Nutritional Support For Cancer

Nutritional Support For Cancer

This information is not intended to cure or treat cancer but rather is provided for informational and educational purposes only. In discussing a topic such as cancer there are two fundamental guidelines: The first is to not create false hope by trying to convince the reader that this information will cure your illness. The second guideline is to provide information that may under certain circumstances, with the oversight of the proper healthcare professional, provide either help or comfort to the cancer patient. Therefore, this information is provided for the purpose of increasing your base of knowledge so that you can more effectively discuss with your health care professional what may or may not be proper and effective treatments for your particular situation. If you have cancer or if you think that you might have cancer you should contact your Primary Care Physician who will refer you to a Board Certified Oncologist. You may also benefit from a consultation with a Clinical Nutritionist or from a Naturopathic Physician in your area. References are listed at the end of this section.

General Recommendations:

Detoxify
Not only is detoxification essential in the prevention and treatment of illness, in addition keeping levels of toxicity down results in greater immune response rendering the body more effective in fighting against disease onset. The following can be done to keep levels of toxicity down:

1. Drink lots of water

2. Avoid constipation: this can be done by increasing fiber intake and consuming foods with high water content. Drinking water especially in the morning upon arising is also effective. Two tall glasses of water at room temperature in the morning upon arising is enough for most people to stay regular but check with your doctor first because some people who are at higher risk for hyponatremia (decreased salt levels) should not drink too much water at any given time.

3. Take a steam or a sauna: While sweating may not rid the body of all toxins it is an effective way that the body uses to purge toxins. As with anything, talk with your doctor to make sure that your body can tolerate the stress of excessive heat if you happen to have prevailing health issues.

4. Drink in moderation and don’t smoke: If you have a drinking problem forget about the alcohol altogether as moderation is the key. While wine may provide certain health benefits, excessive consumption would negate any such benefits. There are no health benefits with cigarette smoking and a host of liabilities. To borrow the phrase from “Nike” “Just don’t do it”.

5. Various nutrients are helpful in facilitating the detoxification process. Here are just a few:

  • Dandelion: Dandelion stimulates liver function and is also on the list of effective herbs for blood cleansing.
  • Garlic: has a host of medicinal properties.
  • L-Glutathione: L-Glutathione is a type of amino-acid with strong anti-oxidant properties.
  • L-Methionine: Plays an important role in the detoxification process
  • Milk Thistle: Milk Thistle is known for its detoxifying properties and reduces inflammation in the liver.
  • N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine: N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine is a precursor to glutathione which is effective in neutralizing free radicals
  • Selenium: Protects cells from free radicals.
  • Turmeric: Turmeric is an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and is believed to have anti-cancer properties.

6. Avoid exposure to pesticides, heavy metals industrial solvents.

Exercise
Exercise helps to fight obesity, lowers triglycerides, lowers cholesterol, increases insulin sensitivity thus stabilizing blood sugar and oxygenates the cells. You must remember however that it is important to choose an exercise program that is appropriate for your age and ability. Starting too quickly or with too much intensity can often result in more setbacks than progress. Being consistent is always better than being a “weekend warrior”. Talk with your doctor about what type of exercise program is best for you.

Decrease Sugar Intake
As a general rule of thumb, cancer likes a sweet and acidic environment which is provided in diets with high sugar intake. Therefore, it is important to limit excessive sweets and starches in the diet. In doing this one should pay attention to glycemic index and glycemic load. Glycemic index refers to how fast the sugar from a certain food goes from the stomach to the blood. Glycemic load refers to the actual amount of sugar in the food. Here is an example: carrots have a higher glycemic index than pasta but a person is more likely to eat a bowl full of pasta rather than a bowl full of carrots so even though carrots have a higher glycemic index, they are still less likely to elevate blood sugar than a bowl of pasta. The “South Beach Diet” is based on the principle of glycemic index.

Strengthen Immunity
There are several factors that strengthen the immune system including:

1. Proper Nutrition

2. Adequate sleep

3. Stress management

4. Supplements

Acid Base Balance
Most Americans have diets that push the body into an acidic direction. As cancer “likes sugar” it also “likes acidity”. A healthy approach for anyone, especially those with cancer is to consume large amounts of alkaline forming foods. Click onto our “Living Healthy Guide” to learn more about Acid/Base Balance and what food are the most alkaline forming and which are the most acid forming.

Treat malnutrition but avoid obesity:

Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils
Also known as partially hydrogenated vegetable oils or trans fatty acids. The hydrogenation process takes vegetable oils and solidifies them either in the form of a stick of margarine or in vegetable shortening. Margarines in a tub are normally less hydrogenated and those in the squeeze bottle form are the least hydrogenated as they are closer to their original liquid form. The hydrogenation process does not produce fatty acids that can be normally metabolized by the body the way that naturally occurring fatty acids are. As a result, they are viewed by many authorities as toxic and even carcinogenic. Some research asserts that this is in fact the case however other research negates the former. It would seem most logical that if one does not totally eliminate trans fats from their diets that they should at least limit their intake as:

1. Trans fats are not naturally occurring

2. Cancer starts at the molecular level therefore our diets should prevent cancer on the molecular level.

3. The naturally occurring enzymes in our bodies are not designed to metabolizes trans fats.

Low Fat Diet
High fat diets seem to be correlated with increased cancer rates, especially in the cases of breast, colon ovarian and prostate cancers.

Increase Fiber Intake
A high fiber diet according to several studies suggests decreased rates of colon and possibly breast and prostate cancer.

Increase Fruit and Vegetable Intake
Studies suggest that high fruit and vegetable diets result in decreased cancer rates.

Avoid Smoked and Cured Foods
Foods of this type are believed to result in increased rates of stomach and esophageal cancers.

Hard Water
Populations that consume hard water have lower cancer rates (especially colon) than populations that consume soft water.

Vitamins

Vitamin A/Beta Carotene - Vitamin A may help in the prevention of numerous types of cancer and decreased levels may be associated with increased cancer rates. In addition, Vitamin A may have at least some effect in improving the outcome in certain types of cancers. Beta Carotene: Is a potent antioxidant that is believed to have protective properties with radiotherapy as well as antiviral properties.

B1/Thiamine - Involved in energy production. There is some evidence suggesting that populations with B1 deficiency have a higher rate of prostate cancer. A decreased rate of prostate cancer may be correlated in populations with adequate levels of thiamine.

B2/Riboflavin - Studies suggest that decreased rates of prostate and esophageal cancer may result in populations with adequate levels of riboflavin. Riboflavin is also involved in energy production. Populations deficient in riboflavin demonstrate greater risk for cancers of the prostate and esophagus.

B3/Niacin - Niacin is also involved in energy production. Niacin is believed to decrease the risk of cardiac damage from Adriamycin and also seems to increase the effectiveness of radiation therapy.

B5/Pantothenic Acid - Is also involved in energy production and is helpful in the stress response.

B6/Pyridoxine Pyridoxine - Involved in RNA and DNA production and populations deficient in this vitamin seem to be at greater risk for developing cancer. B6 is helpful in boosting immunity and may provide some protection from radiation therapy. Some research suggests that a deficiency of B6 may promote tumor initiation

B9/Folic Acid - Folic Acid along with B6 and B12 help keep homocysteine levels down and make the blood less “sticky”. This makes metastasis more difficult. The International Journal of Epidemiology in 1991 suggested a link between low folic acid levels and colorectal cancer. Studies also suggest increased levels of cervical cancer when folic acid levels are deficient.

B12/Cyanocobalamin - The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 1991 suggested that B12 when combined with Vitamin C may show some degree of effectiveness against cancer cells.

Vitamin C/Ascorbic Acid - Vitamin C is an antioxidant and an immune stimulator and accelerates wound recovery. Vitamin C seems to demonstrate both protective and facilitative effects when used with chemotherapy. Because Vitamin C is actually a carbohydrate, it is absorbed by cancer cells as they tend to “like” sugar. In an anaerobic environment, such as cancer, vitamin C can have oxidative effects. Adequate levels of Vitamin C may be associated with decreased cancer rates. Vitamin C may reduce the likelihood of Adriamycin toxicity and may enhance the effect of radiotherapy. Vitamin C may have a synergistic effect in reducing cancer risk when combined with B12 and Vitamin K.

Vitamin D - Vitamin D has been the subject of recent research suggesting a link between healthy levels of Vitamin D and decreased rates of cancer. Adequate Vitamin D levels are associated with decreased cancer risk, especially with colon, breast and possibly with several cancers as the vitamin is believed to have an antiproliferative effect on cells.

Vitamin E - Adequate Vitamin E levels may reduce risks of certain types of cancers. Vitamin E may enhance the effect of Adriamycin and Vincristine and may have at least some effect in decreasing the toxic side effects of Adriamycin. Vitamin E is considered to have protective properties for patients undergoing radiotherapy. Combining with Vitamins A, C and Beta Carotene may have a synergistic effect with reducing cancer risk. Vitamin E is a fat soluble antioxidant that is also known for stimulating immune function. Vitamin E prevents the oxidation of cholesterol and fats which makes them far less likely to form atherosclerotic plaques. Vitamin E is cardioprotective since it decreases platelet aggregation thus making the blood less sticky.

Vitamin K - Vitamin K especially when combined with Vitamin C resulted in slowed cancer growth in research during the late 1980’s

Minerals

Cadmium - Cadmium exposure is associated with an increased cancer risk, especially with prostate cancer.

Calcium - Supplementation may decrease the risks of colon and endometrial cancers, especially when combined with Vitamin D. Populations that are low in calcium are at greater risk for colon cancer according to research performed in the 1980’s.

Chlorine - Consumption of chlorinated water may be correlated with an increased risk of bladder cancer.

Copper - Copper is an important mineral in protecting against free radical production. The production of connective tissue membranes to envelop tumors requires copper

Flourine - Flourine may have a carcinogenic effect.

Germanium - Germanium may play some role in inhibiting tumor growth.

Iodine - A reduced risk of breast, endometrial and ovarian cancers may be seen in populations with adequate iodine levels. Iodine is best known for its involvement in the thyroid gland. Iodine seems to dampen the effects of estrogen on the breast tissue thus decreasing the risk of fibrocystic breast disease and breast cancer. Breast cancer is much lower in Japan where there is a high intake of iodine rich foods such as kelp.

Iron - Iron intake that is excessive may speed up the Fenton Reaction resulting in increased cellular oxidation and increased cancer risk. Iron is however an essential nutrient so we stress the word “excessive”. Patients with hemochromatosis and hemosiderosis may be subject to greater risk.

Magnesium - Magnesium supplementation may result in decreased cancer risk and considering its alkalizing effects and the fact that it is involved in over 300 different chemical reactions within the body it is no surprise that this mineral may offer at least some degree of protection from cancer. A deficiency of this essential nutrient can result in a host of problems. Research on animals suggested that low magnesium levels resulted in increased risk for different cancers.

Nickel - Increased levels of nickel may result in increased rates of nasopharyngeal and lung cancers.

Potassium - Potassium is an electrolyte like sodium. Potassium is found mostly within the cell while sodium is found mostly outside the cell. Potassium alkalizes the body and in that sense works against cancer which produces an acidic environment due to high sugar metabolism.

Selenium - Selenium is an antioxidant and studies seem to suggest a strong correlation with cancer prevention especially when combined with Vitamins A and E. It may also have some protective effect on the cells during chemotherapy. Although a trace mineral, selenium is known to have anticancer properties. Selenium boosts the immune system and it is interesting to note that cancer rates are higher in areas where selenium levels in the soil are low. Compounding this with low levels of Vitamin D seen in northern latitudes and you will find higher cancer rates in countries like Finland. The majority of studies performed on this mineral are suggestive of selenium having a protective effect against cancer. Research by Clark in 1996 suggested that populations consuming a higher than average amount of selenium had lower rates of cancer by a percentage of 37% and a reduction of cancer mortality by 50%. While this is not proof that selenium is helpful against cancer, it is encouraging to say the least. We should also remember that there is no one nutrient or “silver bullet” when it comes to cancer, more accurately there are several nutrients that help a little here and a little there and combined together with a healthy lifestyle and proper medical oversight the outlook for better health and longer survival are reasonable expectations.

Sodium - High sodium diets may be associated with increased rates of colorectal cancers

Zinc - Zinc may reduce the risks for esophageal and prostate cancers. Zinc is an immune stimulant involved in over 200 chemical reactions within the body. Populations low in zinc levels are at greater risk for lung, esophageal and prostate cancers according to 1980’s research.

Amino Acids

Arginine - Research suggests that arginine may retard tumor growth in mice. One study demonstrated the effectiveness of arginine in strengthening the immune system by increasing white blood cell count

N-acetylcysteine - Patients on the chemotherapeutic drugs Adriamycin, Cyclophosphamide and Isofamide have had fewer side effects with N-acetylcysteine supplementation. N-acetyl-cysteine is a powerful antioxidant that demonstrated the ability to inhibit the formation of new blood vessels according to research by De Flora in 1996. It is also a precursor of glutathione.

Glutamine - Glutamine may reduce gastrointestinal side effects from radiation therapy. Glutamine has been found to enhance natural killer cell activity and increase the production of the powerful antioxidant glutathione. Research by Klimberg in the 1990’s found that glutamine exhibited both a protective effect on from the treatments and also seemed to allow chemotherapeutic agents to exert greater selectivity and effectiveness against tumor cells. Glutamine also seems to slow weight loss in cancer patients which in turn results in prolonged survival.

Glutathoine - A combination of the three amino acids glutamine, cysteine and glycine. Glutathione is a potent antioxidant and detoxifier. Glutathione levels are lower in cancer patients and steadily decline as we age. Green leafy vegetables, fresh fruit, beef and poultry are all sources of glutathione.

Glycine - An amino acid and is one of the components of glutathione

Enzymes - Enzymes can erode the protective coating on tumors exposing their proteins thus making them more “visible” to the immune system. Enzymes also break down the metabolic byproducts from tumor metabolism. These byproducts contribute to weight loss in cancer patients. Enzymes are most available in raw foods. The Gerson Institute although controversial in medical circles, uses large quantities of raw foods in their regimen which they insist have strong anticancer properties. Enzymes taken with food help in digestion while enzymes taken on an empty stomach may offer therapeutic effects.

Herbals

Berberine - Berberine is a substance found in various herbs such as Goldenseal that has strong anti-inflammatory properties. Research in 1999 suggested that the berberine is helpful as a nutritional support for bladder cancer. Other studies include research bu Kuo in 1995 suggesting that berberine was helpful in producing cell death in leukemia cells. Research by Zhang in 1990 suggested that berberine has properties effective against malignant brain tumors in rats.

Feverfew - Feverfew has anti-inflammatory properties that can interfere with the cancer process.

Ginger - Ginger has been shown to inhibit the production of hydroxyl-eicosatetraenoic acid or HETE by inhibiting their metabolic pathways. HETE is a known facilitator of tumor growth especially in the prostate. Ginger also has anti-nausea and anti-inflammatory properties

Green Tea - Green Tea has anti-inflammatory properties. The polyphenol epigallocatechin gallate otherwise known as EGCG has inhibitory properties against cancer cell proliferation especially in the skin, breast, esophagus, stomach liver and lung. Non-Hodgkins lymphoma cells transplanted in rats grew only half as fast in animals that were fed green tea. It is quite interesting to note that the nation of Japan consumes large amounts of green tea and also has one of the highest number of smokers in the world per capita and yet has one of the lowest rates of lung cancer. Research suggests that green tea may be playing at least a part in this encouraging phenomenon.

Curcumin - Curcumin is found in the Indian herb tumeric. It has both anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. Curcumin is one of the more encouraging natural substances in the area of nutritional support for cancer. Research has shown its effectiveness in decreasing tumor blood supply, decreasing the chances of metastasis, and inhibiting the production of HETE which stated earlier, is a known facilitator in cancer progression, especially in the prostate, breast and pancreas. The anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin decreased the development of colon tumors in research done by Kawamori in 1999. Recent research demonstrates that curcumin slows the progression of hormonally dependent cancers such as those effecting the breast and prostate. Curcumin also increased the cell death in certain types of leukemia cells according to Kuo’s research in 1999. Curcumin is poorly absorbed however but with the simultaneous use of small amounts of the substance peperine (found in black pepper) curcumin absorption is improved. It should however be noted that peperine has a general rather that a specific effect on absorption so it should not be taken with any medications unless otherwise advised by your doctor.

Supplements

Alpha Lipoic Acid - A powerful antioxidant that also increases the efficacy of other amino acids including glutathione. Some research suggests lipoic acid’s tendency to provide help with leukemia. Lipoic acid also seems to provide some degree of protection of hearing loss caused by cisplatin therapy. Functions as a powerful antioxidant and as a result, may allow for stronger immunity. Also stabilizes blood sugar.

Bee Pollen - A nutrient dense food that boosts immunity.

Carotenoids - Carotenoids have strong antioxidant properties and also strengthen the immune system. Carotenoids have shown promise in decreasing the risk of various types of cancers including breast, colon thyroid, liver, prostate and ovarian cancers. Carotenoids may also offer some degree of protection from radiotherapy. Examples of carotenoids include beta carotene, lutein, lycopene, zeaxanthin and canthaxanthin.

Cartilage (Shark and Bovine) - While not as potent as drugs like Avastin, some research has suggested that Shark and Bovine cartilage have proteins that may inhibit tumor growth by halting the development of new blood vessels. The process of inhibiting new blood vessel formation is know as anti-angiogenesis. Cartilage also has anti-inflammatory properties.

CoQ10/Coenzyme - Q 10 Coenzyme Q10 according to research done in the 1990’s by Folkers and Lockwood suggests that it can be effective in inhibiting metastasis and cancer progression by increasing the T4/T8 lymphocyte ratio suggesting that CoQ10 may also be helpful in patients with HIV since decreased T4/T8 ratio is one of the hallmarks of that condition. A study in the “Journal of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics” demonstrated that there appears to be a statistically significant relationship between CoQ10 levels and favorable prognosis with breast cancer. CoQ10 strengthens immunity and improves aerobic metabolism thus producing less acidity. When used with vitamin E and niacin there may be less damage to the heart from adriamycin therapy according to some sources.

CLA/Conjugated Linoleic Acid - A fatty acid from dairy products that has been shown to have anti inflammatory properties. In research performed at Cornell University in 1999 only 50% of rats that were fed butter high in CLA that were exposed to known carcinogens actually developed mammary tumors compared to 93% of the rats in the control group. CLA seems to be effective in blocking both the growth and spread of breast tumors. CLA appears to be even more effective when used with beta-carotene

DIM/Diindolymethane - A phytochemical found in cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. It is believed to have protective effects from radiation therapy. DIM attaches to estrogen receptor sites thereby blocking the action of estrogen in tumor proliferation. Also acts as an antioxidant.

Essential Fatty Acids - The average American diet has far more Omega 6 than Omega 3 fatty acids. While both are essential, Omega 3’s are found to be deficient in many cases. The desirable Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio is anywhere from 4:1 to 1:1. In the case of the American diet the ratio can be as high as 20:1 and less often even higher at 40:1. Omega 3 fatty acids decrease the rate of inflammation within the body which is helpful in cancer prevention as inflammation is a known contributor to the cancer process. Women consuming large amounts of Omega 3 fatty acids have a decreased risk of breast cancer according to research by Klein in 2000 and Maillard in 2002. Omega 3 and fish oils are believed to decrease the risk of colon cancer and inhibited the growth of pancreatic cancer to some degree according to research by Falconer in 1994. Research by Brown in 1994 suggested that the consumption of cruciferous vegetables along with fish oils decreased the risk of developing multiple myeloma. Fish oils also resulted in longer life expectancy in dogs with lymphoma compared to dogs in the control group. Essential fatty acids in the form of medium chain triglycerides slow the process of lean tissue wasting and increase the body’s fat burning capacity. When used with L-carnitine, the body is more able to use fat for energy. Cancer cells are unable to use fat as a fuel source. Studies suggest that fish oils may provide effective nutritional support in cases of breast and colorectal cancer and may result in lower mortality rates in populations consuming a diet high in cold water fish compared to populations that do not.

Garlic - An observational study in China showed that populations consuming large amounts of garlic had the lowest rate of death from stomach cancer while populations consuming little or no garlic had a 13 fold higher rate of stomach cancer. Langer’s research in 1991 suggested that garlic extract in mice reduced the incidence of breast/mammary cancers. Garlic also strengthens the immune system in several different ways. Garlic seems to almost be the universal elixir functioning as a detoxifying agent, immune stimulator, antioxidant and antifungal just to name a few.

Glucaric acid - Glucaric acid may slow the growth and spread of cancer according to some research. Also functions in the detoxification process

IP6/Inositol hexaphosphate - IP6 is believed to promote killer cell activity according to research by Baten in 1989. It was also shown to inhibit tumor growth particularly with colon cancer and prostate cancer. It also has been shown to decrease the ability of cancer cells to resist chemotherapeutic agents according to research performed by Shamsuddin and Saied in the 1990’s.

Lactoferrin - Lactoferrin is a protein found in whey. Lactoferrin increases the number of natural killer cells. Research by Khan and Weinberg in 2001 demonstrated that lactoferrin deprived cancer cells of their iron supply. Lactoferrin also strengthens immunity and may have the ability to inhibit the formation of new blood vessels that would serve tumors by enhancing their blood supply

L-carnitine - Allows the body to use fat for energy and helps to prevent fatty change of the heart and liver. May also be effective in protecting the heart from adriamycin toxicity

Lecithin - Lecithin rich foods include egg yolks and soy. Lecithin is rich in choline which prevents fatty change of the liver and decreases overall risk for liver cancer.

Lycopene - Lycopene is a phytochemical providing help as an immune stimulant and antioxidant. Research suggests that lycopene may reduce the risk of esophageal, pancreatic and prostate cancers.

Maitaike Mushrooms - Maitaike is an effective immune stimulator by increasing the activity of natural killer cells, protecting the liver and having antiviral properties. Maitake was effective at inhibiting cancer proliferation in one study and may even increase the effectiveness of the drug Mitomycin

Melatonin - Research by Maestroni in 1999 has shown some hope in facilitating tumor regression. Melatonin production seems to inhibit estrogen production and by doing so, women with higher levels of melatonin appear to have lower rates of breast cancer than women with lower melatonin levels. It has been suggested that women working night shifts may be at greater risk for breast cancer than those who work at normal waking hours due to the negative effect exerted on melatonin levels. Melatonin also has known antioxidant properties.

MGN - MGN strengthens the immune system by increasing the response of natural killer cells which may be helpful in decreasing the chances of metastasis and potentially prolonging survival.

Modified Citrus Pectin - Modified Citrus Pectin has properties that cause it to inhibit tumor cells from clumping together or aggregating thereby making metastasis more difficult. This tendency also interferes with a cancer cells ability to adhere to surrounding tissues. Research by Pienta in 1995 suggests that MCP may slow metastasis in prostate cancer. Research by Glinsky in 2000 suggests that this may also be the case with breast cancer.

Probiotics - Helps to maintain a healthy intestinal environment and boosts immunity. Research suggests that acidophilis may be helpful in preventing colon cancer and may also help with diarrhea associated with radiotherapy.

Quercetin - A bioflavinoid with immune stimulating properties, reduces inflammation, has antiviral properties and may enhance the action of the drug Cisplatin.

Resveratrol - Resveratrol is a compound that comes from the skin of red grapes. Resveratrol is a potent antioxidant and a potent anti-inflammatory. Various research suggests that resveratrol may provide supportive and adjunctive roles in cancers such as prostate, breast, and colon cancers.

Shark Liver Oil - Shark liver oil may reduce the side effects of radiation therapy

Silymarin - Silymarin, from the milk thistle plant also has anti-oxidant properties and anti-inflammatory properties. Research by Zi in 1999 suggested that silymarin may be an effective adjunct in the treatment of prostate cancer. According to Bokemeyer’s research in 1999 silymarin may have both a protective effect from chemotherapeutic drugs while making them more effective against the cancer cells. Silymarin has been shown to have properties that make it an effective tonic for overall liver health. Liver health is only all the more important with cancer patients as there is an increased burden of toxicity and metabolic waste exerted upon the liver in cancerous states.

Soy Isoflavones/Genistein - Like cruciferous vegetables, soy has plant compounds known as phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are important because while they can attach to the estrogen receptor site, they do not necessarily exert the same effects or as potent of an effect as estrogen itself. In fact, the body produces three types of estrogen compounds known as estradiol, estriol and estrone. Estradiol is the most potent of the three. Women who consume lots of soy, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage can lower their cancer risk at least theoretically since the phytoestrogens in these foods attach to the estrogen receptor sites keeping the more potent forms of estrogen from occupying the site. Because it is known that higher estrogen levels are an increased risk factor for certain types of cancers such as breast cancer, factors that dampen the effects of estrogen on the cells such as phytoestrogens should lower one’s risk. In addition, the soy isoflavone genistein converts the more potent form of estrogen (estradiol) into a weaker form and also inhibits the tumors ability to grow new blood vessels thereby providing multiple mechanisms for decreasing breast cancer risk. It should however be noted that the risk for breast cancer varies from one woman to another so that a woman who has a high risk for breast cancer will at least slightly to perhaps even moderately decrease her risk for breast cancer by eating a good diet but still have a higher risk than a woman with a low breast cancer risk who eats an average diet. For example, some risks of breast cancer include a positive family history of the illness, having had no children, obesity, age, and diet. Therefore an obese woman over the age of 60 who has never had children and whose aunt and mother both had breast cancer but eats lots of broccoli is still at a greater risk for breast cancer than a woman on an average diet without any of the other major risk factors. This does not imply that there should be no effort in attempting to practice a healthy lifestyle. Rather, it simply demonstrates that while healthy habits and lifestyles are important, all have their limitations and no one factor is an end all in itself. The nation of Japan has a much lower rate of hormonally influenced cancers such as breast and prostate and consumes large amounts of soy especially fermented soy such as “miso” in their diet. The soy isoflavone known as genistein was determined to have potent antiproliferative effects in human prostate cells according to research by Shen in 2000.

Thymus - There are two types of lymphocytes: B lymphocytes and T lymphocytes. B lymphocytes are known for providing protection against viral and bacterial infections while T lymphocytes help against viral infections fungal infections and cancer. The thymus is made up of lymphatic tissue. The gland reaches its maximum size at puberty and then by middle to late adulthood shrinks down considerably and exerts minimal function. Protein from the thymus known as “Thymic Protein A” programs the T4 lymphocytes to identify cells and pathogens that are not self or “host” cells and then directs the T8 cells to destroy the foreign cells. Research by Chretien in 1979 treated patients suffering with advanced lung cancer with the standard chemotherapeutic regimen along with thymus protein. The patients receiving thymus and chemo lived more than twice as long as the control group who were only administered chemo. As a result, Thymic Protein A supplements may offer some help in the treatment of cancer.

Tri methyl glycine/TMG - Trimethylglycine helps to lower homocysteine which makes blood platelets less sticky. TMG is also an effective protector of the liver which is essential when considering the potential drug toxicities and increased metabolic wastes produced by cancer.

Medications

While there are several medications used to treat cancer, these are listed because while the medications listed below may in some cases provide help for cancer patients to at least some degree, they are not normally used in the treatment of cancer.

Statin Drugs - Statin drugs such as Lipitor when combined with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) showed promise with certain types of colon cancer. One drawback with statin drugs is their tendency to deplete Coenzyme Q10 levels by 50% or more in some cases which can be detrimental. As a result, supplementation would be indicated if this medication is used. Use of this drug in the treatment of cancer would require the oversight of your doctor.

Tagamet - There has been some talk that cimetidine also known by the brand name “Tagamet” has shown some promise as an adjunct for cancer therapy. Interestingly enough the drug is an H2 histamine blocker that was originally designed to treat gastric and duodenal ulcers and related conditions. The drug is presently sold over the counter. The drug is believed to work against cancer by inhibiting suppressor T-cell activity as well as inhibiting histamines and there ability to facilitate cancer growth. In one Japanese study patients with colorectal cancer received 800mg of cimetidine taken before bed along with the chemotherapy drug 5-fluorouracil while the control group received only 5-fluorouracil. Treatment began 2 weeks after surgery and ended one year later. After 10 years nearly 85% of the cimetidine group were still living compared to only 50% of the control group. Cimetidine has also shown some degree of promise with breast and pancreatic cancers. Individuals with cancer should talk with their doctor about whether cimetidine can help their condition. Of course they should never attempt to treat themselves since there are several drug interactions that can result in more potential harm than good. Once again, don’t be your own doctor.

References: Disease Prevention and Treatment, Life Extension Foundation (2003) Life Extension Media. Murray, M., Pizzorno, J., Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. Revised 2nd Edition (1998). Werbach, M., Nutritional Influences on Illnesses. Second Edition (1996) Third Line Press. Quillin, P. Beating Cancer with Nutrition. (2005) Nutrition Times Press. Fischer, W., How to Fight Cancer and Win. (2000) Agora South.