I grew up with a father who had colon cancer, so I have always been interested in reasons why some people survive cancer beyond all odds. There are patients with stage IV prostate cancer, breast cancer, ovarian cancer and pancreatic cancer who have survived and live much longer than expected. Some live out their full lives, apparently beating cancer, as my father did.
So what is it that makes the difference between those who survive stage IV cancer and those who don’t? No one knows for sure, but I can share with you what seem to be common factors in these cases. Probably the most important one is that they all made major diet and lifestyle changes. There are several reasons these choices make a difference in the course of the disease.
In my last column, I described why it is important to limit processed carbohydrates and proteins to control insulin, and to limit dairy and meat because of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1). Limiting insulin and IGF-1 can help slow tumor growth and is associated with a reduced risk of various cancers.
Another important factor in controlling cancer is controlling inflammation and pain. Diet can have a profound effect on the control of inflammation. As I explain in Chapter VI of the Peace Diet, eating can affect your blood, causing it to act as if you were taking aspirin or ibuprofen — without actually having to take the medication.
This is important because inflammation has a lot to do with the growth of tumors and cancers. Inflammation is most commonly associated with pain and swelling of tissues, as it is in injuries — a bruise or cut — or in chronic conditions, such as arthritis and autoimmune disease.
The inflammatory process induces the production of biochemicals in the blood, such as Tumor Necrosis Factor alpha (TNF a) and Nuclear Factor kappa beta (TNF kB), that aid in the repair process, but which also induce tumor growth. Inflammation causes vascular endothelial growth factor to create new vessels to bring blood in and out of the area to accelerate healing, but it also can create vessels that feed a growing cancer.
To help control inflammation, limit the intake of omega 6 fat, especially arachidonic acid, which is the main precursor to micro-hormones — prostaglandins — that cause inflammation.
Consuming less chicken, egg yolks, beef and sausage may be one of the reasons why people in countries where these foods are not heavily consumed have the lowest rates of cancer.
For a more complete list of these foods, read the Peace Diet (www.peacediet.org).
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