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Is Cancer Preventable?


President Nixon declared a “war on cancer” by signing into law the National Cancer Act of 1971, resulting in the formation of the National Cancer Institute (NCI).  Cancer was the second leading cause of death in America at that time, and it remains in the same position nearly fifty years later.  The NCI estimates that there will be 1.7 million cases of cancer diagnosed and 600,000 deaths in 2018.  The NCI fights a good fight with an annual budget of over five billion dollars, but maybe there is something we can do as individuals to prevent this disease from destroying so many lives in the future.

I have friends and family members who have been diagnosed with various forms of cancer.  Some of my friends and family have survived their fight thanks to modern medicine and lifestyle changes, others were not so lucky.   You most likely decided to read this article because of the headline and you want to know if cancer can be prevented or cured. 

Science has proven there are genetic components that can raise probability of acquiring certain cancers.  Even if you have good genes, environmental pollutants such as pesticides can cause genetic mutations resulting in cancer.  Science has also proven that lifestyle choices can help prevent certain cancers, such as not smoking.  Many types of food and specific nutrition plans are currently being studied to determine the relationship between food and cancer. 

Our bodies create new cells every day to replace the billions of cells that die from a process called apoptosis. The basic definition of cancer is an abnormal growth of cells where cells don’t die like they would under normal circumstances. Insulin Like Growth Factor (IGF-1) is a peptide hormone that works in conjunction with growth hormones and tells our cells to multiply.  Once humans reach adulthood, IGF-1 production slows down and we lose about as many cells as we produce on a daily basis.  The more IGF-1 you have in your system, the more likely you are to produce more cells than you are losing, resulting in the potential for cancerous cell growth.  IGF-1 is not only associated with the growth of cancer, research has shown that it may help in the transport of cancer cells from one part of the body to another.

There is a large body of evidence that shows nutrition plays a critical role in reducing IGF-1 levels and the probability of acquiring certain cancers.  A study published in 2011 by Sherry Soliman, William J. Aronson and R. James Barnard showed that a low-fat, high-fiber plant based diet along with moderate exercise reduces the amount of IGF-1 in our blood. Several studies have shown that phytates (phytic acid IP6) in plant based proteins like seeds, nuts and beans can help reduce or even halt the growth of cancer cells. Additional studies have shown that the consumption of meat, dairy and other animal products can increase levels of IGF-1 in our blood. 

Although all cancers may not be completely preventable, there are choices you can make to reduce your risks.  Based on my family history, I need to do everything I can to reduce my probability of cancer.  If you have a family history of cancer, or you are just concerned about the possibility of developing cancer, it might be time for you to look into a whole food, plant based diet.  Replacing some or all of the animal proteins in your diet can help reduce the risk of cancer and many other chronic illnesses, and it will add a greater variety of flavor to your life.

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