How To Grow A Tumor

February 15, 2010 at 10:43 PM (Diet, Treatment) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

You know how once you finally hear the new song everyone’s been talking about, you start to hear it everywhere – in the mall, in a commercial, in line at the supermarket? Since I started this little anti-white-poisons kick a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been hearing a lot more about food as anti-cancer medication than I ever have. And while I’m not sure that I’m onto something unprecedented and groundbreaking, there are links worth sharing, and I’m wondering why more people don’t.

When I wrote that I was cutting out sugar and white flour, one reader encouraged me to look not only at the sugar content of my food but also its place in the glycemic index, or how quickly the body turns it into sugar, and raises blood glucose levels, once I’ve eaten it. Her argument was based on the book Anti-Cancer, by Dr. Servan-Schreiber, which admittedly I’ve yet to read. (As I said before, I’m a little wary of people espousing radical diets as a way to cure cancer, and having been exposed to some more…um, enthusiastic proponents of various whole-hog lifestyle changes in the past [with little or no effect] I’m one to ask questions first and shoot second.) 

But I’m an open-minded girl, so I looked into the glycemic index and its effects on the body a little further. [WARNING: scientific content to follow!  Bear with me – I’ll try to keep it simple.] Raising the level of glucose (sugar)  in the blood, which you do every time you eat, triggers the release of insulin in your body. Insulin breaks down and stores the sugar in your body for later use as energy. The higher the glycemic index of a particular food, the higher and faster it spikes your blood glucose level after you eat it. [Still with me?] 

An increase in blood glucose also triggers the release of insulin-like growth factors (IGFs), compounds that play a role in the promotion of cell proliferation (more and more cells) and the inhibition of cell apoptosis (a cell’s self-regulating kill switch). In other words, with too much sugar in your blood, not only do some cells grow and multiply much more quickly, their automatic “time to die!” trigger is canceled. 

Sound like anyone we know? 

I’ve gotten my hands on some journal articles that have drawn a link between tumor growth and insulin-like growth factor (IGF). Some of them discuss the mounting evidence between the western, high-animal-protein, high-processed-carbohydrate diet and the increasing risk of cancer.(1) Others go as far as to draw direct links between high blood glucose, insulin and IGF and increases in tumor growth and decreases in tumor cell death: “Epidemiological evidence is accumulating and suggests that the risk of cancers of the colon, pancreas, endometrium, breast and prostate are related to circulating levels of insulin, IGF-1, or both.”(2) 

So the short story is that too much sugar in your diet, and not just the classic “sweet” foods but processed grains, some fruits, basically nearly anything advertised anywhere, will spike your blood glucose, insulin, and IGF. And will fuel the tumors that you know about, if you already have cancer, or tumors you don’t know about, if you haven’t been diagnosed yet. 

I’m just curious why my nutritionist at The Cancer Factory didn’t mention any of this when I met with her last year… You might want to pass this along. 

[Thanks for hanging on ’til the end! I should probably reward you with a joke or something: 

How many cancer patients does it take to change a lightbulb? 

No one knows; they’re too tired to climb the ladder!]

Tell a friend. 

  1. Nat Rev Cancer. 2008 Dec;8(12):915-28. Insulin and insulin-like growth factor signalling in neoplasia. Pollak M. Department of Oncology, McGill University, Montréal, Québec, Canada. michael.pollak@mcgill.ca
  2. Novartis Found Symp. 2004;262:247-60; discussion 260-68. Nutrition, insulin, IGF-1 metabolism and cancer risk: a summary of epidemiological evidence. Kaaks R. International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon, France.

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Cancer’s Sweet Tooth, And Mine

January 29, 2010 at 11:52 AM (Age, Diet, Energy, Family, Recovery, Treatment) (, , , , , , )

About six months after my heinous surgery for my first recurrence, Mr. Wonderful, needing to DO something about this, hit up amazon.com for a box of Cancer Nutrition cookbooks. While I spent some time leafing through them when they first arrived, much to his chagrin I didn’t actually implement any of their eating plans, nor did I run out and buy the ingredients for the seven different varieties of kale-and-cauliflower soup. I eat veggies, but couldn’t stomach the thought of vegetarianism or macrobiotic whacko-ness…if these were effective cancer-beaters, wouldn’t we all be living on broccoli by now? Surely there would be a press release, and someone would be trying to make money on it.

My diet isn’t perfect, but we eat very well: lean poultry and fish, with the occasional hamburger or pork tenderloin;  plenty of unrefined carbs and whole grains, vegetables, etc. We don’t eat out often, maybe once a month, and when we do, it’s usually a salad for me (but I’m happy to pick fries from my kids’ plates – no calories if I didn’t order ’em!). I drink only occasionally, eat a healthy breakfast every day, get plenty of exercise, etc. etc.

But oh, the sweet tooth. Raised by a woman who didn’t see the need for dessert after dinner every night, when I reached the age of independence, I started supplying my habit, and haven’t looked back. Now that I have discovered how hard it is to control my weight through exercise alone (thank you, menopause), I do limit myself to the single afternoon diet Coke, and I’ve trained myself to like black coffee. I can go nearly all day without naughty snacks, yet once the kids are in bed, the trolling begins. What am I craving tonight? Four marshmallows (25 cal. ea.)? No, those didn’t do it. Handful of Cinnamon Oat Swirls (130 cal. per 1/2 cup)? Nope. Keep looking… Peppermint Joe-joe? Heavens, no, those are 75 cal. a piece! Maybe a chocolate truffle (60 cal.).  You see my issue.

Last week I read yet another (unconfirmed but footnoted with journals) article on the relationship between tumor growth and sugar. Upon further research, it appears the scientifically-reliable, journal-publishing, study-backed community is still unconvinced that cancer cells gain their evil powers from dietary sugar. But for some reason I felt as if I had crossed some threshhold, some point of maturity that gave me the strength to actually take this final stage of control of my diet. If I cut out refined sugars and carbs (table sugar and processed sweeteners, not honey or maple syrup; white bread and pasta, not whole-grain), maybe I’d give the Avastin a leg up and really knock those tumors down. What harm would there be? I’d still be eating carbs, fruit, veggies, etc., just more of a caveman diet. Not far from where I started, but without the useless sugar. Sure, go for it. You can always quit.

Seven days later, I’m shocked. Not only am I not feeling like I’m making any great sacrifice, I don’t even miss it. See you later, sugar. I started eating completely unsweetened cereal (used to eat Barbara’s Shredded Oats), and found myself, on Thursday morning, noticing the natural sweetness of a walnut. A walnut. I’m having a grapefruit with a drizzle of honey after dinner, and being satisfied, even full, and not looking for more. And some of you will argue that I didn’t have any to lose, which is false, but my (admittedly not bulky) layer of energy stores seems to be fading away FAST. Could it be this easy to keep my weight steady?

WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TELL ME THIS BEFORE??? (I’m looking at you, Ed and Mom.)

[I’ll keep you posted on further developments, including the results of my upcoming 2/11 CT scan.]

P.S. Ed, sorry about the cookbook thing. And not doing this in 2008.

P. P.S. Mom, I’m just kidding – I know you’ve been telling me this for years. Would you stop being right all the damn time?

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