Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Natural Ways To Prevent And Help Heal Cancer: Part 1. How Cancer Develops

In the book Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Life, Dr David Servan-Schreiber looks at life-style factors that can prevent and help heal cancer, and gives the science behind them. A neuropsychiatrist who developed brain cancer at the age of 31, Servan-Schreiber was treated and went into remission. It was only when his cancer recurred that he questioned his oncologist’s comment that there was nothing that Servan-Schreiber could do personally to enhance his chance of healing. A search of the medical literature revealed numerous scientific studies that when considered together showed the opposite – people can enhance their chance of both preventing and healing cancer.

We all have dormant cancer cells inside us that may take five to forty years to develop into tumours. But not everyone develops cancer. Why not? Servan-Schreiber found that the body has natural defenses that prevent cancer development and that these same defenses can be used to help the body heal from cancer.

Servan-Schreiber put the information he found into practice during his second round of chemotherapy and afterwards. He has survived 15 years since his first diagnosis, and in the process his life changed and has more meaning and value for him than it did before. His book is a holistic wellness guide for those trying to heal from cancer and for those who want to prevent cancer.

Lifestyle Affects Cancer Risk And Recovery
An estimated 80 per cent of the common cancers (breast, colon, and prostate) are due to lifestyle and the environment. These three cancers are 7 - 60 times more frequent in North America and other Westernized countries than they are in Asia, though Asians who emigrate to the West develop the risk-level of their new country.

Studies of people who try to take charge of their cancer by changing their lifestyle on several fronts, show that they generally live two to three times longer than others with cancer at the same stage of development who did not make a change.

A one-year study by Dr. Dean Ornish provides proof that lifestyle changes have an effect on cancer. He randomly assigned 95 men who had chosen not to have traditional treatment for their prostate cancer into two groups, one (the control group) which had surveillance and regular PSA tests, the other which underwent a specially-designed radical change in lifestyle involving dietary change, supplements, exercise, stress management and participation in a support group.

The results of this study? Of the 49 men in the control group, the cancer worsened in six, who had to have their prostates removed, followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The remainder of this group saw a six percent average increase in PSA, which indicated that their cancer was growing.

None of the 41 men in the other group required treatment, and the this group showed an average decline in PSA of four percent - their tumours were shrinking. Even better, their blood was shown to be seven times better at inhibiting the growth of the cancer cells than the blood of those in the control group was. And the men who had put Dr. Ornish's treatment most diligently into practice were the ones whose blood was the most active against the cancer cells.

Factors Helping Cancer Develop:
Cancers require three things in order to develop into a tumour and then to become larger, spread and overwhelm the body’s defenses. These things are:

  1. A compromised immune-system that is unable to respond to the presence of cancer cells and kill them.
  2. Chronic inflammation in the body that helps cancer cells to quickly invade adjacent tissues. The cancer cells themselves then create more inflammation and spread like wildfire.
  3. An increase in the number of new blood vessels in the area where cancer cells have lodged. These new vessels feed the cells and can turn a small harmless cluster of abnormal cells into a large cancerous tumour that can spread to other organs.

Cancer From Seed To Weed
Servan-Schreiber likens the development of cancer to the growth of a plant from a seed to a weed. First comes the initation stage when the seed settles into the soil - in the case of cancer, an abnorml cell forms in the body tissue.

Then comes the stage of growth. If the soil is fertile, the seed will start to grow and develop into a plant. Similarly, if the body tissues where the abnormal cell settles are inflamed, the cancer will start to grow sooner and faster than when there is no inflammation. It will then create its own inflammation so it can invade adjoining tissues, and will create new blood vessels to feed it as it grows into a tumour and from a small tumour to a large one.

Lastly comes the stage where the plant does not stop at a certain size but gets out of control and becomes a weed. This is the stage where the cancer spreads locally and to other parts of the body to form metastases.

Cancer Promoters and Anti-Promoters
To naturally prevent or help cancer heal, it is necessary to decrease the cancer promoters, those things which help cancer grow, and increase the anti-promoters that either block the mechanisms necessary for cancer growth, or actively kill cancer cells.

What factors promote cancer? As with almost every other chronic disease it comes down to diet, lack of exercise, stress and toxic contaminants. And the anti-promoters are - diet, exercise, and stress reduction.

Diet: In the western world diet has changed substantially over the past 70 years. Over half the calories in the average Western diet now come from sugars, refined grains and vegetable oils. Not only is the body unable to get nutrition from these substances (with the exception of olive oil and perhaps canola oil), but they promote chronic illness, including cancer.

High-glycemic foods like refined-grains, sugars, syrups, and the fructose-glucose found in many processed foods and drinks, cause both inflammation and the release of insulin-growth factor (IGF) which enhances cell, including cancer-cell, growth.

The omega-6 vegetable oils cause inflamation and should be correctly balanced with the anti-inflammatory omega-3 oils (which are found in oily fish, and in flaxseed [linseed] which was traditionally used in animal feed.) The huge rise in the use of vegetable oils since the end of WW II, together with changes in how animals are raised and fed, has moved this ratio from 1:1 or 1:3 omega-3 to omega-6 oil, to 1:15 or higher.

There are other problems with the polyunsaturated omega-6 oils used in food as they are refined, degrade when exposed to light or heat, and form trans fats when hydrogenated. They cause other diseases besides cancer.

Lack of Exercise: Bodies are made to move. Exercise strengthens the immune system, reduces blood sugar, lowers inflammation, and moderates the production of hormones that in excess can stimulate certain cancers. Lack of exercise removes these protective effects.

Toxic Contaminants: Since WWII the annual production of synthetic chemicals has risen from one million tons to 200 million tons. Most of these sunstances are carcinogenic. Many find their way into the food chain and all eventually get into the oceans (apparently the polar bear is the most contaminated animal on earth.) Many pollutants accumulate in the body fat of humans and animals.

Meat, milk and dairy products, and large fish at the top of the food chain provide over 90 percent of human exposure to contaminants. The risk of certain cancers increases in those who regularly eat more than one ounce a day of red meat.

Stress: While it is unlikely that stress alone will create a cancerous cell, it can influence the soil in which the cancer grows. Prolonged stress causes the release of hormones that, among other effects, depress the immune system and activate inflammation, while simultaneously taking energy needed for the body's growth and healing functions. Feelings of helplessness appear to be particularly harmful in their effect on the immune system.

All this sounds pretty dire, but evidence shows that decreasing the cancer promoters and increasing the anti-promoters can help both prevent and heal cancer. More on that in the next post.

If you want the book, go here Anticancer: A New Way of Life.

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