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Ignoring the Link Between Toxins and Cancer

by Vic Shayne, PhD

Worldwide, more than 7 million people die from cancer every year, and the numbers increase annually. Generally, high-fat diets are blamed for increasing the risk, while plant-based diets, high in fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains, and minimally processed starchy foods, are said to help prevent cancer.

And, if we look a little closer, we discover that there are very specific foods and herbs that are powerful "detoxifiers" and thus play a major role in prevention of cancer and other diseases. But even as we attempt to control cancer risk by our food choices, we always have to realize that diet is just one of the lifestyle factors that influence the development of cancer.

With all of the cancer information and disinformation broadcasted continually through the major news media, rarely do we hear a mention of the greatest threat to our health – and the most prevalent cause of cancer: toxins. Toxins (poisons) are ubiquitous in our modern world. Although those cancer researchers and foundations making the news headlines, mostly funded by pharmaceutical corporations and chemical manufacturers, seem to be obsessed with finding a cancer virus or genetic predispositions to the disease, as a society we are not being given the whole truth that toxins cause most cancers.

Independent researchers (e.g., read Cancer-Gate: How to Win the Losing Cancer War, by Samuel Epstein, MD) understand that toxins cause disruptions in cellular function, cellular differentiation, cellular protection, and immune system function. Such poisons also place great stress on the eliminatory system that tries, often in vain, to rid our bodies of a toxic overload; this includes the kidneys, liver, cardiovascular system, lungs, bowels and skin. Toxins are known to rob our bodies of oxygen and cause free radical damage to cellular structures; they also are cumulative, leading to illness and symptoms now and into the future.


"With all of the cancer information and disinformation broadcasted continually through the major news media, rarely do we hear a mention of the greatest threat to our health – and the most prevalent cause of cancer: toxins."


The natural question is, where do these toxins come from and how do they get into our bodies? The answer is that toxins hail from a wide array of sources, including artificial food ingredients, synthetic vitamins, prescription drugs, topical ointments, household sprays, fumes, automobile and truck exhaust, incinerators, factories, plastic off-gassing, construction materials, carpeting, bug sprays, fluoridated water, hair sprays, fast foods, pesticides, herbicides, chemical spills and dumping, perfumes and more. You can see how, entering our bodies from so many sources, the toxic overload is inevitable unless we make a concerted effort to monitor what we eat and how we live our lives. But if we wander around in a state of paranoia over slanted media reports about bad genes and invisible viruses, we'll never see the real threat right before our eyes.

What Are You Eating?

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) recommends that people should eat more plant-based foods and states that as much as 20 percent of lung cancer, 33 percent of breast cancer, and 66 percent of colon cancer could be prevented by appropriate diet choices, regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy body weight. Add this to not smoking and moderate consumption of alcohol, and the AICRF believes that 60 percent to 70 percent of all cancers are preventable.1 Yet, even with this information, major associations such as cancer and heart institutes, who must ride the political line in an effort not to alienate the chemical industry, fail to tell us that organic foods are safer than nonorganic; that prescription medications can be dangerous; that there are too many chemicals in our lives; and that eating more plant-based foods is vague advice. As a rather alarming and bothersome side note, it is clear to anyone who has researched the cancer-toxin connection that some of the largest companies contributing to cancer rates by manufacturing poisonous chemicals are the same companies that influence and fund scientific research that ends up on the nightly news, producing the drugs to "fight" cancer.

Best Foods to Eat

The best foods to eat are clean, pure, fresh, raw (or slightly steamed), organically grown fruits, nuts, seeds, vegetables and nontoxic meats (fish, poultry and limited amounts of red meat). Although antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and bioflavonoids grab a lot of attention, there's more to nature's foods than these substances. Fiber, for instance, can be a major player in cancer prevention. Researcher Joanne Slavin, PhD, writes:

"Dietary guidance recommends consumption of whole grains for the prevention of cancer. Epidemiologic studies find that whole grains are protective against cancer, especially gastrointestinal cancers such as gastric and colonic, and hormonally-dependent cancers including breast and prostate. Four potential mechanisms for the protectiveness of whole grains against cancer are described. First, whole grains are concentrated sources of dietary fiber, resistant starch, and oligosaccharides, fermentable carbohydrates thought to protect against cancer. Fermentation of carbohydrates in the colon results in production of short chain fatty acids that lower colonic pH and serve as an energy source for the colonocytes. Secondly, whole grains are rich in antioxidants, including trace minerals and phenolic compounds, and antioxidants have been proposed to be important in cancer prevention. Thirdly, whole grains are significant sources of phytoestrogens that have hormonal effects related to cancer protection. Phytoestrogens are thought to be particularly important in the prevention of hormone-dependent cancers such as breast and prostate. Finally, whole grains mediate glucose response, which has been proposed to protect against colon and breast cancer."2

Other health-promoting, protective food substances include phytoestrogens, chlorophyll, terpenes, carotenoids, pigments, fatty acids and enzymes. Vitamin and multivitamin pills do not provide these and other important food factors needed for prevention of cancer, healthy cells and immune system optimization. An organic diet is ideal because all other foods contain, to varying degrees, pesticide, herbicide and synthetic fertilizer residues known to negatively impact glands, nerves, organs and all other tissues. In fact, the only ones telling us that organic foods are not necessarily a healthier choice are the biased chemical and processed food industries that are a major part of the problem. According to health consultant Dorrie Kanofsky:

"Evidence of organic food's superiority is confirmed by Consumer Reports, the Soil Association, the Rodale Institute, Pesticide Action Network, and research at Johns Hopkins and Washington State University, to list a few. If challenged to prove that organic food is safer, I can present evidence by the Pesticide Action Network, U.K., that it is safer for children and babies to eat organic foods because 'Latest pesticide residue results from the European Commission suggest that residue safety breaches are getting worse.' Those breaches are even worse in our country. In 1997 the Consumer's Union tested conventional foods and their organic counterparts and found that 'Organic fruits and vegetables have fewer pesticide residues than non-organic produce; they have lower levels of pesticides, and they have less overall pesticide toxicity than fruits and vegetables grown with chemicals. If challenged to prove that organic food is more nutritious, I assert such studies such as 'Nutritional Quality of Organic Versus Conventional Fruits, Vegetables and Grains' by Virginia Worthington, doctoral candidate at Johns Hopkins University. Her research found that 'Organic crops contain significantly more vitamin C, iron, magnesium and phosphorus and significantly less nitrates than conventional crops."3

Kanofsky concludes, "Health and safety considerations are the major reasons why 10 million consumers are buying organic food."


"Potentially carcinogenic foods include artificial sweeteners and/or ingredients, cured, pickled or salty meats, and burnt or barbequed foods."


Altered Foods vs. Protective Foods

Some foods (more accurately termed "nonfoods" or altered foods) have been singled out as potentially carcinogenic (cancer-causing):

  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Cured, pickled or salty meats. There is no conclusive evidence that meat causes cancer, yet there is growing evidence that animal fats in several altered forms may contribute to cancer. However, bacon and other cured or pickled meats contain nitrate, which has the potential to cause cancer in laboratory animals when eaten in huge doses. Salt has been associated with an increased risk of stomach cancer and should be consumed in limited amounts in the form of sea salt.
  • Burnt or barbecued foods. A group of carcinogenic substances called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) can be produced if foods or wood are overheated or burnt. It's advisable to use relatively low temperature methods of cooking, such as steaming, boiling, poaching, stewing, casseroling, braising, baking, stir frying or roasting.
  • Non-organically grown foods
  • Alcohol increases the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus and liver, with the risk even greater in those people who smoke. Alcohol also has been associated with the development of colon, breast and rectal cancers.
  • All packaged foods that are replete with artificial ingredients, ranging from preservatives to dyes.

Cancer-protective substances in foods include:

  • phytochemicals
  • allyl sulfide: onions, garlic, chives, leeks
  • carotenoids: yellow-orange vegetables and fruits; green, leafy vegetables; red fruits
  • curcumins: turmeric
  • flavonoids: in most fruit, vegetables, grains and nuts
  • gingerols: ginger
  • Indoles and isothiocyanates: broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts
  • Isoflavones: soybeans, tofu
  • Lignans: soybeans, flax seed
  • Liminoids: citrus
  • Phenolic acids: berries, grapes, nuts, whole grains
  • Phthalides and polyacetylenes: carrots, parsnips, parsley, coriander, cilantro
  • Phytates: grains, legumes
  • Saponins: beans, herbs
  • Terpenes: cherries, citrus, herbs

Looking at the brief list above, the reader can understand how consuming vitamin and multivitamin pills fails to meet the needs of the body, as such products do not contain a host of important components and complexes available only from whole, natural, raw, pure foods.

How Nature's Foods Can Prevent Cancer

There are a number of ways that foods can prevent cancer, yet most significant is by means of biochemical transformation. Essentially, foods such as those in the cruciferous family (e.g., kale, cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, etc.) contain sulfur compounds that are known to convert fat-soluble toxins into water-soluble complexes, which can then be eliminated from the body via the kidneys. An excellent discussion of this can be found in Clinical Purification by Gina Nick, ND. Other foodfactors are known to act as antioxidants, keeping cells from being overrun by free radicals. Some foods and herbs bolster the immune system, enabling toxins to be engulfed and flushed from the body. And still other foods and herbs such as cilantro can chelate heavy, toxic metals such as mercury. Other detoxifying foods and herbs include red clover blossoms, burdock root, licorice, Oregon grape root, cat's claw and kelp.


"The best foods to eat are clean, pure, fresh, raw (or slightly steamed), organically grown fruits, nuts, seeds, vegetables and nontoxic meats (fish, poultry and limited amounts of red meat)."


Why Is Cancer Winning the Battle?

Thanks to the power and greed of industry, the public is kept in the dark about many of the causes of cancer. Instead we are fed news reports about genetic connections, viruses and early screenings. Biologically speaking, as human beings, our bodies are not equipped to handle the onslaught (or combinations) of toxic overload that exists in our modern world. Until we realize that synthetic chemicals are causing most cancers, we cannot begin to stem the tide of disease and suffering.

"Most epidemiologists and cancer researchers would agree that the relative contribution from the environment toward cancer risk is about 80-90 percent," said Aaron Blair, PhD, chief of the Occupational Epidemiology Branch in the National Cancer Institute's Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics. "There is very solid evidence that environmental factors are the major cause of cancer."4


References
  1. Axmaker L. Eat Right to Prevent Cancer. Vanderbilt Faculty & Staff Wellness Program, Vanderbilt University Web site, November 2005. Click to view it online.
  2. Slavin J. Mechanisms for the impact of whole grain foods on cancer risk. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 2000;19(90003):300S-307S.
  3. Kanofsky DL. The case for organic produce. Daytona Beach News-Journal 2005. www.organicconsumers.org.
  4. Environmental Factors the Major Cause of Cancer. Environment News Service, 2004. www.ens-newswire.com.
Other Resources
  • The Diet & Cancer Link. American Institute for Cancer Research, 2000. www.aicr.org.
  • Potter J. Leading Scientist Hails Progress Made To Date in Field of Diet and Cancer Research. Press Release from American Institute for Cancer Research, 2000. www.aicr.org.
  • Mediterranean Diet May Lower Cancer Risk. American Cancer Society, 2000. Click to view it online.
Vic Shayne, PhD, a 1978 graduate of the University of Florida, is a food science researcher and writer. His books include Illness Isn't Caused by a Drug Deficiency!, Man Cannot Live on Vitamins Alone, and Evil Genius in the Garden of Eden (a study on food-borne and environmental toxins and their toll on human health). Dr. Shayne's work stresses the value of whole-food nutrition over vitamins and other isolated supplements. He is a key contributor of the research Web site healthscienceupdate.com.
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