The War on Cancer

By Bonnie Jenkins, Advanced Natural Wellness

Recently, President Obama called for a renewed war on cancer. It’s been nearly 40 years since the White House focused its attention on this group of diseases, but it was a hopeful sign to many in science and medicine. Maybe this time, the warcry will spur much needed funding to fight the cancers that are expected to kill 560,000 Americans this year alone.

Yes, curing cancer in our lifetime would certainly be something. But the wheels of both government and science often move slowly – too slowly for many people diagnosed with advanced forms of the disease. But there is some good news on the cancer front. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, about one-third of cancers in the U.S. could be prevented with simple lifestyle changes: nourishing food choices, regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight.

New research is also shining the light on the role supplements play in cancer prevention. Some, like vitamin D, are familiar. Others may surprise you. But one thing they all have in common is their ability to help keep cancer from striking you.

Multi-Level Protection

If you don’t think taking a multivitamin-multimineral complex does much good, think again. A newly published double-blind study, dubbed the General Population Nutrition Intervention Trial, found that people who took a multi that included selenium, vitamin E, and beta-carotene had a significantly lower risk of gastric cancer than people who didn’t supplement. But here’s the kicker – protection was so strong that it continued 10 years after the participants had stopped taking their multi.

Taking a daily multi is especially important for people who don’t eat a wholesome, well-balanced diet. Not only will it fill in the basics, like vitamins C and E, but a comprehensive multivitamin will also make sure you’re getting the micronutrients your body needs.

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How important are these nutrients? Studies show that a magnesium deficiency increases the risk of developing bowel and other cancers. Low calcium levels boost the chance of colorectal cancer by 23 percent. And research out of England shows that patients with advanced cancer have vitamin C deficiencies and, as a result, shorter survival.

D-tails

During the past few years, there has been a flurry of research extolling the virtues of vitamin D. One thing is clear: Vitamin D is certainly a wonder nutrient, especially concerning its ability to protect against certain types of cancer. Now, two new analyses of a case-controlled Italian study report that boosting your dietary intake of the sunshine vitamin lowers the risk of both breast and colon cancer.

Long-term research finds that breast cancer risk is lower in premenopausal women with higher levels of this nutrient, and another study estimates that taking 1,000 IU of supplemental D daily slashes the risk of colorectal cancer by 50 percent.

The problem is, despite all the publicity vitamin D has gotten lately, many Americans are still dangerously low in this important nutrient. Folks most at risk are people living in northern latitudes, people of color, and those who routinely avoid spending time outdoors sans sunscreen. Because of this, some epidemiologists recommend taking 1,000 to 1,500 IU of supplemental vitamin D every day.

Fishing for Protection

As if you really need another reason to eat fish and take fish oil supplements, a new study in the journal Cell Division shows that the omega-3 fatty acid DHA reduces the size of tumors. It also enhances the positive effects of the chemotherapy drug cisplatin, while limiting its harmful side effects.

Earlier studies show that DHA helps guard against developing advanced prostate cancer, as well as breast and colon cancer. One theory cites omega-3’s ability to quell inflammation that can contribute to the development of cancer. Omega-3 fatty acids may also affect tumor behavior by competing with omega-6 fatty acids for the enzymes that metabolize them. Whatever the reason behind omega-3’s effectiveness against tumors, adding 2,000 to 3,000 mg. of supplemental fish oil to your anti-cancer arsenal is a wise strategy.

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One Last Thing …

Lest I forget, medicinal mushrooms are also gaining a reputation for combating cancer. Extracts of reishi and matitake mushrooms, as well as codyceps, contain polysaccharides that support the body’s immune response to cancer and may thwart metastasis. Reishi has a long history of use in Asia, and lab tests show positive results with cancer cells. In fact, studies show that these mushrooms suppress cell adhesion and migration of invasive breast and prostate cancer cells. They also inhibit growth and division among colorectal cancer cells.

Cordyceps have also demonstrated immune-stimulating and anticancer activities in tests of human breast cancer cells. And in a new human study among breast cancer patients, maitake extract both enhanced and depressed some immune functions.

You won’t find these medicinal mushrooms in the produce section. Instead, they are available as pills and liquid extracts. Liquid maitake and reishi extracts with variable concentrations of polysaccharides are available, and should be taken as directed. The recommended intake of cordyceps is 3 to 9 grams taken twice daily as either a liquid extract or in capsule form.

Research Brief …

If you suffer from restless leg syndrome (RLS), you might want to check the scale. A new study suggests a link between belly fat and this movement disorder. In fact, study participants with the biggest bellies were more than one and a half times more likely to have restless legs syndrome than those with the smallest.

RLS is a neurological disorder that affects as many as one in 10 American adults. About half of the people diagnosed with the condition have a family history of RLS, and previous studies also point to obesity as a risk factor. But this is the first time that belly fat has specifically been studied.

The investigation included 65,554 women and 23,119 men participating in two ongoing, comprehensive health studies – the Nurses Health Study II and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. Out of those, a total of 6.4 percent of the women in the study and 4.1 percent of the men were diagnosed with RLS.

The researchers found that the obese participants – those with a body mass index of 30 or more – were 42 percent more likely to have the disorder than those who were normal weight. Of those, the 20 percent of participants with the largest waist circumferences were 1.6 times more likely to have RLS than the 20 percent with the smallest waists. And the risk was even higher in the participants who gained a significant amount of weight before they hit middle age.

Of course, not everyone with RLS is overweight, and not everyone who is overweight will develop this disorder. But it’s just one more reason to strive for a healthy weight through a sensible low-calorie diet and a regular exercise program.

References:

Deng G, et al. “A phase I/II trial of a polysaccharide extract from Grifola frondosa (Maitake mushroom) in breast cancer patients: immunological effects.” Journal of Cancer Research and Clinical Oncology. 2009 Mar 1. [Epub ahead of print]

Elmesery ME, et al. “Chemopreventive and renal protective effects for docosahexaenoic acid (DHA): implications of CRP and lipid peroxides.” Cell Division. 2009;4:6.

Gao, X., et al. “Obesity and restless legs syndrome in men and women.”  Neurology. 2009; 72: 1255-1261.

Mayland CR, et al. “Vitamin C deficiency in cancer patients.” Palliative Medicine. 2005; 19:17-20.

Qiao YL, et al. “Total and cancer mortality after supplementation with vitamins and minerals: follow-up of the Linxian General Population Nutrition Intervention Trial.” Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2009;101:507-518.

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