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Antioxidants, Diet and Cancer

© Lauri M. Aesoph ND

Research teams from Canada and India cooperated to study the effect of antioxidants on precancerous mouth tumors in Indian fishermen who chewed tobacco containing betel quids. Only six months of vitamin A therapy led to a complete remission of leukoplakia, a precancerous lesion also known as smoker's patch, in over half of the treated fishermen. Beta-carotene was less effective, helping nearly 15 percent of the subjects who took it. More encouraging news was that no new smoker's patches developed during the test period in any of the fishermen taking vitamin A, and in only half of the beta-carotene group.

These exciting results have prompted a new idea in cancer research. Besides talking about chemotherapy, scientists are now speculating about chemoprevention using agents such as antioxidant vitamins. As investigators learn more about cancer and how nutritional intervention can halt or slow its progress, more precise treatment plans will be developed.

Protection with Vitamin E
Taking the cue from several animal and human studies that suggested vitamin E may also be protective against cancer, Finnish researchers began a study on over 36,000 adults. After eight years, these scientists confirmed their suspicions. Persons with low serum levels of vitamin E were at greater risk of developing cancer than those with more of this nutrient in their blood. Cancers of the gastrointestinal tract were protected the most.

These results point out an important connection between nutrition and cancer. Cancer is not caused by one incident or substance. The ground is first primed by some initiating factor. Subsequent events then prompt cancer's development. The more cancer promoting activities you endure, and the less protection you have against cancer such as antioxidants, the greater your chance of being diagnosed with this disease. Vitamin E is just one nutrient that has proven itself useful in guarding against cancer.

Cervical Cancer
It has been established that immunity not only operates systemically, but, at least in female reproductive organs, locally. We also know that low dietary intake and blood levels of beta-carotene are associated with an increased risk of cervical dysplasia, a precancerous state, and cancer.

Naturopathic medical treatment for women with cervical dysplasia takes into account both of these scientific findings. In addition to other therapies, which vary depending on the patient's specific diagnosis, beta-carotene is taken by mouth and vitamin A is applied directly to the cervix for these conditions. Beta-carotene is the precursor to vitamin A.

Cancer and Vitamin C
Over two decades ago, Linus Pauling and his colleagues concluded that vitamin C is effective in controlling cancer. In his book, Cancer and Vitamin C, Pauling and his Scottish associate and co-author, Ewan Cameron, are quick to point out that vitamin C is not a miracle cure. But in high doses it can increase both the quality and length of a cancer patient's life.

Twenty years later, the National Cancer Institute is acknowledging vitamin C's importance in cancer prevention. After reviewing 46 studies, Gladys Block found that most research showed twice as much protection from cancer when vitamin C consumption was high versus low. Vitamin C not only acts as the first line of antioxidant defense, but it spares vitamin E and other antioxidants.

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