Cancer is scary, sneaky, confusing, overwhelming, and in my opinion starting to get kind of annoying. While annoying is not a word that you usually hear associated with cancer, I really don't think we should have to spend so much time and energy avoiding this "condition" that we have tended to refer to as a disease. There are many different ways to describe cancer such as "a healing reaction that never stops" or "out-of-control cell growth" but what is it really? Well the source of cancer is really cellular DNA damage. 

The following is from cancer.org

"DNA is in every cell and it directs all the cell’s actions. In a normal cell, when DNA gets damaged the cell either repairs the damage or the cell dies. In cancer cells, the damaged DNA is not repaired, and the cell doesn't die like it should. Instead, the cell goes on making new cells that the body doesn't need. These new cells all have the same abnormal DNA as the first cell does.

People can inherit abnormal DNA, but most DNA damage is caused by mistakes that happen while the normal cell is reproducing or by something in the environment. Sometimes the cause of the DNA damage may be something obvious like cigarette smoking or sun exposure. But it’s rare to know exactly what caused any one person’s cancer."

It turns out that less than 15% of cancer comes from inherited genetics, and the other 85% comes from the things that happen throughout our lives. The people who make statistics say that half of men and one third of American women will develop cancer in their lifetimes (did you catch that? Okay, it was the American Cancer Society that said it). So I suppose it is reasonable to want to spend every moment of our lives avoiding cancer, but unfortunately the stress of doing that will inevitably cause cancer no matter how healthy your diet is. So I guess we should focus on things that "avoid cellular DNA damage." I wish I could tell you that were simpler than it is, but the entire health industry has spent years attempting to simplify and group together foods and activities that we know to be healthy in a campaign against cancer that I would consider to be largely unsuccessful. The simple fact is that people who continue to educate themselves about avoiding cancer and also "practice what they preach" will generally have a substantially lower chance at getting cancer, but there is no magic bullet you can do that will allow you to live the rest of your life like a typical American and still avoid cancer. The Anti-Cancer Diet acknowledges this and simply attempts to give you all the facts. 

Enter "The Anti-Cancer Diet."

Based on a book by David Servan-Schreiber, a PhD and Doctor of Medicine who defeated brain cancer and spent the next 15 years dedicating his life to the development of an Anti-Cancer lifestyle. I cannot say that I have read the book myself, but I have researched the concepts in detail and will do my best to summarize them here (A very long description can be found here).

There are a number of basic principles to the diet, most of which I agree with entirely:

  • Focus on Organic, Plant-Based Foods
  • Cut Way Back on Sugar
  • Bulk up on Fiber
  • Cut Down on, or Eliminate Meat
  • Choose your Fats Wisely (omega-3 vs omega-6 etc)
  • Choose Cancer-Fighting Foods
  • Prepare your Food in Healthy Ways
  • Reduce Stress
  • Exercise
  • Avoid Foods and Activities that Cause Inflammation

It appears that the book gives exhaustive lists and descriptions of each of these principles, a sample of which can be found here. There are lots of interesting facts such as a discussion of how the grilled part of barbecued meat is actually a notable carcinogen which contributes to the cancer increasing discussions around meats. In addition there is a discussion and a large focus on how cancer is caused by inflammation:

"Cancer cells do not behave like normal cells. They refuse to die after a certain number of divisions, and they poison the tissues around them with chemical substances, creating inflammation, which they need to sustain their growth. Recent research reviewed in the journal Science confirms that the more successful cancers are in provoking inflammation, the more aggressive the tumour and the better it is at spreading over long distances, ultimately reaching lymph nodes and spreading to other organs. Links have been found between several types of cancer and chronic inflammation caused by either a virus such as papillomavirus in the cervix or environmental factors such as asbestos or smoking. Oncologists at the University of Glasgow have been measuring inflammation levels in the blood of patients with various cancers since the 1990s and have found that patients with the lowest levels of inflammation were twice as likely as the others to live for several years."

The message of the book is that while modern medicine is attempting to figure out a method to stop inflammation of cells, there are already a number of natural ways to do this. It goes on to say:

"It’s simply a matter of eliminating certain toxins from our environment, adopting an anti-cancer diet, seeking emotional balance and getting enough exercise."

Just as with any article or book on cancer, you are likely to hear a lot of things that you already knew and a few that you didn't. While the above is not at all groundbreaking news, the book doesn't claim to have any new "magic bullet." It simply gives a description of the best natural ways humans currently known to prevent cancer, and why western medicine has learned that there are good reasons that these things work.

So let's see if it passes my test from the previous post. 

  1. The correct ratio of Carbohydrates (40%-50% of Calories), Fats (20%-30% of Calories), and Proteins (25%-35% of Calories): Yes
  2. Very high in all nutrients, and diverse enough to include all essential nutrients: Yes
  3. Devoid of foods that can be identified as obviously harmful: Yes
  4. Ideally but not necessarily, tested by centuries of tradition: Yes (not specifically this diet of course)
I would say that each of these could certainly be accomplished within the bounds of the Anti-Cancer Diet. The book gives a LOT more detail on the individual foods that are recommended, and a sample can be found on the page I referred to above. This can be extremely useful for someone who is looking to enhance their knowledge of health and nutrition, and who refuses to believe anything without an explanation (like any of us really know what polyphenols are anyways, but how else are they supposed to explain that green tea prevents tumor growth?). I think the book is one that would need to be read multiple times in order to ingrain the lists of foods and the reasons that they are healthy, but overall it gets my stamp of approval.

The Anti-Cancer Diet will undoubtedly work to keep you healthy (and probably lose weight in the process), and I highly recommend the foods and behaviors described in the book. It isn't groundbreaking information and the regimen has not been simplified in a way that makes it easy to follow without constant reference to the book or other resources, but that is largely because avoiding cancer in America is not a particularly simple task. Having not read the book myself, I did not have an opportunity to pick out any extra special sentences that might help to simplify the diet, but overall I think that the book is a great way to educate yourself on a living a healthy lifestyle and serves as an excellent "one stop shop" for natural anti-cancer resources. It's one of the next audio books I will be ordering when I finish the incredibly long "Atlas Shrugged."

P.S. The new revised addition currently available adds a few newer pieces of research, but was largely rewritten to make sure that the "Mind-Body Connection" portion of the book was more effectively received, focusing on avoiding feelings of helplessnes 

11/14/2012 08:31:32 am

Atlas Shrugged for the win

11/19/2012 12:06:24 am

I was if you could spend some time talking about this type of nutritional adhearance, but based around athletes and athletic proformace.

For athletes (professional and non-professional) there is a lot out there from supplements to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. I would like to hear your thoughts on what will keep a person healthy but also provide them the fuel their body needs for peak performace.
Thank you and looking forward to more!


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