and beta-carotene. Vitamin E also has this effect. Caution is advised in supplementing selenium, which is toxic in large doses.
Excessive intake of alcohol raises one’s risks for cancers of the breast, mouth, pharynx, and esophagus. When combined with smoking, these risks skyrocket. It also raises risks for stomach, liver, and colon cancers.10
Vegetarians Are Better Off
All the evidence points to a low-fat, high-fiber diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans, as being the best for cancer prevention. Not surprisingly, vegetarians, whose diets easily meet these requirements, are at the lowest risk for cancer. Vegetarians have about half the cancer risk of meat-eaters.11
Vegetarians have higher blood levels of beta-carotene. They consume more vitamin C, beta-carotene, indoles, and fiber than meat-eaters. Vegetarians also have stronger immune systems. German researchers recently discovered that vegetarians have more than twice the natural killer cell activity of meat-eaters.12 Natural killer cells are specialized white blood cells that attack and neutralize cancer cells. Also, vegetarians tend to eat more soy products than meat-eaters. Soybeans contain many substances that are anticarcinogens, including lignans and phytoestrogens. A diet that is rich in soybeans may be one reason for the lower incidence of breast cancer in Asia.
A cancer prevention diet is one that is high in fiber, low in fat (especially animal fat), and includes generous portions of fruits and vegetables. It also minimizes or excludes alcohol. The best diets are pure vegetarian diets.
The Roles of Exercise and Stress Management
Healthy foods, physical activity, and reducing stress are increasingly recognized as vital ingredients of cancer prevention and survival. While genetics play a role in predisposing some people to cancer, other factors play a much greater role. In fact, much of what appears to “run in the family” results from shared exposure to environmental factors, such as cancer-promoting chemicals or dietary patterns.1,2 Many factors, including diet, physical activity, viral and bacterial infections, radiation, and exposure to carcinogens all influence one’s risk of developing cancer.3,4
In the past two decades, a wealth of research has revealed that emotional factors and a lack of exercise can alter the body’s resistance to cancer. Changing exercise patterns and how we handle “stress” could therefore play a powerful role in preventing or surviving the disease—a role no less important than making appropriate dietary changes. This page will tell you how to protect your body through stress management and exercise.
Immunity Against Cancer
Cancer begins with a major change in a normal, living cell. The transformation from a normal cell to a cancer cell is triggered by damage to the DNA, for example, by radiation or a carcinogenic chemical. These cells generally undergo cellular division more rapidly than the cells from which they originate. When a cancer cell divides, it forms two new cancer cells. The process continues until a mass of cells is created, called a tumor. The dangerous nature of cancer stems from the abnormal cells’ ability to invade other tissues and travel through the blood and lymphatic vessels to other areas of the body, a process called metastasis.
Each of us is constantly exposed to carcinogens in our food, air, and water, resulting in the production of cancer cells within the body. Ordinarily, however, our immune system recognizes and destroys these cells before they have a chance to multiply. (The same thing happens to the vast majority of viruses and bacteria entering our bodies.) Given this fact, simply having abnormal cells develop is not the only factor in determining the course of cancer. The primary threat of cancer may result instead from the body’s inability to eliminate the abnormal cells.
The immune system provides the body with a way to seek out and destroy cancer cells. Among the main anti-cancer components of this system are specialized white blood cells, known as T-lymphocytes (T-cells), which travel throughout the body to detect unusual cells. Some lymphocytes can produce various anti-cancer chemicals, such as tumor necrosis factor, interleukin, and interferon. These are the body’s equivalent of chemotherapy, except they don’t harm healthy cells.
The body’s most immediate and powerful protection against cancer, however, results from the action of natural killer cells (NK cells), a specialized form of lymphocyte. NK cells descend directly on a microscopic tumor and begin devouring and disintegrating the tissue. As a consequence, many tumors never make it beyond the early stages.
Stress and Immunity
Stress affects us physically and psychologically. In the case of a perceived threat, the body undergoes a build-up of internal tension characterized by increased heart rate, blood pressure, and muscular tension, to prepare for swift and powerful action. In primitive times, these bodily changes probably helped us adapt to dangerous situations, such as sudden storms or attacks. In many cases, however, these aspects of the stress response are inappropriate in the context of modern society. You don’t need tight muscles and a rapid heart rate, for example, when trying to resolve a business dispute or a conflict at home.
Under stressful circumstances, the brain signals the adrenal glands to produce corticosteroids, hormones which weaken the immune response. Corticosteroids exert such a powerful immune-suppressive effect that synthetic steroids (e.g., cortisone) are widely used as drugs to suppress immunity in allergic conditions and the rejection of transplanted organs. Cancerous processes, most notably breast cancer, are accelerated in the presence of large amounts of corticosteroids because they alter estrogen metabolism boosting an unfavorable hormonal response.5
Although the evidence is still evolving, emotional factors which influence stress may play some role in cancer resistance. Depression and helplessness, for example, may be detrimental to cancer prognosis and decrease quality of life.6-9 There seems to be a connection between stress and lowered immune function, particularly in T-cell and NK function. Long-term stress may be even more detrimental to cancer resistance, and emerging evidence suggests that certain cancers, such as breast and melanomas, may be more readily influenced by stress than others, especially early in their development.5,10
Managing stress and improving psychological well-being may not only decrease one’s risk of developing cancer, but improve chances for survival if cancer has been diagnosed.6 Improved immunity during cancer allows better recovery from difficult treatments and may decrease the incidence of complications, improving the patient’s overall health and well-being.
Findings from a large meta-analysis indicate that a lack of social support is associated with increased cancer incidence and mortality rates.11 Those who have a strong social support system have a 50 percent increased likelihood of survival.12 Knowing that there are others around to whom you can turn in tough times affords a sense of emotional stability, a context for dealing more effectively with feelings and the problems of life.
No scientific evidence has yet found that stress and emotions can directly cause cancer. The most plausible link is an indirect effect via the immune system. When immunity is weakened by stress, particularly in the presence of biological stressors such as a fatty diet or environmental pollution, then cancer can thrive and grow.
The Anti-Cancer Personality Is Hopeful and Expressive
In recent decades, a number of laboratory studies have provided evidence in support of the concept that stress-related factors can influence malignant disease. These studies have encouraged the use of therapeutic strategies for patients with cancer that rely on psychological and psychoneuro-immunological principles to accompany traditional medical treatments.13
Our responses to stress—or any life change—are individualized. What appears threatening to one person may seem harmless to another. How a person copes may be partly a function of age and experience.14 A study found that melanoma patients with the most “major life stress” in their backgrounds showed a greater will to confront and fight their cancer and less avoidance of the disease’s frightening aspects.15 Those patients with less experience with major stresses tended to harbor a defeatist attitude and expected a poor prognosis. More recent studies help confirm these findings, where women with early life stressors and lack of social support were more prone to developing breast cancer, compared with those who tackled their stress and had more social support.5
When people feel that a major life upheaval is overwhelming or hopeless, their subsequent risk of cancer increases. A recent review of studies examining the link between personality and cancer survival determined that cancer patients who exhibit a high degree of neuroticism and low optimism tend to have a poorer chance of survival.16 Neuroticism generally describes an individual’s tendency toward worry and anxiety. This same review suggested that neurotic individuals also experience more stress and have a lower quality of life during treatment.16 For such individuals, and all cancer patients, managing stress may not only increase well-being but has the potential to improve health and survival.
Strengthening the Anti-Cancer Mind
Studies of various relaxation techniques suggest that the mind can enhance our immunity against cancer. In his book Psychological and Behavioral Treatments for Disorders Associated with the Immune System,17 Steven Locke, M.D., director of the Psychoimmunology Research Project at Harvard Medical School, describes more than 200 studies on the treatment of cancer by “mind/body” methods. Among the methods most often used by cancer patients are those which reduce anxiety, such as meditation relaxation techniques. A reduction in the anxiety, depression, and helplessness that often accompany the disease can make it easier to make decisions about treatment. Sharing one’s fears and frustrations with a psychotherapist or members of a cancer support group can provide invaluable emotional stability and relief. Being around healthy and positive people is also important. Healthy children, with their playful, spontaneous nature, are particularly good companions in times of sickness.
Based on his extensive work with cancer patients, Bernie Siegel, M.D., notes that cancer survivors who enjoy a high quality of life tend to express their anger and other negative emotions freely, thereby avoiding a build-up of such emotions. He encourages friends and family members of cancer patients to help create positive expectations in the healing process.18
Telomeres: How Mindfulness Works to Reduce Cancer Risk
In our bodies, stretches of DNA called telomeres protect our genes and make it possible for cells to divide. Telomeres are important because they relate to how we age and develop cancer. You may imagine telomeres as the plastic tips on shoelaces, because they work in a similar fashion, preventing chromosome ends from fraying and sticking to each other.
Each time cells go through normal division the telomeres get shorter. When they get too short, however, the cell can no longer divide and becomes inactive or dies. This process of telomere shortening is associated with aging, cancer, and a higher risk of death.
As we know, telomeres play an important role in genome protection. Studies try to identify how certain nutrients or exercise patterns can prevent telomere shortening. The Long Island Breast Cancer Study Project explored the relationship between the telomere length of white blood cell DNA and breast cancer risk, determining whether dietary intake of antioxidants would have any effect. In more than 1,000 women tested, a shorter telomere length was associated with a significant increased breast cancer risk. Women with lower intakes of β-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E all had shorter telomere lengths, compared with women who consumed more.24 Women who use exercise as a coping tool for stress have longer telomere lengths, compared with those who are not exercising.25
Research indicates that incorporating meditation or other mindfulness into your daily routine may help to slow telomere shortening. In recent studies where anxiety and stress were assessed, those with higher levels of anxiety were prone to greater telomere shortening.26,27 These simple interventions may reduce stress and increase hormonal factors that support telomere maintenance, which in turn may decrease cancer risk.28
Reducing stress helps cut your risk of cancer and other health conditions, strengthens your immune system, and reduces anxiety. If you are relaxed, you are more likely to stick to a healthful lifestyle and less likely to depend on poor food choices that many people use to deal with stress.
Surefire Ways to Help Eliminate Stress:
- Practice meditation, yoga, or tai chi. You can do this by attending classes or purchasing instructional DVDs.
- Eat healthfully. Focus on antioxidant and fiber-rich foods like legumes, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Your mind and body will feel more focused and balanced.
- Break a sweat. With regular exercise, your body will become a stress-fighting machine.
- Learn time-management skills.
- Set limits for yourself. Learn to say no to things that can add unwanted stress to your daily routine.
- Enjoy yourself. Set aside time for hobbies and interests.
- Catch enough Zzz’s. Your body needs rest in order to recuperate from stress.
- Say no to alcohol, drugs, and compulsive behaviors. These things provide only short-term relief and can be harmful to your health.
- Spend time with loved ones and seek out other means of social support.
- Learn to manage stress the healthful way. Make an appointment with a psychologist or other mental health professional trained in stress management.
Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)
CAM does not have one definition. It consists of methods of medicine that are alternatives to common therapies in Western medicine. That is not to say they are “better” than traditional or conventional approaches, but that they can provide additional benefits to standard medical treatments. CAM can include spinal manipulation, prayer, herbal medicine, natural foods, supplements, aromatherapy, hydrotherapy, etc.
CAM modalities have been associated with improved NK cell function and immunity in some studies. For example, intake of green tea and some kinds of probiotics enhance NK cell activity. Administration of extracts from ginseng, aged garlic, Echinacea purpurea root, Chinese herbs, and some kinds of mushrooms significantly improve NK cytotoxicity (NK’s power to kill mutated cells) or restore NK cell activity in some immune-suppressive conditions.29 Some of these agents even show inhibition of metastasis (spread) of cancer. Moreover, acupuncture, skin rubdown, relaxation, massage therapy, music, laughter, and hypnotherapy enhance NK cell activity and/or NK cell numbers.29
One study showed practical improvements in immune function in cancer patients being treated with CAM: Cancer patients who were treated with CAM in conjunction with conventional treatments had an 18 percent decreased incidence of infection and a 13 percent drop in hospitalizations due to infection.30 Use of CAM during cancer treatment has also been associated with improved quality of life and decreased stress in cancer patients.31,32 Although it is important to discuss all forms of treatment with your doctor, incorporating CAM techniques into your treatment may offer some benefit to health and cancer resistance.
Exercise Against Cancer
The evidence that exercise may play an effective role against cancer is accumulating. Regular exercise has been associated with a reduced risk of cancers of the colon, breast, prostate, lung, and lining of the uterus (endometrium).33,34 A 2012 study published in the Lancet found that physical inactivity was responsible for 10 percent of colon and breast cancer diagnoses worldwide.35 The good news? Individuals have the ability to make informed decisions, alter lifestyles, and help fight cancer by using activity to their advantage. Let’s see what the research says and what type of exercise is best.
Exercise can contribute to cancer prevention and survival by improving immune system function. A position paper by the International Society for Exercise and Immunology shows that regular exercise may decrease the risk of developing cancer and also improve cancer survival after diagnosis. Physical actvity appears to increase NK cell activity while decreasing cellular inflammation, both very important factors in the development and progression of many cancers.36
But how much do we really need and for how long? Even a simple behavior such as walking may improve chances of cancer survival. A study published by the American Association for Cancer suggested that patients with prostate cancer could significantly improve their chances of survival by including regular walks in their lives. Researchers found that men who walked at a brisk pace for at least three hours per week had a 57 percent lower rate of cancer progression, compared with men who walked at a leisurely pace for less than three hours per week.37 Walking pace in particular seemed to be highly correlated with a decreased mortality risk, regardless of exercise duration.
The National Cancer Institute suggests that physical activity can have a similarly beneficial effect in women. A history of moderate, recreational exercise is associated with a reduced risk of breast and endometrial cancers.33 Recreational physical activity at any intensity reduces breast cancer risk in both pre and postmenopausal women.38 In the Harvard Nurses’ Health Study II, premenopausal women who were physically active had a 23 percent reduced risk of breast cancer, compared with those who exercised the least. The strongest evidence for prevention was seen in physically active women 12-22 years old. However, researchers concluded that exercising in both adolescence and adulthood may derive the most benefit.39
Numerous studies have assessed the effects of physical activity on endometrial cancer risk. Women who are physically active have a 20-40 percent reduced risk of developing endometrial cancer, and those who were most physically active experienced the greatest reduction in risk.40
For hormonally mediated cancers like breast and endometrial cancers, exercise may decrease the risk by changing body weight and metabolism of sex hormones, such as estrogen, which help to decrease cancer risk.33,34 For all cancer patients, regular exercise may help improve symptoms of physical and mental fatigue caused by cancer treatments, like chemotherapy. Typically, 90-120 minutes of moderate exercise weekly was enough to see improvements in fatigue, depression, and anxiety for women undergoing cancer treatment.41 A study review of 56 trials with more than 4,800 participants going through cancer treatment found significant improvements in their quality of life when exercise was included.42
Many cancer patients undergoing treatment have severe fatigue and depression. Being physically active can counter these negative effects and give patients more energy,43 which can be used to keep a healthy immune system and ward of cancer recurrence. However, for cancer survivors or those going through treatment, it is important to note that exercise regimens must be individualized. The type of cancer, degree of severity, and medications and treatments used will all help determine what exercise pattern is best. Therefore, one should exercise within the body’s needs and limitations because overexertion can result in immune dysfunction.44
A few words of caution should be added here. First, exercising every day will not cancel out the health-negating effects of emotional stress or a poor diet. All aspects of lifestyle should be considered as integral to the total picture of health. High-intensity exercise may be contraindicated for individuals whose immune function is already compromised, who are unwell, or who are at high risk of cardiovascular or other diseases. Most of the health benefits of exercise can be achieved with a moderate program designed with the individual’s specific needs in mind. Any decision to include exercise in the course of cancer therapy should take this into consideration. It is strongly advised that you check with your physician before beginning any exercise program, particularly if you are more than 40 years of age, are overweight, or have any pre-existing medical condition.
Use Your Body
Physical activity is great for your heart, your waistline, and your sense of well-being.
Our bodies are designed for physical activity: walking, dancing, biking, participating in games, and playing with children. These activities can get your heart moving and can burn calories. But we do them for fun, not to burn calories. The key is to remember what it was like to move your body—to enjoy a walk in the woods, a game of volleyball or touch football, or a night on the dance floor.
For starters, try something very simple. Just take a walk for a half hour per day or one hour three times per week. If you are feeling energetic, walk briskly. This is easy and gives you plenty of exercise. And, by all means, smell the roses along the way. Pick a place to walk that is enjoyable for you, with interesting sights, sounds, and smells.
If you prefer, pick any other activity. To give you an idea of how quickly your body can part with calories, here are some activities people enjoy and the number of calories they burn per hour for a 150-pound adult:
||Calories Burned Per Hour
Fun is the key. And bring a friend along.
A word of caution: Do not push yourself too hard. If you are more than 40 or have any history of illness, medication use or joint problems, talk over your plans with your doctor before you begin.
The bottom line for men and women looking to prevent cancer or reduce the risk of a cancer recurrence. Get out there and move!
THE CANCER SURVIVORS GUIDE
(by Neal D. Barnard, MD • Jennifer K. Reilly, RD)
Excellent FREE downloadable book with many tips and information on how to survive and prevent cancer.
Click the following link to download free copy of the book: Cancer_Survivors_Guide
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