Anti-Cancer Compunds

these plant-based substances may help lower your risk.


May 2016

One reason cancer is such a formidable foe lies in its complexity. For one thing, the term “cancer” covers not one disease but more than 100, all marked by abnormal cell growth and spread. And while the study of cancer genetics has yielded vast quantities of data, it has also raised as many questions as it has answered.

There is no foolproof way to avoid developing cancer, but there are ways to reduce risk. The most basic involves that old disease-fighting duo of diet and exercise. “Research has shown that poor diet and not being active are two key factors that can increase a person’s cancer risk,” states the American Cancer Society. “The good news is that you can do something about this.”

One ACS recommendation is to eat at least 2 1/2 cups of fruits and vegetables a day. Besides nutrients such as vitamins and minerals, plant foods provide compounds called phytonutrients, many of which have been found to possess anti-cancer properties.

One way to make sure you get a variety of phytonutrients is to “eat the rainbow,” plants of different colors, which signify different substances—think the red-orange carotenoids in tomatoes and carrots, for instance. A high-quality whole food supplement can provide some insurance against dietary deficits. (If you are currently being treated for cancer, discuss diet and other lifestyle matters with your practitioner.)

 

Name Where It's Found What It Does
Allicin Garlic, leek, onion, scallion, shallot Has demonstrated an ability to induce apoptosis, or programmed cell death; appears to inhibit metastasis, or tumor spread; also supports heart health and fights microbes
Anthocyanins
Berries (including açai, black currant, goji, etc.), grape, mangosteen, plum Have inhibited the growth of colon cancer cells in studies; help fight inflammation, which promotes cancer development; appear to turn on (up-regulate) tumor-suppressing genes
Carotenoids
Apricot, carrot, kale, spinach, sweet potato; beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene and zeaxanthin are in this family High dietary intake has been associated with lower lung cancer risk, and high circulating levels with reduced breast cancer risk; have also been linked to slower cellular aging
Catechins
Apple, berries, green tea Inhibit DNA damage linked to cancer development; help induce apoptosis; support the body’s detoxification enzymes, which break down cancer-causing substances
Chlorophyll Barley and wheat grasses, chlorella, leafy greens, spirulina Chlorophyll derivatives have shown an ability to reduce DNA damage caused by various toxins; supports the body’s detoxification systems
Ellagic Acid Grape, pomegranate, raspberry, strawberry Promotes apoptosis and fights cancer’s ability to proliferate; inhibits angiogenesis, or a tumor’s ability to form its own blood vessel network; acts as an anti-inflammatory
Isoflavones Soybean; smaller amounts in other plant foods Linked to reduced risk of breast and prostate cancers; may ease inflammation related to obesity; also supports proper blood vessel function
Isothiocyanates Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, kale, etc.); sulforaphane is the best-known compound in this class Encourage apoptosis and discourage cancer cell proliferation; appear to inhibit bladder cancer; sulforaphane has slowed cellular growth in early-stage breast cancer studies
Limonoids Grapefruit, lemon, lime, noni, orange Support the detoxification enzyme system glutathione S-transferase; have induced apoptosis and inhibited proliferation in studies
Quercetin Found in a wide variety of plants; some sources include apple, grape, onion, tomato May suppress cancer growth factors; supports apoptosis and fights proliferation; also being studied for possible cardio-protective effects, including blood pressure reduction
Resveratrol Blueberry, cranberry, grape, peanut; Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum) often used in supplements Fights inflammation and supports detoxification; may inhibit angiogenesis and the ability of tumors to invade normal tissue; best known for supporting cardiovascular health


NOTE: Always consult with your healthcare practitioner for help in designing a
supplementation program, especially if you have a pre-existing condition.

 

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