A Refreshing Way to Fight Cancer


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(This article first appeared in Health Today magazine - http://www.healthtoday.net)

Lowering your cancer risk has never been this refreshing. More and more studies suggest that tea, tomato juice, carrot juice, red wine and soymilk contain compounds that can fight certain types of cancer.

Tea contains polyphenols, which are natural plant antioxidants. Antioxidants have been shown to prevent free radical damage to DNA and other molecules. Polyphenols may prevent cancer by reducing abnormal cell growth and inflammation.

Green tea is very rich in polyphenols and has been associated with protection against lung cancer, stomach cancer, and its pre-cancerous condition, gastritis. A study in Japan found that regular consumption of green tea (more than three cups a day) might protect the body against recurrence of early-stage breast cancer.

Laboratory animals given different tea extracts, tea polyphenol mixtures, purified tea components and tea infusions exhibited lower incidence rates of cancer of the colon, esophagus, liver, stomach, lung, breast, pancreas and skin.

Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, a natural pigment that gives tomatoes their red color. Lycopene has potent antioxidant properties, and is believed to be the key to the tomato's cancer-fighting powers.

Research shows that lycopene in tomatoes is absorbed more efficiently by the body if processed into juice, sauce, paste and ketchup. Temperature changes in the processing of tomatoes convert lycopene into a more absorbable form.

In the body, lycopene is deposited in the liver, lungs, prostate gland, colon and skin. Its concentration in body tissues tends to be higher than all other carotenoids, a class of natural fat-soluble pigments that give veggies and fruits their various hues (orange, red and yellow).

Studies have shown that people with a high intake of tomatoes or a high serum level of lycopene have a significantly lower risk of certain types of cancer, like prostate, lung and stomach cancers.

There is also evidence suggesting a lowered risk for cancers of the pancreas, colon and rectum, esophagus, oral cavity, breast and cervix.

In a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (March 2002), researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) and Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) found that eating tomatoes and tomato products may help men reduce their risk of prostate cancer. Men with higher levels of lycopene in their blood had statistically significant lower rates of cancer than did men with lower blood levels of lycopene.

"Previous studies have shown a relationship between tomato consumption and risk of cancer, " according to study lead author Edward Giovannucci, M. D. , Sc. D. of BWH and HSPH. “This study, in which we carefully examined the full diet of study participants, provides us further evidence that increased consumption of tomatoes is associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer. "

Carrot contains the pigment beta carotene. Beta carotene has powerful antioxidant properties and can be converted to vitamin A. Both beta carotene and vitamin A are rich sources of antioxidants.

If you're an urban dweller, regular consumption of carrot juice may be good for you. Some studies show that carrots protect the lungs from environmental pollutants. Carrot juice is also recommended for those living in polluted cities or those whose work exposes them to toxic fumes (e. g. , metal workers, those handling chemicals, cleaners, etc. ) as well as smokers and those exposed to secondhand smoke.

A word of caution, though: Excessive intake of beta carotene can turn the skin and whites of the eyes to an orange-yellow color.

Red wine contains a strong anticancer agent known as quercetin, a flavonoid found in fruits, flowers and vegetables. Flavonoids have antioxidant properties that help protect against disease, inflammation and allergic reactions.

Quercetin may be beneficial in the treatment of skin cancer and may help prevent other cancers such as those of the ovary. Red wine is one of the primary dietary sources of quercetin. Research on quercetin and its purported health benefits continues.

Remember: Drink moderately.

Soy comes from soybean, a legume native to China. The health benefits of soy come, in part, from a group of compounds known as isoflavones. Soy isoflavones are plant estrogens (phytoestrogens). Similar in chemical structure to human estrogen, they bind to estrogen receptors around the body. However, soy phytoestrogens are much weaker, which is why scientists believe soy foods may help prevent breast cancer. One prominent isoflavone is genistein, which is believed to inhibit cancer cell and tumor growth.

A diet rich in soy is also linked to a lowered risk of prostate cancer.

Several animal studies have shown that soy isoflavones reduce the growth of prostate tumors.

To incorporate more soy into your diet, substitute soymilk for cow's milk by the glass (8 ounces of soy milk contains 20 mg of isoflavones) or mix soy protein power into milk, juices, shakes and smoothies.

Fighting cancer can be delicious, fun and inexpensive. We recommend a good blender or mixer and a hefty stock of fresh tomatoes and carrots. Start looking for recipes that let you experiment with other fruits or vegetables. If you want to make your own soymilk, check out your local appliance stores for soymilk makers. In fighting cancer, prevention is still the key. “Prevention and early detection are still the most important and effective weapons in the battle against cancer, " says Nenette Umali, senior clinical dietitian at the St. Luke's Medical Center. With these healthful thirst quenchers, cancer prevention can certainly be a refreshing undertaking.

Connie Luayon is a freelance writer and editor. She is the resident blogger of Today's Writer (http://todayswriter.blogspot.com ) and an independent contractor for b5media's Online Media Beat (http://www.onlinemediabeat.com ). You can email her at helloconnie@gmail.com .


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