Cancer ... conquered or conqueror?

What causes cancer ? What does cancer feed on ? Is chemotherapy the only way to fight this illness ? Are there alternatives to conventional cancer treatments ? Is cancer a preventable illness ? These questions and more are answered in our latest installment, "Cancer, conquered or conqueror?"

Despite over twenty years of research, with billions of dollars spent each year, the conventional medical establishment's " war on cancer " has been a dismal failure.; Today, we are no closer to understanding the underlying causes for the rapid rise in cancer rates or to finding safe and effective treatments. Most people continue to equate cancer with death, or, at the very least, an excruciating journey back to health filled with physical debilitation and pain. However, a variety of alternative therapies exist which have proven safer, gentler, and more effective at reversing, and preventing cancer, than standard conventional techniques.

Cancer is a disease in which healthy cells stop functioning and maturing properly. As the normal cycle of cell creation and death is interrupted, these newly "mutated" cancer cells begin multiplying uncontrollably, no longer operating as an integrated and harmonious part of the body. They also become parasitic, and can develop their own network of blood vessels to siphon nourishment away from the body's blood supply. This process, if unchecked, will eventually lead to the formation of a cancerous tumor. As the abnormal cells circulate withing the bloodstream, the cancer can also spread to other parts of the body. This can cause the formation of more tumors and further sap the body's energy supply, weakening and eventually poisoning the patient with toxic byproducts. Cancer is almost always fatal if left untreated. Cancer rates continue to climb steadily, particularly among the industrialized nations.

Types and Causes of Cancer

Every cell in the body has the ability to turn cancerous, and many do so on a daily basis. Normally, the immune system is able to protect the body by destroying these cells or reprogramming them back to normal functioning. If the body's defense systems have been damaged, however, this process cannot happen, allowing the cancer to establish itself. If the cancer cells do not spread beyond the tissue or organ where they originated, the cancer is considered to be localized. If the cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it is then said to have metastasized.

While there are more than one hundred different types of cancer, affecting virtually every part of the body, cancer is usually broken down into five basic categories: carcinomas, sarcomas, myelomas, lymphomas, and leukemias.

Carcinomas : the most common cancers, are tumors which originate in tissues which cover a surface, or line internal organs. Lung, breast, prostate, skin, and intestinal cancers are all carcinomas.

Sarcomas : originate in connective tissues and muscles, attacking bones, muscles, cartilage, or the lymph system. They are the most rare malignant tumors, and also the most deadly.

Myelomas : are also rare tumors, and they start in the plasma cells which are found in the bone marrow.

Lymphomas : are cancers of the lymph system, a series of glands which act as a filter for the body's impurities. Lymph glands, or nodes, are found in the neck, the groin, the armpits, and the spleen. Hodgkin's disease and non-Hodgkin's lymphomas are the two most prevalent types of lymphoma in the United States. Burkitt's lymphoma, while rare in the United States, is another form of the disease that is common is central Africa.

Leukemias : are cancers which originate in the tissues of the bone marrow, spleen, and the lymph nodes. Leukemias are not solid tumors, and exhibit an overproduction of white blood cells.

Cancer Incidents and Death per year in Men and Women
Men Women
Prostate 165,000 Breast 182,000
Lung 100,000 Colon/Rectum 75,000
Colon/Rectum 77,000 Lung 70,000
Bladder 39,000 Uterus 44,500
Lymphoma 28,500 Lymphoma 22,400
Oral 20,300 Ovary 22,000
Skin Melanoma 17,000 Skin Melanoma 15,000
Kidney 16,800 Pancreas 14,200
Leukemia 16,700 Bladder 13,300
Stomach 14,800 Leukemia 12,600
Pancreas 13,500 Kidney 10,400
Larynx 10,000 Oral 9,500

Each of these types of cancers can be caused by a variety of factors, ranging from air pollution and tobacco smoke, to environmental radiation and industrial chemicals such as asbestos, benzene, and vinyl chloride, to naturally occurring substances such as aflatoxins (toxins produced by fungus commonly found in peanuts, corn, milk, and other foods), as well as the body's own production of oxygen free radicals.

Though the causes of cancer are still being debated, science is much closer today to understanding the fundamental factors involved in the process. For some time it has been clear that tumors arise as a result of a series of changes or rearrangements of information coded in the DNA within single cells. Scientists also believe that cancers are generated in two steps, initiation and promotion. Factors which start the initiation process are called initiators, or triggers. They interact directly with the cellular DNA to start the cell damage process. Initiators can take the form of carcinogens ( carcer-causing substances ), such as tobacco smoke, environemental pollution, pesticides, heavy metals, and industrial chemicals : as well as specific viruses, radiation, oxygen free radicals, and hormones, particularly estrogens.

Initiation of a cancer cell can occur in various ways. For example, low fiber diets may prolong the residence time of body waste in the gut, leading to greater exposure of the intestinal lining to cancer-causing agents. A breakdown of metabolic function can also lead to initiation when enzymes, which normally deactivate cancer-causing substances, start to function improperly. This causes them to activate the carcinogens instead, allowing the enzymes to react directly with cellular DNA. In other cases, cellular reproduction may be so accelerated that cells reproduce too quickly, leaving little or no time for repair. This allows defects in the DNA to become imbedded into the genetic materials passed from one cell to the next as a permanent mutation. DNA repair may also be interrupted by initiators. For example, toxic metals such as lead, murcury, and cadmium can prevent DNA from being repaired.

After the initiation of the cancer process, the disease will often lie undetected for many years, according to the American Institutre for Cancer Research. Factors which promote the disease process during this latent period are called promoters. While promoters do not directly interact with the cellular DNA, they can further the cellular damage, allowing cancer cells to continue spreading abnormally. Promoters may also hamper the removal of initiated cells, by damaging the body's defense systems, particularly the immune system. Lastly, promoters can alter certain tissues of the body in order to make them more favorable for tumor growth. This is usually accomplished by enhancing the conditions for establishing the blood supply necessary for nourishing the tumor cells.


Diet and Nutritional Factors

These are considered the primary agents for initiation and promotion of cancer today. According to the National Academy of Sciences, 60% of all cancers in women and 40% of all cancers in men may be due to dietary and nutritional factors. Likewise, diet and nutrition are also the principle preventative measures against cancer, and the ones over which people have the most control.

Fat intake is one of the key risk factors linked to cancer, especially animal fat, which has been consistantly implicated with highter cancer rates. The cancers most closely associated with high fat intake include : breast, colon, rectum, uterus, prostate, and kidney. Partially hydrogenated oils, which are commonly found in processed foods, are also considered to be a major contributor to the carcinogenic effect of fats. It is interesting to note that in breast cancer studies conducted on laboratory mice, tumor growth was enhanced by a high-fat diet only after a chemical carcinogen was introduced. This suggests that fat is not an initiator, but a promoter, of cancer and that it acts as a repository for carcinogenic toxins.

" Many cancer-causing pesticides and industrial chemicals found in the environment and in our foods tend to accumulate in fatty tissues, whether in fish, cattle, fowls, or people. " states Samuel Epstein, MD, professor of occupational and environmental medicine at the University of Illinois School of Public Health. " Although these chemicals for the most part have been banned or strickly regulated, they are very durable and remain in the environment for a long time. Crops grown in soil contaminated with these chemicals will pass on their residue to the animals that are fed them, where they will accumulate in the fatty tissue. If persons choose foods with the highest concentration of these chemicals, then they, too, will build up higher and higher concentrations of the same chemicals in their own fatty tissues. " This process is known as bioaccumulation, and, according to Dr. Epstein, these fat-soluble carcinogens are found in highest concentrations in the body's fattiest tissues, such as the brain, sexual organs, and breasts.

The high intake of animal protein has also been associated with an increase risk of breast, colon, pancreatic, kidney, prostate, and endometrial cancer. Sugar is also believed to have a direct effect on cancer growth, as well as acting to nulllify the positive effects of protective foods such as fiber. In addition, it can significantly add to the risk of breast cancer, says veteran cancer researcher, Wayne Martin, of Fairhope Alabama. " When someone eats sugar, the body produces insulin, and insulin can cause breast cancer just as estrogen does," he explains.

Smoked, pickled, and salt-cured foods contain several known carcinogenic substances, including nitrosamines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which have been linked to cancer of the stomach and esophagus. Additionally, potentially cancer-causing substances are also produced when meat, chicken, or fish are fried or BBQ'd for a long time at high temperatures.

Caffeine, which is found if coffee, tea, colas, and chocolate, is thought to be a factor for cancer of the lower urinary tract, including the bladder. Studies have found the rates for these cancers to be significantly higher in people who drink more than three cups of coffee a day. Caffeine is also known to damage cellular DNA and to impair it's normal repair thereby adding to the potential risk for cancer. Several studies also associated the intake of acohol, including beer, with increased cancer risk.

Food additives are another cancer-causing hazard. Among the most common are saccharin and cyclamates, both used as artificial sweeteners and linked to greater incidences of bladder cancer; butylated hydroxytoluene, used as a preservative and linked to liver cancer, and tannic acid, found in wines and fruits and linked to liver cancer. Aflatoxins, which are found in milk, cereals, peanuts, and corn have also been linked to liver, stomach and kidney cancer.

Smoking and Tobacco Use

It is estimated that 350,000 deaths occur each year in the United States as a result of tobacco use. One third of these deaths occur from smoking-related lung cancer alone, making it the single major cause of cancer deaths, accounting for thirty percent of ALL deaths. ( diet accounts for higher percentage but it's not considered a singular cause ) While cigarette smoking may be the principle culprit, other forms of tobacco use, such as cigar and pipe smoking, and smokeless tobacco, are also factors. And, in addition to lung cancer, smoking has been linked to cancers of the head and neck, mouth, throat, vocal chords, bladder, kidneys, stomach, cervix, and pancreas, as well as some leukemia. Additionally, smokeless tobacco has been linked to cancer of the lip and tongue.

Secondary smoke, or passive smoke, is also a dangerous carcinogen according to a recent United States Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ) report, which listed it in the same category as benzene, radon, and asbestos. It causes twenty percent of all lung cancer in the United States not attributed directly to smoking, accounting for about three thousand lung cancer deaths each year among non-smokers. This risk is doubled for non-smoking spouses of smokers.

Accoding to John A. Sherman, ND, of Portland Oregon, cigarettes contain over four thousand known toxic poisons. Tar, which is formed when organic compounds are burned, is the leading cancer-causing chemical found in tobacco smoke. Carbon monoxide is also released during smoking, reducing the amount of oxygen to organs like the brain, lungs, and heart. Nicotine, an alkaloid found in tobacco, is highly addictive, and is extremely poisonous if ingested directly. While only a small amount of nicotine is absorbed during smoking, this can still cause an adrenaline release, greatly increasing heart rate and blood pressure. Nicotine also acts as a promoter, making it easier for cancers of all kinds to spread throughout the body.

In addition, a direct link has been found between lung cancer and flue-dried tobacco, especially that to which sugar has been added, while no significant correlation between traditional sugar-free, air-dry tobacco and cancer has been established. Studies show that England, Whales, which have the highest male lung cancer rate in the world, also have the highest sugar content in cirgarettes, about 17 %. France, where tobacco is air-dried and contains onlt 2 % sugar, has one third less lung cancer. The United States, where sugar in tobacco, averages 10 %, has about 1/2 the male lung cancer death rate as in Great Britain.

The "Pill" and Cancer
According to a recent study, women who have taken oral contraceptives for more than four years are almost twice as likely to get breast cancer at age fifty as non-users. This study is consistent with three other studies, all linking birth control pills with a greater risk for breast cancer. The risk continues to increase as the length of use goes up, climbing to 80% for women using the pill for over four years.

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