Even though life expectancy and quality of life are increasing amongst developed countries, there seems to be an enemy that we just can’t seem to deal with. There seems to be so many different types of cancers and little can be done to cure them as they take away our beloved friends and family. This article will discuss its causes and what can be done to help prevent it.
Your body is made up of trillions of small units called cells. Within each cell is your DNA – your genetic code that codes for every little part of you, from your hair colour to the size of your toes. This DNA keeps your body functioning normally so you can live a healthy life and it also is the reason why you look and are different from your friends. If this DNA is aberrantly changed, termed a mutation, then this can cause abnormal function of your cells. These mutations can cause a previously normal cell to proliferate (reproduce) uncontrollably which then makes it a cancer.
Your DNA is composed of thousands of genes with varying functions. A mutation can occur in different genes, different parts of genes or even in different control regions of genes which makes for an almost uncountable number of different combinations.
This means that even if there are 2 people with breast cancer, chances are that the specific gene involved is different making specific drug treatments different.
So what can we do? We know of different things called mutagens that increase the chance of mutations. These include x-rays, radiation and even sunlight, and we can easily reduce this risk by minimising interactions with them and wearing sunscreen. However research has also found that certain foods present specific anti-cancer characteristics.
As a cancerous clump of cells rapidly divides, it forms a large mass of cells. These cells still require nutrients from the blood, however as it gets larger and larger the cells on the inside have no access to the blood. Instead the cancerous cells induce angiogenesis – creation of blood vessels so all the cells have access to nutrients so they stay alive and keep reproducing.
It was found by Bhatia et al. (2015) that lycopene inhibits angiogenesis.
Lycopene is found in carrots, tomatoes and other red vegetables meaning that these may aid in prevention of cancers.
Red wine contains an antioxidant known as resveratrol which comes from the skins of grapes. It has been associated with decreased risk of heart disease and may even aid in prolonging life.
1. Bhatia N, Gupta P, Singh B, Koul A. Nutrition and cancer: Lycopene Enriched Tomato Extract Inhibits Hypoxia, Angiogenesis, and Metastatic Markers in early Stage N-Nitrosodiethylamine Induced Hepatocellular Carcinoma. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc; 2015;67:1270.