Preventing Cancer: Is Progress Being Made?

My head is spinning this evening! Not because I am dizzy, but because all day I have been attending the 2009 American Institute for Cancer Research‘s Conference on Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer in Washington, DC. It is really amazing how much is known about risk factors, genetics, treatment, and prevention of this dread disease! Here are a few “headlines” from my notes of today.AICR

Colorectal Cancer:

  • The second leading cause of cancer in the US, after lung cancer, is colorectal cancer.
  • If colorectal cancer is caught and treated early there is a 80% chance of survival. Regular screening is key to this number, as it takes 20-30 years to develop. 
  • A low-fat diet and regular physical activity is the best way to prevent colorectal cancer.
  • People who are treated for Stage 3 colorectal cancer can reduce their risk of recurrence by 60% if they will exercise 60 minutes per day. That is really good news!

Nutritional Intervention:

  • A lot of promising research is being conducted in an attempt to find foods with cancer preventing properties.
  • While many components of our food hold fascinating potential, nearly all presenters concluded that eating whole foods was the best way to prevent cancer.
  • Baseline nutritional status is very important in understanding why some nutrients benefit some but not others. Evidence is strong that if status is adequate, then supplements often raise risk, not lower it! Not everyone benefits equally from supplements.
  • Other lifestyle factors will influence for good or bad the benefits of supplements, i.e. tobacco and alcohol. 
  • It is very clear that if a little is good, a lot more may actually be harmful.
  • The combination of foods and lifestyle is vitally important.
  • Curcumin found in turmeric shows a lot of potential in mouse models for preventing cancer through down-regulaing certain cancer causing genes.
  • “Cloudy” apple juice reduces adenomas in mice by 38% compared to water.

Vitamin D and Mushrooms

  • Vitamin D is not found in many foods naturally, and certainly not in plant foods. 
  • A poster session examined Vitamin D in mushrooms and found that if they are exposed to sunlight for even a few seconds, the Vitamin D level is increased many fold.
  • When you buy fresh mushrooms, set them on the patio in the sun for a few minutes. The Vitamin D content will dramatically increase!

I could write a lot more, but that will come later. Tomorrow’s focus is on cancer and physical activity. Until next time: eat plenty of whole fruits and vegetables to stave of cancer!