Most healthy people have pre-cancerous cells called microtumors in their body. The food that we eat on a daily basis is the key to preventing these cells from becoming malignant.
Cancer cell development
The more we learn more about cancer and the stages of cancer cell development, the more information we have about how to stop tumours from growing and spreading around the body.
Cancer is an incredibly diverse set of diseases. Each different type of cancer involves different genetic mutations, produces different symptoms and creates different diagnostic biomarkers. In fact, the diversity of cancer is one of the key characteristics that makes the disease so difficult to fight effectively.
One similarity between most cancers is their cell progression pathway, the journey that a normal cell takes on its way to becoming a dangerous and malignant cancer cell.
Cancer progression pathway
Stage 1 – A normal cell is damaged by some form of carcinogen (cancer causing substance). This process is called ‘initiation’. The initiated cell is not a cancer cell yet, but it now has the potential to become a cancer cell.
Stage 2 – Most healthy people have initiated cells in their body. Studies on people who have died of causes other than cancer, have shown 30-50% of women to have these latent microtumors in their breasts, 40% of men have latent microtumors in their prostate, and 98% of people have latent microtumors in the thyroid1. In many people, these microtumors never progress to become clinically detectable and dangerous tumours. But in other people, if the environment in the body is conducive, the cell is promoted into a pre-cancerous cell2.
Stage 3 – At stage 3, the cell has become cancerous and is now capable of uncontrolled growth (malignant). It invades nearby tissues and grows new blood vessels around itself constantly (angiogenesis). These vessels feed the tumour and allow it to get even bigger and more dangerous. At some point in this progression phase, the cancerous cell may become metastatic, meaning that it develops the ability to spread into other tissues and organs in the body3.
Preventing the progression of microtumors
The time that it takes for Stage 1 cells to develop into Stage 2 cells can be very long, sometimes the process can take decades. We can use this long latency period to our advantage and work to prevent the initiated cells (microtumors) in our body from becoming pre-cancerous.
Nutraceuticals (food as medicine)
Scientific studies show time after time, that eating food containing compounds called phytochemicals, every day, can help to prevent some cancers from ever developing (at stage 1), and can prevent initiated cells from being promoted into pre-cancerous cells (at stage 2).
Almost all fruits and vegetables contain phytochemicals that protect against cancer. Some of the most potent examples include cruciferous vegetables (isothiocyanates), green tea (epigallocatechin-3-gallate), turmeric (curcumin), tomatoes (lycopene) and citrus fruits (flavonoids and carotenoids).
It is vital that you eat a diet rich in these fruits and vegetables as they will help to protect the vulnerable cells in your body from being damaged and entering into the cancer progression pathway. These foods also help to stop cells that have already been damaged (microtumors), from progressing into a pre-cancerous state.
To learn more about how food can protect against cancer, the book ‘Food to Fight Cancer: What Your Doctors Aren’t Ready to Tell You’ is available now on Amazon in both Kindle and Paperback format.
To learn more about eating good food for good health, visit The Green Apple Club.
- Black, WC, Welch HG. Advances in diagnostic imaging and overestimations of disease prevalence and the benefits of therapy. N Engl J Med [Online] 1993; 328(17): 1237-43. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8464435 [Accessed 19th April 2016].
- Béliveau, R, and Gingras, D. Role of nutrition in preventing cancer. Can Fam Physician [Online] 2007; 53(11): 1905–1911. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2231485/ [Accessed 19th April 2016].
- Nicholas, S. Food to Fight Cancer: What Your Doctors Aren’t Ready to Tell You. 2016.
About the author:
Sonia Nicholas is a Biomedical Scientist and Freelance Science Writer. Sonia is the Founder of The Green Apple Club, an online clean-eating community for people who want to improve their health by improving their diet.