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 Nutritional Programs: Nutritional Program for Cancer Prevention 

Possible Food Carcinogens

Additives—food colors, flavors, nitrates, and nitrites.

Saccharin—implicated (still unclearly) in bladder cancer.

Hormones—in meat, possibly even DES, which was recently banned.

Pesticides—sprayed on foods before and after harvesting.

Aflatoxin—produced by molds on peanuts, other legumes, and possibly other foods; may cause liver cancer.

Coffee—questionably implicated in bladder cancer. Decaffeinated coffee may be treated with carcinogens such as trichloroethylene or methyl chloride.

Sugar—may weaken immunity and increase cancer risk.

Nitrates and nitrites—common in preserved and smoked meats, such as ham, bologna, salami, corned beef, hot dogs and bacon; may convert to carcinogenic nitrosamines.

Pickled or salt-cured foods—may influence stomach and digestive lining.

Barbecuing—creates protein changes and production of benzopyrene, a mild carcinogen. Charbroiled meats and burnt toast may also be concerns.

Mushrooms—may contain toxic hydrazines.

Potatoes—when bruised or green.

Other foods—cottonseed oil, cocoa, mustard, black pepper, horseradish, fava beans, parsley, celery, alfalfa sprouts, parsnips, and figs all may contain mild carcinogenic substances. (Some of the agents produced by these plants may act as natural pesticides.)

Water pollution may involve a great many chemicals; metals, pesticides, PCBs, vinyl chloride, carbon tetrachloride, and gasoline are a few examples. Contamination of underground water tables may spread rapidly. Air pollution may also contain many carcinogenic substances from the nitrous and sulfur gases to hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and so on.

Excessive sunlight is implicated in skin cancer and excess radiation for cancer in general. Light-colored skin, cosmetic chemicals, and nutrient deficiencies, as well as the changes in Earth’s ozone layer due to pollution, may also be factors in skin cancer. X-rays can produce leukemia and other cancers; this probably involves other precipitating factors, such as exposure to other carcinogens and/or low levels of necessary antioxidant nutrients.

Pharmaceutical drugs have a cancer-producing potential that has been well studied, at least in animals. Estrogen hormones, for postmenopausal use or as birth control pills, are factors of concern in women, though the latest research suggests less correlation with both breast and uterine cancers than was previously thought. Metronidazole (Flagyl), a commonly used antibiotic for bacteria and parasites, poses cancer risks, as does lindane (Kwell), a pesticide used on the skin for mites and lice. Griseofulvin, an antifungal agent, also poses mild cancer risks. In my opinion, steroid drugs, commonly used for suppressing all kinds of natural and unnatural body responses, have definite potential through immune suppression for increasing cancer risk. I believe there should be more research done regarding the implication of steroid use in the incidence of postinfections and cancer.

Alcohol has also been implicated in some cancers, such as cancers of the mouth, larynx, esophagus, and pancreas. These risks are increased when alcohol use is combined with cigarette smoking. Alcohol abuse is also often associated with poor diet and many nutritional deficiencies.

Viral diseases have been implicated in a variety of cancers. For years, genital herpes infections were thought to increase cervical cancer rates. It is now shown that the human papilloma virus responsible for the common venereal warts are more closely tied to cervical cancer than are herpes viruses. Vitamin A, folic acid, and selenium deficiencies may also be involved in cervical cancer. Cytomegalic and Epstein-Barr viruses have been considered as factors in cancer, possibly through mutagenic cellular effects, and may contribute to certain lymphomas or leukemias.

Psychological factors and the role they play in cancer is a fascinating topic; an increasing amount of research is being done in this area. It is clear that in some cases, a significant loss or perception of loss of a loved one occurred between one and two years prior to the diagnosis of cancer. This gives us another insight into the idea that it may take years, even 30–40, for a cancer to develop; cancer can also be a rapidly occurring and progressive disease.

There may indeed even be a cancer-type personality. The cancer disease process may be more prevalent in individuals who do not easily form close bonds or love relationships and do not easily express their feelings such as anger or frustration or who internalize most of their feelings, not necessarily aware that they even have any. These people might also show passive, compliant, or overly nice behavior and have low self-esteem. When such people experience unresolved loss of a loved one through death or divorce, a sense of helplessness or hopelessness may set in and weaken the immune system. Research seems to indicate that the feisty, tough scrappers who do not easily accept others’ opinions or condemnation of themselves and can readily express their own feelings do much better with cancer, recovering more rapidly and more commonly than the more passive, accepting types. Bernie S. Siegel, M.D., discussed this area of personality and cancer extensively in his wonderful book Love, Medicine and Miracles. He reported that children who developed cancer also had shown some of the aforementioned traits, with a definite correlation with loss or perceived loss of a loved one—usually a parent but possibly a sibling or even a dog—in their early years. Excessive stress and psychological traumas all influence our immunity and increase our cancer risk. It is possible that the relationship between cancer and psychology can be summarized by the statement that cancer or any stress-related illness can result from a deep or chronic challenge or threat to our personal identity, roles, or relationships.

It is clear that cancer is not a simple disease to understand, diagnose, or treat. There are many types of cancer, each with its own set of predisposing factors, growth rates, treatment options, and so on. What is common to all, though, is the uncontrolled growth of aberrant cells which endangers healthy tissues, function, and life. Still, each person with cancer is an individual, and I believe that in most situations, many factors are involved in the genesis of the cancer. Our focus in this program, however, is to minimize our risks and prevent cancer, which now afflicts more than one in every four people at some time in their life and eventually touches nearly every family in the Western world. It is obvious that we should avoid smoking and the smoke of others, minimize the use of carcinogenic chemicals at home and at work, and do our best to breathe clean air and drink good water. We should also minimize our exposure to radiation. Reducing time in front of the television and computer screens will lower our exposure. Not living near nuclear power plants is important; limiting airline flights may help. Exposure to medical, dental, and chiropractic x-rays can be decreased. Many practitioners in each of these professions overuse regular radiation to follow patients. Routine chest x-rays for hospital admissions, for detecting tuberculosis or other lung or heart disease, or for employment are often unnecessary. Routine dental x-rays can be taken every five years instead of at the usual two-year intervals. Chiropractors often x-ray the entire spine; this can be very helpful, but it should not be done more than once or twice in a decade. Care can be taken to use the best equipment with the least radiation exposure and leakage. Whenever possible, x-ray films should be shared among practitioners, rather than each one taking new films.

Fear of the future in a world overwhelmed by individual unconsciousness is a cancer generator. If we are a contributor to our planetary demise, then cancer or other diseases may be the interest on our investment.
—Bethany ArgIsle

Positive Action
In addition to all of these things to avoid, there are also many positive things to emphasize to reduce our cancer risks. Diet (low fat, high fiber) and nutrients (extra vitamins A, C, and E, and selenium) can be very helpful. These are discussed in more detail below.

Positive steps toward early detection of cancer are also important. Although healing from cancer may be difficult, it is clear that the earlier it is found, the better the chances for survival (though this viewpoint is not universal). The current consensus is still that regular breast self-exam, Pap smears, prostate exam and sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy (looking in the colon), and possibly routine mammography, may be to our advantage in early detection. Of course, it is advantageous only to those who have cancer; the high percentage of people with normal results have gone through the expense of time and money and often some pain.

It is important to keep ourselves physically and psychologically fit through exercise and working on our attitude. Regular exercise definitely improves our attitude and energy for life, as well as being a good immune supporter. When we are distressed or confronting important issues, dilemmas, or crises, it is wise to seek help to process our feelings if we are not able to handle them fully ourselves. A good friend and confidant can help, or a trained therapist may be beneficial. We all need to break the association of seeing a psychologist or therapist with being "crazy" and, instead, look at therapy as an important part of preventive medicine. Being able to deal with life’s stresses as a challenge rather than with despair, helplessness, hopelessness, or other internalized feelings that make us feel that there is no escape is essential, not only in preventing cancer but for general health as well. Most of us still play out childhood patterns and our individualized attitudes of trust and self-image affect our adult relationships and everyday life, and this does not serve our best or most-evolved interests. Astute, interactive therapy and/or hypnotherapy can help point out these old patterns and replace them with new, more helpful ones to improve our potential for experiencing love and success in most areas of our lives.

Stress management techniques, relaxation and visualization exercises, and meditation are all useful self-help processes that may be learned. Developing a spiritual or universal perspective about our world and our involvement with life is also important for interpreting and coping with challenging experiences such as cancer. Michio Kushi suggests that a complaining, arrogant, rigid, and competitive character makes one more susceptible to degenerative disease, while a healthier approach may be peaceful, grateful, flexible, and cooperative.

The Cancer Prevention Diet
usually involves a moderate to major change in the average person’s dietary habits. Even the most traditional nutrition books now suggest the following as the main components of the Cancer Prevention Diet:

  • Lower fat intake to about 20 percent of total calories (25–30 percent is more realistic; the average has been 42 percent). A maximum of 65 grams of fat per day is suggested; 50 grams is better. That represents 450 calories (9 cal./g., 9x50=450) of fat daily, or 20 percent of a 2,250-calorie diet. More of the fats should be the mono- and polyunsaturated types with a reduction of saturated fat intake, and little or no consumption of refined and heated oils.
(Excerpted from Staying Healthy with Nutrition ISBN: 1587611791)
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 About The Author
Elson Haas MDElson M. Haas, MD is founder & Director of the Preventive Medical Center of Marin (since 1984), an Integrated Health Care Facility in San Rafael, CA and author of many books on Health and Nutrition, including ...more
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