Dr. Silvia D. Stan of Purdue University presented a very interesting lecture, “Cancer Prevention and Phytochemicals.”
After researching so much about GMOs and listening to Purdue University’s Food Toxicology expert, Dr. Huber’s talk, it is clear to me that GMOs pose a threat to the health and safety of Americans.
According to Dr. Stan’s talk, cancer is a disease of malfunctioning cells. Tumors develop initially from normal cells and can either become benign (localized, non-invasive) or malignant (invasive, metastatic) tumors. Benign tumors are more common as people get older and won’t be a problem unless they disrupt the function of the body. For example, a benign tumor on the skin would most likely be harmless, but a benign tumor in the brain would start compressing the brain and have a severe effect. Also, a benign tumor in the thyroid gland, would interfere with endocrine function causing hypothyroidism. Malignant tumors are the definition of cancer, they can go to neighboring tissues and grow large tumors. They can start in one organ, say in the breast for example, and can metastasize, say into bone tissue (sarcoma), and spread throughout the body.
Tumors that arise from different tissues have different names. Tumors that arise from epithelial cells (skin cells) are called carcinomas which account for 80% of tumors. Examples of tumors that arise from non-epithelial cells could be sarcomas which is cancer of the bone, as well as leukemia, and lymphomas, which is cancer in the blood, and gliomas (brain or spine originating from glial cells), and neuroblastoma which are nervous tissue tumors as well.
Dr. Stan discussed how according to the figure above, the estimated new cases of cancer is different than the estimated deaths caused by cancer as of 2013. This means that there are still many issues with the effectiveness of the treatment of different types of cancer, so it is important that we learn how to prevent it.
This slide goes over how cancer develops. Dr. Stan explained how all cancers initially start off as normal tissue, and they develop progressively. I am personally extremely interested in this again for learning about what dangers GMOs might bring to normal tissues, as well as how to naturally prevent and reverse cancer, possibly with a raw vegan diet rich in phytochemicals. “As normal cells accumulate mutations, they start getting transformed into benign tumors, and as they accumulate more mutations, that tissue becomes more transformed, and it starts to proliferate.” As you can see in the image above the integrity of the cell changes. The normal cells have a small nuclei and as cancer progression continues the nuclei becomes large and the cell divides rapidly and easily. “Normal cells start accumulating mutations and for pancreatic cancer examples of this are K-ras patients and HER2, these are oncogenes which get mutated and then they get activated, and they lead to proliferation of cells. As more mutations get accumulated, for example p16, p53, DPC4, BRCA2, those are examples of tumor suppressor genes that get mutated and therefore inactivated. ‘Tumor Suppressor Genes’ keep the tumor small, so when they get inactivated the early lesion can grow faster and may lead to more advanced lesions and eventually the development of cancer and the metastasis to other organs.” Dr. Stan explained how cancer development can take decades, which means there leaves a large window for preventive strategies or for preventive agents to be utilized to prevent the development or the progression of cancer.
Both hereditary and environmental factors can influence cancer risk.
Diet an Cancer: Things to Consider:
May Increase Cancer Risk:
- Excessive Fat Intake
- Excessive Calorie Intake
“It has been shown also that in rodents that caloric restriction can lead to reduced risk of developing cancer”
May Reduce Cancer Risk:
- Dietary Fiber (adequate amounts are important for prevention of several types of cancer, such as colon cancer)
- Micronutrients (vitamins and minerals, especially important for maintaining health status)
- Phytochemicals (have been shown to have the potential to prevent the development of cancer)
“There are other factors in the diet that can lead to the development of cancer, this has to do with carcinogens. For example, high intakes of grilled meat can lead to increased risk of some cancers. That is primarily from the compounds that get formed during grilling.
A fellow student in the class asked if these carcinogens are present on other grilled foods, such as grilled vegetables. Dr. Stan explained, “Different compounds are formed when different macromolecules get burned. Meats are high in protein, and obviously are going to lead to the formation of different compounds. There are also nitrosamines in meat products, especially in processed meats, which are going to lead to the development of cancer as well.”
There are thousands and thousands of phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables. Research is underway to determine which ones are most bioactive.
Increased phytonutrient intake doesn’t just decrease risk of cancer, but other diseases!
“In order for a phytochemical to be effective, what do you think will need to happen?”
“We consume different amounts of fruits and vegetables, how much of those are needed because so much is needed for a beneficial effect. In order for these phytochemicals to work they need to be present in enough amounts in the blood. Researchers are going to see different diets that show effect with different levels of phytochemicals. It is important to have physiological and feasible levels to be able to make a correlation that that is going to make an effect. So, plasma levels of phytochemicals are important for activity.”
Raw vs. Cooked Food:
“Also, how the food is processed is going to effect the amount of active compounds that work. “Raw food vs. cooked food.” During the metabolism and absorption some phytochemicals need to be broken in a certain way so they can be congugated, and in order to be absorbed they need the action of a certain enzyme. For example for isothiocyanates, they need an enzyme called myrosinase, which is released during chewing of the raw vegetable. If the food is boiled, the enzyme is inactivated, so obviously that is going to effect the action of the phytochemicals. So, the contents in the food can effect the amount of the active compound.”
As you can see, Dr. Stan mentioned how the bioavailability and composition of phytochemicals can vary. This made me think of organic vs. GMO as well as fruits and vegetables ripened in ethylene gas chambers as opposed to picked when ripe. I can imagine the picked ripe, organic fruits have vegetables have more phytochemicals than GMO conventional ones.