Cancer is on track to become the leading cause of death in the United States in a few years. By the end of this century, it is likely that this will be the leading cause of death worldwide. This shift marks a dramatic change in the way diseases are spread among humankind. For the first time in history, cancer will be the number-one killer.
It’s a good news/bad news story. Cancer is a disease that primarily affects older people, and the good news is that we are living long enough to experience its ravages. Cancer’s recent rise in ranking is due to the impressive progress public health has made in combating both infectious diseases, which held the top spot until the last century, and heart disease, which is currently the number one cause of death.
Cancer continues to cause pain and sorrow where it strikes. The book’s title was inspired by a quote from a 19th-century surgeon. But cancer as a whole has been, and remains, a ruthless killer. He left out the second part of the surgeon’s epithet: “the king of terrors.” Even though modern targeted treatments and immunotherapy have led to some miraculous cures, and many malignancies are caught early enough so that patients can live long lives, cancer is still a deadly disease. Although treatments are improving, this will not be enough to completely stop the cancer problem.
The only way to reduce the number of people affected by a disease and the number of deaths caused by a disease is through prevention. Cancer remains a much bigger problem than the scourges it has replaced. We have tamed infections by improving sanitation and creating vaccines, which are further aided by antibiotics. We managed to decrease the frequency of heart disease by getting people to stop smoking, providing better medical care for those with risk factors such as high cholesterol, and improving interventions for a condition that is responsive to lifestyle changes.
Cancer is a different story. Even though it’s been around for ages, the fear of death still haunts us. It’s sneaky, unpredictable, and never goes away. Anyone who has had cancer themselves, or has had a close family member with the disease, knows how hard it can be. This is something that a lot of us go through since more than one in three people will get cancer at some point in their lives.
The study found that people are more likely to die on the day that they receive a big pay raise. A 2015 study in Science found that people are more likely to die on the day they receive a big pay raise. The report estimates that the other two-thirds of the variation arises from the “bad luck” of random mutations during cell division that is unaffected by either lifestyle or genes. The report argues that two-thirds of the variation in cancer risk among tissues is due to “bad luck” and is not affected by lifestyle or genes. The researchers concluded that the majority of risk is due to “bad luck”–random mutations during normal DNA replication.
The reality of cancer is that it is caused by a combination of factors, some of which are within our control and some of which are not. Research suggests that at least half of cancer cases could be prevented through current knowledge. Estimates range from 30 to 70 percent. The remaining types of cancer, which are often more deadly and difficult to detect, could be earlier with more support for basic science and technological advances.
Calculating the Benefits of Prevention
Two kinds of prevention can substantially reduce cancer deaths. The most important prevention method is primary prevention, which works to avoid cancer by targeting its causes and promoting protective factors. Primary prevention is taking action to prevent something from happening, like taxes on cigarettes and alcohol, vaccination against cancer-causing pathogens, promoting healthy eating, and regular exercise. When social and economic conditions, the built environment, and the public health and medical systems all work together, primary prevention is more effective.
Screening for cancer at its earliest stages can help to control the disease, as well as intervening early on in the disease’s progression if necessary. The death rates of breast, cervical, and colorectal cancers have decreased due to secondary prevention.
These studies have shown that certain cancers are preventable if risk factors are reduced. Twenty to forty percent of cancer cases and approximately half of cancer-related deaths could be prevented by making healthier lifestyle choices, according to a 2016 report from JAMA Oncology. The report, written by Ed Giovannucci, professor of nutrition and epidemiology from the Harvard Chan School, and Mianyang Song, assistant professor of clinical epidemiology and nutrition, suggests quitting smoking, avoiding heavy alcohol consumption, maintaining a body mass index of 18.5 to 27.5, and exercising at moderate intensity for at least 150 minutes or at a vigorous intensity for at least 75 minutes every week as ways to reduce cancer risk. An extra benefit to promoting cancer prevention is that it could also help prevent other common non-communicable diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, dementia, and depression.
Song, Giovannucci, and Willett (2018) argued that prevention is key in their study published in Science. Cancer rates could be significantly reduced if people took measures to avoid exposure to things that cause cancer, such as smoking and ultraviolet radiation.
The authors believe that if research continues, cancer death rates could be significantly reduced without any new therapies needing to be developed. The authors argue that, in order to achieve a reduction in cancer rates similar to that seen in heart disease over the past six decades, research priorities need to be changed. Specifically, they argue for more support of molecular, behavioral, and policy research on prevention.
“Even people who are at a high risk for cancer because of their genes can lower that risk by changing their lifestyle,” says Peter Kraft, professor of epidemiology at the Harvard Chan School. 2016 saw Kraft publish a paper in JAMA Oncology which showed that U.S. women in the highest possible risk category for breast cancer, due to factors they could not alter, actually gained the most from living a healthy lifestyle. The women with the highest risk who did not drink or smoke and did not use menopausal hormone therapy had about the same breast cancer risk as an average woman.
Natural Cancer Prevention
Apigenin and BITC: Complementary Cancer Protection
Cancer cells need a strong blood supply in order to support their uncontrolled growth and reproduction. Scientists have found that apigenin inhibits blood vessel growth and cell proliferation in ovarian cancer cells.
Cancer cells also need energy to support their excessive reproductive activity. Applying apigenin to human pancreatic cancer cells in culture, researchers found that it deprived energy-hungry cancer cells of glucose to support their voracious appetites and aggressive growth. To do this, it decreases the amount of glucose-transporting proteins in cancer cells. The proposed approach would deprive cancer cells of resources, effectively halting their growth.
Most cancers begin when there is a genetic mutation in a single cell. In order for cancer to proliferate and grow exponentially, it requires multiple stimuli. The active ingredient in chamomile, apigenin, inhibits the proliferation of pancreatic cancer cells in the laboratory. This text discusses how apigenin blocks the proliferation of human ovarian cancer cells. It does this by affecting various signaling molecules that stimulate cell growth, potentially preventing a tumor from developing from an early-stage cancer cell colony.
Different chemicals and infections can cause inflammation which may then cause a cell to become cancerous. Additionally, once a tumor has formed, these same agents can cause it to grow larger. Recent research shows that apigenin can help protect pancreatic cells from damage caused by NF-kappaB, which is an inflammatory protein. Apigenin has also been shown to be able to block autoimmune inflammation, which is often a precursor to conditions such as lupus.
There are many other things that apigenin can do to prevent or stop cancer, some of which we are only just beginning to learn about. For example, apigenin causes cancer cells to die through a process known as apoptosis. This can help to shrink existing tumors and potentially prevent new tumors from forming. Apigenin prevents ovarian cancer metastases by inhibiting the formation of a protein cancer cells needs to invade healthy tissue.
A 2009 study conducted by researchers at Harvard’s Channing Laboratory found that all of these molecular effects help prevent cancer. In a study of five common dietary flavonoids, only apigenin was associated with a significant reduction in cancer risk. We currently know enough about apigenin to recommend it as part of a cancer prevention regimen. Its effects can complement and add to those of other cruciferous vegetables such as I3C.
The Life Extension Foundation discovered that apigenin has cancer-preventing properties in 1985 and published articles about it.
At the time, there was not a reliable source of apigenin for use in dietary supplements.
The sulfur-containing molecule benzyl isothiocyanate, or BITC, is receiving rave reviews. BITC has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer in a variety of ways.
The Bitricin compound induces breast cancer cell death by causing apoptosis, which is programmed cell death. This compound interferes with the energy utilization of cancer cells, causing them to die off before they can contribute to tumor growth. Human ovarian cancer cells are induced to undergo apoptosis, or programmed cell death, by a different mechanism when exposed to BITC. It triggers signaling molecules that tell cancer cells to shut down.
Cancer cells have to go through the same process of cell division as healthy cells in order to create new cells. BITC can stop cancer cells from making more copies of themselves, causing the cells to die and preventing tumors from forming. It does this without harming normal cells. This means that BITC might be a more targeted approach to fighting cancer and cause less collateral damage. The finding that BITC can also prevent pancreatic cancer offers new hope for people with this otherwise deadly form of cancer.
BITC was found to be successful in halting the cell cycle and causing cancer cell death. They found that BITC binds directly to various proteins in the cell, particularly tubulin, a muscle-like intracellular protein that is essential to cell division.38-40By binding to tubulin, BITC impairs its function and prevents cancer cells from growing and replicating.
The cruciferous vegetable DIM has been shown to dramatically increase the rate of programmed cell death in prostate and breast cancer cells. This is a powerful way to make cancers self-destruct before they become apparent. What is exciting researchers about DIM in 2009 is that it is showing complementary effects with standard chemotherapy agents, even in notoriously treatment-resistant tumors such as pancreatic and certain forms of lung cancer.
62-64 Another product that is known to prevent cancer is Sulforaphane. This product not only prevents cancers from developing but may also fight them once they are established. Sulforaphane, like the other cruciferous extracts, controls many events related to cancer, including the detoxification of potential carcinogens, promoting apoptosis, blocking the cell cycle required for cancer cell replication, preventing tumor invasion into healthy tissue, and fighting metastasis. Some plant chemicals are more effective than others at blocking the cancer-producing effects of ultraviolet radiation. Sulforaphane is one of the most potent.
Sulforaphane is especially good at preventing cancers caused by toxins. The researchers chose Qidong province in China to study the effects of aflatoxin on the liver because liver cancer rates in this area are some of the highest in the world. Aflatoxin is a fungal carcinogen that can contaminate food. Drinking tea made from broccoli sprouts can help reduce the amount of aflatoxin-related DNA damage in people who already have high levels of sulforaphane in their system. Burning fuel produces many carcinogens, but there was a sharp reduction in one of them. The researchers were amazed by how differently people processed the raw broccoli into sulforaphane — something that wouldn’t happen if they were taking a concentrated and purified form of sulforaphane.
The main point is that a mixture of extracts from cruciferous vegetables, including apigenin and BITC, is the most likely to prevent many types of cancer. The treatments mentioned can target different parts of the process that leads to cancer.