Diet - Your Best Defense against Cancer? Posted By : Sophie Cosic

The risk of developing cancer has become one of the most thought provoking issues of our time. Worldwide statistics show that as many as 10.9 million people are diagnosed with some form of cancer every year. As research into the food we eat becomes more complex and innovative, it reveals that there are numerous 'super foods' which not only fight cancer cells, but can also help to prevent it from ever occurring.

What is Cancer?

All living things are comprised of a variety of cells, such as kidney cells, brain cells and skin cells.
Cancer develops when a particular cell mutates, then begins to grow and divide. Eventually, these cells form a mass called a malignant tumor, which often starts to invade surrounding tissue and organs.

Super Foods

It is thought that up to one third of cancer related deaths could be diet related. Many of the foods we eat today can in fact be harmful to the cells in our bodies, particularly 'fast food', which often contains high rates of saturated fat.

A large European study has recently shown that 'junk food' may in fact be a major cause of cancer of the pancreas, the urinary tract and of the womb, which makes saturated fat especially dangerous for women. There is however, an abundance of super foods that contain cancer fighting anti-oxidants and enzymes. These foods fall into a number of categories and it is best to look at their properties separately.

Fruit and Vegetables

  • Raw carrots are rich in beta carotene and substances called falcarinol and polyacethylens, which can help to impede a wide variety of cancer including, breast, stomach, throat, lung, prostate, bladder and intestinal

  • Sweet potatoes are thought to have a number of cancer fighting properties including carotenoids (beta carotene is one form)

  • Turnips and their leaves contain a substance called glucose molaes, which is said to attack cancer cells

  • Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale and sprouts are rich in the anti-oxidants; lutein and zeaxanthin which are thought to be particularly affective at inhibiting breast and prostate cancer

  • Broccoli and sprouts also contain a substance called phytochemical sulforaphane, which is a by-product of glucoraphanin and is especially useful at impeding bowel cancer

  • Kale is thought to retain indoles, which are nitrogen compounds and are said to prevent lesions in estrogen sensitive areas, such as the ovaries, mutating into cancerous cells

  • Beetroot is full of anti-oxidants that specifically attack lung cancer cells

  • Tomatoes carry vitamin C and a carotenoid called lycopene that fights oxygen molecules which are also known as 'free radicals'. Free radicals are often believed to trigger cancer cells. Lycopene is notable in its ability to aid the fight against rectal and colon cancer, as well as prostate, breast, mouth and cancer of the pancreas. Cooked and canned/pureed tomatoes are said to be especially concentrated in lycopene

  • Soya bean products such as tofu include phytoestrogens and isoflavones, which when absorbed in sensible amounts (no more than four or five ounces per day) are thought to block and help prevent cancer cells from forming and are particularly associated with lowering the risk of breast cancer. Incidences of breast cancer are significantly lower in Asian countries where soy products are consumed regularly. However, caution must be exercised, as research suggests that eating too much soy may cause hormone imbalances which can in fact stimulate cancer cells

  • Avocados have prolific amounts of an anti-oxidant called glutathione. Glutathione attacks free radicals and stops the absorption of certain saturated fats into the intestine. Avocados contain high levels of beta-carotene and potassium, which is also very beneficial for the heart

  • Citrus fruits, such as oranges, grapefruits, lemons and limes possess high amounts of vitamin C, folic acid and monoterpenes, which can help to eliminate carcinogens from the body and are believed to repress cancer cells

  • Papayas carry prolific amounts of vitamin C and folic acid, which are both highly effective anti-cancer components

  • Figs contain a form of benzaldehyde, which is renowned for its ability to shrink tumors

  • Grapes, particularly the red varieties, include resveratrol and ellagic acid which combine to block the enzymes that are responsible for the growth of cancer cells. They also contain strong anti-oxidants called bioflavonoids

  • Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and other berries that are red or black in color consist of a wide variety of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and plant compounds that are thought to be very beneficial against many forms of cancer

Herbs and Spices

  • Rosemary is said to have detoxifying properties and can repress the advancement of tumors. Laboratory tests have revealed that it is principally effective against breast and skin tumors

  • Tumeric belongs to the ginger family and it is thought to help reduce the inflammation that is connected to stomach, bowel and colon cancer

  • Root ginger has been used by Chinese medics for centuries and is well regarded for its many healing benefits. It can be used as a spice in savoury and sweet dishes and as a herbal tea

  • Garlic is well renowned for its blood thinning and anti-bacterial properties. It can also help to eliminate oxidants that cause cancer, such as carcinogens and free radicals. Eating raw or cooked garlic has been found to be far more effective than taking garlic supplements

  • Licorice root contains a chemical called glycyrrhizin which is considered to help block the growth of prostate cancer cells, though an excessive consumption of licorice can lead to raised blood pressure

  • Chilli peppers are rich in a substance called capsaicin that is regarded to be a preventative against intestinal cancer


  • Black, green and white teas retain antioxidants which are also known as polyphenols. These antioxidants are considered to expressly defend against cancer cells and stop them from dividing and spreading. White and green tea is regarded as being particularly efficient against lung, colon, rectal and stomach cancer as well as cancer of the liver and pancreas

  • Red wine also contains polyphenols and a substance called resveratrol which has been discovered to be present in grape skin. These antioxidants are known to counter free radicals. It is thought that the pinot noir grape variety contains the largest amounts of resveratrol, particularly in wines where the grapes are grown in cooler, rainy climates, such as Chile in South America. If However, alcohol is consumed in large amounts it can actually be a cause of cancer, so it is best drink no more than one glass of red wine per day

There are many other foods that are considered to be wonderful cancer preventatives. Seaweed and sea vegetables contain fiber, proteins, beta-carotene, folic acid, and a fatty acid called chlorophylone. These forms of vegetable are said to help prevent breast cancer. Nuts and seeds are naturally high in omega-3 fatty acid, which is essential for brain function. Nuts also contain a mineral called selenium and are rich in antioxidants such as quercetin and campferol. Nuts and seeds are regarded as primarily effective at repelling prostate and colon cancer cells, as well as being a natural preventative against the threat of heart disease.

Mushrooms have prolific amounts of potent compounds called polysaccharides. These compounds are thought to build up immunity against cancer cells. Certain varieties of mushroom are perceived to be particularly efficient, these include; reishi, shiitake and maitake, and are widely used in Japanese cuisine.

The benefits of eating a healthy, balanced diet have become more apparent as research into cancer and other fatal diseases evolve. A diet rich in vegetables, fruit and lean meat is much more of a priority in our daily lives than it was twenty years ago and medical advice suggests that eating at least five portions of fruit or vegetables per day can significantly lower the risk of many forms of cancer and heart disease, as well as preventing obesity. The threat of obesity is a volatile issue and for the first time in many years the life expectancy of our children is thought to be lower than our own, which is an extremely worrying statistic.

We are bombarded with these frightening medical statistics on a regular basis. Yet the most sensible advice we have been given in recent years is to eat at least five portions of fruit or vegetables per day. Taking action now may well lessen our chances of developing cancer and should help to provide numerous other health benefits for many years to come.

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Kristen's Raw said...

That's a great article. I, too, am using diet and the Raw Vegan lifestyle to support my health and act as my preventative measure. You certainly can't go wrong with adding more fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet, eh?

Kristen's Raw

Fausto Intilla (fisico teorico) said...

Science Daily — Nearly 30 years after Nobel laureate Linus Pauling famously and controversially suggested that vitamin C supplements can prevent cancer, a team of Johns Hopkins scientists have shown that in mice at least, vitamin C - and potentially other antioxidants - can indeed inhibit the growth of some tumors ¯ just not in the manner suggested by years of investigation.
The conventional wisdom of how antioxidants such as vitamin C help prevent cancer growth is that they grab up volatile oxygen free radical molecules and prevent the damage they are known to do to our delicate DNA. The Hopkins study, led by Chi Dang, M.D., Ph.D., professor of medicine and oncology and Johns Hopkins Family Professor in Oncology Research, unexpectedly found that the antioxidants' actual role may be to destabilize a tumor's ability to grow under oxygen-starved conditions. Their work is detailed this week in Cancer Cell.
"The potential anticancer benefits of antioxidants have been the driving force for many clinical and preclinical studies," says Dang. "By uncovering the mechanism behind antioxidants, we are now better suited to maximize their therapeutic use."
"Once again, this work demonstrates the irreplaceable value of letting researchers follow their scientific noses wherever it leads them," Dang adds.
The authors do caution that while vitamin C is still essential for good health, this study is preliminary and people should not rush out and buy bulk supplies of antioxidants as a means of cancer prevention.
The Johns Hopkins investigators discovered the surprise antioxidant mechanism while looking at mice implanted with either human lymphoma (a blood cancer) or human liver cancer cells. Both of these cancers produce high levels of free radicals that can be suppressed by feeding the mice supplements of antioxidants, either vitamin C or N-acetylcysteine (NAC).
However, when the Hopkins team examined cancer cells from cancer-implanted mice not fed the antioxidants, they noticed the absence of any significant DNA damage. "Clearly, if DNA damage was not in play as a cause of the cancer, then whatever the antioxidants were doing to help was also not related to DNA damage," says Ping Gao, Ph.D, lead author of the paper.
That conclusion led Gao and Dang to suspect that some other mechanism was involved, such as a protein known to be dependent on free radicals called HIF-1 (hypoxia-induced factor), which was discovered over a decade ago by Hopkins researcher and co-author Gregg Semenza, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Program in Vascular Cell Engineering. Indeed, they found that while this protein was abundant in untreated cancer cells taken from the mice, it disappeared in vitamin C-treated cells taken from similar animals.
"When a cell lacks oxygen, HIF-1 helps it compensate," explains Dang. "HIF-1 helps an oxygen-starved cell convert sugar to energy without using oxygen and also initiates the construction of new blood vessels to bring in a fresh oxygen supply."
Some rapidly growing tumors consume enough energy to easily suck out the available oxygen in their vicinity, making HIF-1 absolutely critical for their continued survival. But HIF-1 can only operate if it has a supply of free radicals. Antioxidants remove these free radicals and stop HIF-1, and the tumor, in its tracks.
The authors confirmed the importance of this "hypoxia protein" by creating cancer cells with a genetic variant of HIF-1 that did not require free radicals to be stable. In these cells, antioxidants no longer had any cancer-fighting power.
The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Authors on the paper are Dean Felsher of Stanford; and Gao, Huafeng Zhang, Ramani Dinavahi, Feng Li, Yan Xiang, Venu Raman, Zaver Bhujwalla, Linzhao Cheng, Jonathan Pevsner, Linda Lee, Gregg Semenza and Dang of Johns Hopkins.
Note: This story has been adapted from material provided by Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.

Fausto Intilla