Preventing Cancer: Is Progress Being Made?–2

As promised in the last post, I will share with you more of my impressions of the 2009 American Institute for Cancer Research‘s Conference on Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer in Washington, DC a couple of weeks ago:


  • Scientists for centuries have been searching for ways to stop the aging process. They have not had much success as we all recognize.
  • Some progress has been made delaying aging through caloric restriction–simply eat less. Its popularity has not caught on, as the increasing girth and flab of Americans amply testifies.
  • Dr. Clive McKay of Cornell University was the first to promote caloric restriction as a method of extending life.
  • Its value has been demonstrated in rat and mice laboratory models–and it is the only known way of significantly prolonging life.
  • Rhesus monkeys on calorie restricted diets do not get diabetes or cancer!
  • A mechanistic (genetic) explanation of how calorie restriction inhibits colon, breast, and pancreatic tumors in animal models was presented.
  • It was compelling–but I doubt there a a lot of human volunteers for calorie restriction!

Mitochondrial Energetics:

  • The mitochondria are organelles within every cell and serve as cellular power plants. 
  • In normal cells these tiny organelles make most of the energy for cell function, and a small portion comes from a different pathway called glycolysis.
  • In cancer cells energy production is remodeled so that the mitochondria produce less energy and glycolysis produces much more.
  • Dr. Peterson and Dr. Ko from Johns Hopkins have been working on finding a way to destroy the cancer cell’s ability to produce energy without impacting the normal cells. Their results are amazing, and they continue this exciting research.

Physical Activity:

  • We all know that physical activity is important for good health — including preventing many types of cancer. Evidence was presented from animal models that more is not always best, though. In rats, the best outcomes in cancer prevention were found with 50-60 minutes of physical activity per day.
  • Very, very few people can maintain ideal weight without regular physical activity.
  • Weight loss is more effective when more calories are burned with physical activity and fewer calories are consumed.
  • Standing up at work burns more calories than one hour of intense physical activity in the morning! Maybe we all should use a stand-up desk like Donald Rumsfeld did!

The message was strong: eat fewer calories, burn more with physical activity, and include plenty of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts in your diet to prevent cancer. Sounds like very good advice to me!