How deadly cancer can be often depends on how fast it spreads, or metastasizes, in the body. A cancerous tumor can spread to the lymphatic system, lungs, or brain, turning what was small mutation of cells into a life-threatening disease.
Now, however, scientists have documented the link between over 40 plant-based compounds, and genes which can slow the spread of cancer.
The study, which is the first of it’s kind, is encouraging because it provides confirmation for many that diet and lifestyle factors can make a real difference when it comes to cancer survival rates(1).
Looking For “A Magic Bullet”
When it comes to cancer, “We’re always looking for a magic bullet,” says Gary Meadows, lead researcher on the study.
“Well, there are lots of magic bullets out there in what we eat and associated with our lifestyle. We just need to take advantage of those. And they can work together.”(2)
The study, which was published in the online journal Cancer and Metastasis Reviews, uses simple logic: rather than focus on the prevention of the tumors themselves, the study focuses on treating the spread of the tumor – its metastasis.
Nutrition And Gene Expression
In particular, the study focuses on genes which can suppress metastasis. What the researchers found was that substances found in common foods, like amino acids, vitamin D, ethanol, ginseng extract, curcumin, lycopene, pomegranate juice, and fish oil could affect gene expression in breast, prostate, skin, lung, and colorectal cancers.
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The substances had the ability to turn the genes which can suppress the growth of tumors “on” or “off”.
“So these epigenetic mechanisms are influenced by what you eat,” says Meadows.
“That may also be related to how the metastasis suppressor genes are being regulated. That’s a very new area of research that has largely not been very well explored in terms of diet and nutrition.”
Reinforcing Old Concepts
Meadows believes that his research can help us understand the role that natural compounds such as the ones found in food can help our bodies slow or even stop the spread of cancer.
The idea that diet plays a role in cancer prevention is not new – there have been many studies on the subject(3) – but it’s a relatively new idea to look at how diet can control the spread of cancer that has already developed.
“We’ve kind of focused on the cancer for a long time,” says Meadows. “More recently we’ve started to focus on the cancer in its environment. And the environment, your whole body as the environment, is really important in whether or not that cancer will spread.”
Overall, what Meadows’ research encourages is a more holistic approach to cancer treatment.[mks_toggle title=”sources” state=”close “]