What is cancer?
Nothing is more difficult for a patient to accept he or she has been diagnosed with cancer, it is the second greatest cause of death in worldwide. Cancer is a collection of related diseases that can affect any part of the body, other terms used are malignant tumours and neoplasms. One defining feature of cancer is cells start to behave differently, growing, multiplying and spreading. It is like a revolution in the body, where a group of cells stop working for the good of the whole and run riot.
Cancer development has an orderly process. Everything begins from the mutation in cells, they may stat to grow and multiply too much and form a lump called a tumour. Cancers of the blood, such as leukemias, they do not form solid tumours. Cancerous tumours are malignant, they can invade and spread into nearby tissues. In addition, some cancer cells can break off and travel to other parts of the body through the blood or the lymph system and form new tumours.
Some key facts from World Health Organization(WHO):
Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally, and was responsible for 8.8 million deaths in 2015. Globally, nearly 1 in 6 deaths is due to cancer.
Cancer is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide, with approximately 14 million new cases in 2012.
The number of new cases is expected to rise by about 70% over the next 2 decades.
Tobacco use is the most important risk factor for cancer and is responsible for approximately 22% of cancer deaths.
Late-stage presentation and inaccessible diagnosis and treatment are common. In 2017, only 26% of low-income countries reported having pathology services generally available in the public sector. More than 90% of high-income countries reported treatment services are available compared to less than 30% of low-income countries.
The economic impact of cancer is significant and is increasing. The total annual economic cost of cancer in 2010 was estimated at approximately US$ 1.16 trillion.
It is a fact that deaths from cancer have increased over time. Major concern has arisen among researchers and clinicians to rethink our approach to cancer prevention and treatment. We have achieved some improvements on being able to detect some cancers sooner through advanced technology such as mammography for the detection of breast cancer and PSA tests for prostate cancer. However, earlier detection is not all we are hoping for.
What causes cancer?
Most cancers are primarily the result of changes that humans have made to the total chemical environment – what we eat, drink, breathe and use. At least 85% of cancers are associated with these factors; our lifestyle and diet have exposed us to many cancer-promoters, from oxidants in cigarettes to the tumour-promoter “IGF1” in cow’s milk, radiation, charcoal grilled food, too much fat in our diet, saccharin, and the many other chemicals found in herbicides and pesticides. These substances are known as carcinogens, and there is one common denominator all these carcinogens have – they all increase oxidative stress.
Researches and growing medical evidence support that when excessive free radicals are allowed to exist near the nucleus of the cell, significant damage to the DNA can happen. The onslaught of carcinogens can trigger DNA to alter their behavior and be exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals. Our body will be busy trying to repair the damaged DNA, but in times of heavy oxidative stress, free radical damage overwhelms the repair system and can lead to mutation of the DNA. Free radicals can also affect the genetic structure of the DNA, which might cause abnormal growth of the cells. As these cells continue to replicate and carry its mutated DNA to each newly developed cell, plus further oxidative stress damages, the cells will begin to grow out of control and take on a life of its on. That’s when metastasis starts and becoming a true cancer.
The development of cancer is a multistage process that usually takes decades to develop from the initial mutation of the DNA. Since 85% of cancers are associated with lifestyle factors including diet, smoking and drinking alcohol. The remaining 15% of cancers are considered to be genetic inherited. However, even people with cancer genes, such as BCRA1 gene for breast cancer, won’t develop cancer without the environmental and lifestyle insults that tip the scales from healthy into abnormal cell growth. Here lies the key to understanding new strategies for fighting cancer.
Prevention and natural treatment — Cancer
Doctors usually diagnose cancer in the last stages of its development. Unfortunately, by the time a cancer is serious enough to cause symptoms or to show up on an X-ray, it has usually been developing for more than 10 to 20 years. Medical treatment will always focus on the cancer cells or tumour, such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. However, the treatment intent may or may not be curative, and some cancers can come back many years after treatment. As we begin to understand the root cause of cancer, therapeutic options become available. Since cancer takes years to develop, numerous opportunities arise to intervene in this process.
The first strategy in the prevention of cancer may seem obvious. Eliminate the exposure to carcinogens, decrease the production of free radicals for our body to fight:
Stop smoking – Cigarette smoke is the most potent carcinogen to which many of us are exposed. Smokers show a tremendous increase in the number of free radicals in their bodies. In addition, secondary smoke is also an important factor in oxidative stress.
Protection from sunlight – Too much UV radiation from the sun can damage the DNA in your skin cell. Sunscreen is highly recommended if exposure to sunlight is necessary in your lifestyle.
Eat a low-fat diet – Excessive fat intake can increase oxidative stress, especially when adequate amounts of antioxidants are missing in your diet. Try your best to replace saturated-fat with unsaturated-fat with the meal, and consume at least seven servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
Avoid other carcinogens – Whenever possible, take action in decreasing your exposure to cancer-causing agents such as pesticides, herbicides, radiation, alcohol, salted food, charcoal, estrogens, and so on by purging them from your home environment.
Maximize the body’s antioxidant and repair system
The absolute best defense your body has is a good diet. Nothing a doctor can prescribe will take the place of the diet your body needs to fuel and replenish itself. The first step toward building a strong immune system is to eat a high-fiber, low-fat diet largely made up of fruits and vegetables. Those individuals who had the highest intake of fruits and vegetables (the main source of antioxidants) showed a significantly decreased risk of developing almost every kind of cancer.
While there was already substantial evidence a decade ago of the protective effect of antioxidant nutrients vitamin A, C, E, and selenium against certain types of cancer. We have also learnt how nutrients work in synergy to disarm oxidants against cancer and hence protect against cancer in micronutrients section. Medical research is beginning to demonstrate that taking antioxidants in supplementation of a good diet over long period of time with vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene resulted in a significant decrease of the oxidative damage to the DNA of both smokers and nonsmokers. Vitamin E has also been shown to protect against exercise-induced DNA damage.
What if I already have cancer?
Standard therapies for cancers including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation do not always appear promising. We cannot deny that the effectiveness of traditional cancer treatments has reached a plateau. It is common knowledge that all these aggressive treatments can cause harmful side effects such as increased oxidative stress and weakened immune system. However, when patients take high doses of nutritional supplements, they improve the defense system of normal cells and create a win-win situation.
Nutritional science offers us the greatest hope in the fight against cancer and several other degenerative diseases. They not only help prevent cancer but may actually enhance the traditional chemo and radiation therapy. Clinical research is revealing that cancer cells take up antioxidants differently than do normal cells. Normally, healthy cells will take up only the amount of antioxidants and supporting nutrients they need based on the principles of cellular nutrition. On the other hand, cancer cells will absorb nutrients excessively and this actually makes the cancer cells more vulnerable to cell death. Antioxidants not only support in the battle against cancerous cells, they improve the defense of healthy cells against the damaging effect of radiation and chemotherapy.