Cancer

The world of natural cancer treatment options is changing every day with promising new developments and breakthrough treatments. Stay on top of all the latest news right here on the NorthStar blog on cancer.

  1. Watercress benefits – may protect against breast cancer

    If you‘re a breast cancer survivor, make sure you take advantage of as many watercress benefits as often as you can. It may just protect you against the cancer ever making a comeback. In fact, according to a new study, this tart leafy green starves out breast cancer cells and interferes with a major cancer pathway.

    Leafy green superfood protects DNA

    Watercress is a delicate leafy green that grows in spring water. It looks a lot like lettuce, but it actually belongs to the cabbage family. It‘s plentiful in iron, calcium, vitamin A and C and for thousands of years people have eaten it to stay healthy.

    In fact, ancient Persians, Greeks, and Romans enjoyed watercress with their meals. I‘ve even read that Hippocrates -- the father of medicine -- built his first hospital next to a spring so that he‘d have easy access to all the watercress benefits.

    A few years back, scientists found that watercress has a lot of anti-cancer potential. In fact, in one study, men and women who ate a serving of watercress each day for eight weeks increased antioxidant levels in their blood. This is important because antioxidants remove cancer-causing free radicals from the body.

    Plus, these folks decreased the DNA damage to their white blood cells by almost 25 percent. And why is that significant? Well, according to Professor Ian Rowland, the study‘s lead researcher, "Blood cell DNA damage is an indicator of whole body cancer risk." So, the more DNA damage there is to your white blood cells, the higher your cancer risk. But the watercress benefits seem to lower your overall risk.

    And, apparently, this is especially beneficial for women...

    Watercress benefits -- "shuts down" breast cancer delivery system

    The latest study looked specifically at how breast cancer cells respond to watercress.

    As you probably know, breast cancer tumors (like most malignant tumors) survive on nutrients delivered by your blood vessels. And as the tumor grows bigger, it needs access to more and more blood vessels.

    To solve this dilemma, the tumor sends a signal for your body to release a protein called HIF. This protein tells normal tissue to redirect their blood vessels into the hungry tumor. As a result, the tumor grows and spreads with nutrients delivered by the "stolen" blood vessels.

    But there‘s a plant compound proven to block the release of HIF and put a stop to all the frantic blood vessel growth...and that plant compound is found in abundance in watercress!

    Breast cancer survivors load up on watercress

    For the study, UK scientists recruited a small group of breast cancer survivors. The women agreed to eat 80 grams of watercress (a cereal bowl full) and then give blood samples over a period of 24 hours.

    The research team discovered two things by analyzing the participants‘ blood samples. First, remember that helpful plant compound that blocks new blood vessel group? Well, after eating watercress, the women had lots of that compound in their blood.

    And that‘s not all...

    Remember that harmful protein -- called HIF -- that signals the body to send healthy blood vessels into malignant tumors? Well, the scientists found that HIF levels significantly dropped after the women ate the watercress. This means that any tumors trying to regain toe-hold in the body had another thing comin‘ after the women ate watercress.

    So, without a doubt, if you‘re a breast cancer survivor, make watercress a part of your weekly (if not daily) regimen. I hear that in Britain that‘s their favorite type of green vegetable.

    Look for it in the refrigerated aisle of the produce section, near the lettuce. It‘s got a small, delicate leaf that almost looks like a flower. Put it on sandwiches. Use it in salads. Or add it to soups, quiches, omelets, sauces and dips to experience all the watercress benefits. You can find tons of recipes on www.watercress.com.

  2. More benefits of green tea – it protects your DNA

    One of the many newly discovered benefits of green tea is  that is protects your DNA. That‘s now a proven scientific fact, thanks to the work of Professor Iris Benzie. And her powerful new discovery helps explain why green tea drinkers seem to avoid weight gain, depression, cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer‘s disease.

    Three reasons to drink green tea

    We already knew that there are many benefits of green tea. First, it purifies the body by eliminating free radicals. Free radicals are those unstable molecules that cause disease and age your body.

    Secondly, drinking green tea promotes the healthy turnover of cells in your body. Technically, it‘s called "apoptosis." And it prompts old cells to die off so that new, healthy cells can take their place. Apoptosis also prevents cancer by blocking the uncontrolled growth and spread of damaged cells.

    And lastly, we now know that green tea also protects your DNA, the tiny building blocks found inside nearly every cell in your body. Many scientists compare DNA to an elaborate set of blueprints or instructions. Think of your DNA as "ground zero" for good health. It all starts in the tiniest building blocks of your cells.

    So what damages your DNA?

    Radiation, UV rays, toxins, chemicals, free radicals, and unhealthy diet can all -- over time -- damage your DNA. Fortunately, your body finds and repairs most damage on its own. In fact, special proteins -- I like to think of them as DNA "watch dogs" -- tirelessly scour your body looking for problems.

    When they find a damaged strand, they immediately tell the cell to stop dividing, so the problem won‘t pass on to the next generation of cells. And then your body goes to work repairing the DNA. This ensures that you will go on to live a long, healthy life.

    But sometimes the DNA cops miss a strand. And these damaged strands can cause problems down the road, such as premature aging and disease. The good news is green tea can help prevent problems from even occurring in your DNA in the first place.

    Green tea protects your DNA

    Iris Benzie and her team of researchers recruited 18 healthy volunteers to participate in a study examining the effects of green tea on DNA. They divided the volunteers into two groups. One group drank two cups of one percent green tea (longjing green tea or screw-shaped green tea) every day for four weeks. The other group drank water every day for four weeks.

    Researchers took samples of the participants‘ blood and urine before and after the month-long study. Their analysis showed that the group who drank green tea reduced their DNA damage by 20 percent. And that was after just 30 days of drinking green tea! Imagine how good your DNA would look if took advantage of the benefits of green tea for one whole year of five years or 20 years.

    Plus...

    Why stop at one cup, when three is better?

    Research from earlier this year shows that drinking three cups of green tea every day may significantly increase your lifespan.

    This time, scientists compared the length of telomeres among green tea drinkers. (Telomeres are DNA sequences at the end of your chromosomes. They shorten as your cells replicate and age. So the longer your telomeres are, the "younger" your cells.)

    Scientist found that men and women who drank an average of three cups of green tea per day had a big advantage over one-cuppers. In fact, their telomeres were 4.6 kilobases longer, which translates into about five years of life.

    So go ahead and have that second (or third) cup of green tea today. The benefits of green tea may just add five years to your life! Just make sure to drink the real stuff, made by you with tea bags. Don‘t fall for the sweetened kind found in bottles. These only contain a fraction of the antioxidants found in real green tea. Instead, it‘s mostly sugar and water.

  3. BPA exposure may cause even more serious health problems

    Remember a few weeks ago I warned you that 40 percent of store receipts contain residue of BPA or bisphenol-A? It‘s a type of plastic commonly used make plastic food and beverage containers. The problem is, BPA leaches into your food and drinks and can disrupt your entire endocrine system. The FDA has told you time and again that moderate exposure to BPA isn‘t harmful to your health. But a new major study proves otherwise. Scientists from the UK recruited 715 healthy adults to examine the effects of BPA on hormone production. They collected samples of their urine and measured the amount of BPA excreted daily. The scientists found that men and women were exposed -- on average -- to a little over 5 micrograms of BPA per day. (Scientists estimate that in the U.S. men and women on average are exposed to slightly less than 5 micrograms of BPA per day.) The scientists also discovered that the higher the BPA exposure, the greater the hormone disruption. In men, they found higher levels of testosterone. Previous studies have also proven that BPA mimics the action of estrogen in the body. These two disruptions together spell big problems for men and women. As you‘ll recall, last year scientists found that men exposed to high levels of BPA experienced significant erectile dysfunction. And for women, too much estrogen circulating in the blood is a major risk factor for breast cancer.

    Small exposure spells big problems

    According to the study‘s lead author, David Melzer, "This is the first big study of BPA from a European country and confirms that ‘routine‘ exposures in the population are not negligible." So even if you don‘t work in a plastic factory, there are significant risks to limited BPA exposure day in and day out. As I‘ve urged before, throw out any plastic that‘s got a #7 on it. You know it contains BPA. Plus -- it‘s wise to avoid all canned foods, as these are likely to contain BPA as well. Plastics products imprinted with #1, #2 and #4 on the bottom are safer choices and do not contain BPA. To solve the problem altogether, skip the plastic and store food in glass or ceramic containers. That‘s what we used in the good ‘ole days, anyway.
  4. GlaxoSmithKline execs slammed for touting resveratrol

    One thing I don't like is a bully. And that's what GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is, when it comes down to it. Last month, GSK forced two of it's execs to stop their volunteer work with a non-profit called Healthy Lifespan Institute. According to its website, Healthy Lifespan is "dedicated to extending the healthy lifespan by studying, educating, and testing the rapid advances in the science and medicine of aging." (Sounds like my kind of organization!) So why exactly did the GSK execs get yanked from the non-profit? Did they spend too much time volunteering for the Institute? No. Did they divert GSK profits to Healthy Lifespan Institute? No. They forced the execs off the non-profit's board simply because the Institute sold resveratrol supplements...at cost. So what's so bad about that? Well, turns out GSK is trying to develop a resveratrol prescription drug that they can patent and make billions off of. As you'll recall from last week's Guide to Good Health, resveratrolis an antioxidant superstar that may help prevent any number of diseases...from Alzheimer's to cancer. I'll tell you what...I actually loved reading about this story. It shows that resveratrol is the real deal if it threatens even a big gun bully like GSK. Plus, every time you take your resveratrol, you're keeping a bully in its place!
  5. High-fructose corn syrup may supercharge cancer growth

    For years, the food industry has tried to tell us that all sugars are the same...and that high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) isn't any worse for you than "real" sugar. And in a way, they're right. HFCS and table sugar (or sucrose) are both bad news. They both contain roughly 50 percent fructose. And a new study conducted by researchers from the University of California proves that cancer cells feed off this type of sugar. In fact, according to the new research, cancer cells use fructose to grow, divide, and even metastasize. And that's a serious concern for most Americans. You see, fructose is everywhere. You'll find it in most sodas, breads, baked goods, and processed foods. You'll even find it in ketchup.

    Sugar is far more dangerous than once thought

    Dr. Anthony Heaney and his team of scientists fed glucose and fructose to pancreatic cancer cells to see what would happen. (They chose to work with pancreatic cancer cells because it's a notoriously aggressive cancer linked to high intake of HFCS.) First, the scientists removed pancreatic cancer tumors from patients. Then, they cultured and grew the malignant cells in Petri dishes. Next, they added glucose and fructose to the cells. They immediately noticed something disturbing about how the cells metabolized fructose. The cancer cells used it to infiltrate the building blocks of healthy DNA. Then the cells began to grow, divide, and spread frantically. In fact, in one interview with BBC, Dr. Heaney stated that the fructose "energized" the cancer cells. Now, back in the 1920s, scientists proved that glucose promotes the spread of cancer. But this is the first time fructose has been shown to do the same. That makes HFCS and table sugar -- which contain fructose and glucose – twice as bad in my book. And although the study used pancreatic cancer cells, Heaney believes fructose can cause other types of cancer to grow and spread too. Heaney even worries that fructose may actually cause new cancer to form. He plans to examine that concern in upcoming research.

    Make healthy, safe choices

    Therefore, my advice is; stay away from processed food that contains any type of sugar. Yes, this week I'm targeting HFCS, but you know I'm wary of any type of sugar, even "regular" sugar. Just go to www.northstarnutritionals.com and type "sugar" into the Guide to Good Health search box. You'll find 52 articles explaining why you should ban all types of sugar from your house. And based on this latest study, avoiding sugar is especially important if you have a history of cancer. My last word of advice is to take your health into your own hands. Avoid the center aisles of the grocery store. And if you do buy ketchup or bread...just make sure it doesn't contain sugar or HFCS. If you're looking for something sweet to sprinkle in your coffee, try Stevia. It's all-natural and far sweeter than sugar, so you only need a pinch.
  6. Resveratrol benefits… could it be the “fountain of youth”?

    I'm a research junkie. I'll admit it. So I just about jumped out of my seat when I read that someone had finally tested resveratrol--the antioxidant superstar found in red wine and grapes--on actual human beings! Yes, nutritionists have known about resveratrol for decades. It helps tame inflammation and prevent oxidative stress. This is significant because unchecked inflammation and oxidative stress can lead to heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, and cancer. Even the mainstream press picked up on resveratrol a few years back when scientists proved it could extend the lifespan of mice by 20 percent! They dubbed it the "fountain of youth." But until last month, there was one giant problem with this antioxidant phenom: Zero clinical proof actually existed that it works on humans. (And I mean, ZERO.) There was plenty of data showing that it can increase the lifespan of roundworms, fruit flies, mice, and yeast. But nothing on humans...until last month. Will the antioxidant superstar work on humans? You may be wondering, why all the fuss? If resveratrol is found in red wine...doesn't everyone know that drinking a glass of red wine is good for your health? And yes, that's true. But this study digs much deeper. In fact, it's the first- ever study showing why resveratrol may be a legit "fountain of youth" for humans after all. Specifically, scientists from the University of Buffalo wanted to see if resveratrol could decrease inflammation and oxidative stress in healthy men and women. So the scientists recruited 20 healthy men and women and took samples of their blood. Then, they split the participants into two groups. One group received 40 mg of resveratrol each day for six weeks. And the other group received a placebo. And here's what they found...

    Anti-aging extract scores off the charts!

    Resveratrol performed just as we all had hoped. First off, it blocked the formation of free radicals (reactive oxygen species or ROS). These harmful, unstable molecules cause damage to healthy cells. Over time, widespread free radical damage can harm your DNA and lead to a disease like cancer. But the participants who took resveratrol for six weeks significantly lowered their ROS levels. Secondly, the resveratrol group also lowered their TNF levels. TNF (or tumor necrosis factor) is a harmful protein that creates inflammation throughout the body. A few weeks ago, we talked about this harmful protein and the role it plays in rheumatoid arthritis. But TNF doesn't just harm rheumatoid arthritis patients. It causes widespread inflammation that can affect your blood vessels, your organs, your skin, and even your brain. It also messes with your body's insulin production. In fact, endocrinologists believe that lowering TNF levels will improve insulin resistance in diabetics.

    Small study, big impact

    Now, unfortunately this study is terribly small in scope with just 20 participants. Nevertheless, I think that it will have a big impact in the years to come. First off, it proves that resveratrol can help control inflammation in humans. And that's huge! Inflammation is the underlying, biological cause of so many different uncured diseases -- from rheumatoid arthritis to Alzheimer's disease. Plus, it just builds more momentum for this superstar antioxidant. It will be interesting to see if one day scientists prove that resveratrol can extend your lifespan, as they proved with mice a few years back. So if you're not already taking something with resveratrol, now's definitely the time start! (Especially if you're over 50 or have an inflammatory disease.) And yes, you'll find resveratrol in red wine and grapes. But you'd have to drink gallons of wine (or eat bushels of grapes) to get 100 mg of resveratrol. That's the amount you'll find in any quality resveratrol supplement. Most of these are derived from the Japanese knotweed herb. So take action now to keep feeling and looking young.
  7. Fish oil supplements may help post-menopausal women slash breast cancer risk

    Be persistent and consistent with your fish oil supplement. It will be worth all the effort, especially if you're a woman. That's because a new study found that women who take fish oil for at least 10 years have a much lower risk of getting breast cancer. U.S. researchers asked 35,000 healthy, post-menopausal women about their supplement use. They found that many of women took specialty supplements as black cohosh, ginseng, and fish oil. Ten years later, 880 of the women developed breast cancer. But the women who took fish oil supplements for at least 10 years cut their risk of breast cancer by an impressive 32 percent! Researchers believe fish oil is helpful to women because it reduces inflammation, a key factor in the growth of breast cancer. As far as I can see, there's only one thing missing from this fantastic study: Vitamin E. You always need to take vitamin E along with any fish oil supplement. As I've said numerous times over the years, the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil produce free radicals. But the antioxidants in vitamin E will zap any free radicals before they can cause any harm.
  8. Just say NO to PSA screening

    Lots of men out there think they're taking care of themselves by getting an annual PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test and DRE (digital rectal exam) to screen for prostate cancer. But over the last 10 years, lots of MDs have raised questions about the effectiveness of these tests. Do they really work? Do they save lives or subject men to needless biopsies that can cause sexual impairment and incontinence? You see, lots of men get prostate cancer but don't have a high PSA number. And lots of men who experience spikes in their PSA numbers, don't really have cancer. The DRE is just as unreliable. Well -- a few months back scientists from the Washington University School of Medicine confirmed just as much. Their results -- published in the New England Journal of Medicine -- were so striking, I'm hoping all the urologists out there will finally get their heads out of the sand and throw out their PSA/DRE testing once and for all. WU scientists followed 76,000 men who received annual PSA and DRE testing between 1993 and 2001. (Data came from the US Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian (PLCO) Cancer Screening Trial.) The scientists followed up with the men seven years later. And what did they discover? They found that regular screening did turn up more cases of prostate cancer, but it did very little to reduce deaths from prostate cancer. In fact, according to senior study author Christine Berg, M.D., "There are men today who were diagnosed with prostate cancer, who now suffer from the side effects of treatment, and who would never have suffered from ill health or may have never died of the disease in the first place." Wow -- if that's not an unequivocal bashing of regular screening for prostate cancer, I don't know what is! Well -- fellas -- since regular screening isn't very useful, what's my suggestion? Keep up your overall health. Maintain a healthy weight. Go for a clean diet filled with fruits and vegetables. Take your daily multivitamins. And, of course, make sure to get plenty of natural (not synthetic) vitamin A!
  9. The Vitamin A Secret Known for 30 Years

    Every man I know worries about getting prostate cancer. And that's understandable. According to the National Cancer Institute, it's the second most common cancer among men. Almost 200,000 men this year alone will learn they have prostate cancer. And nearly 30,000 men a year will die of it. In most men with prostate cancer, the disease progresses very slowly. Watchful waiting is often the prescribed treatment. But in some men, the disease is much more aggressive. Treatment options for this group -- ranging from radical prostatectomy to radiation therapy -- often come with life-changing side effects which can include incontinence and sexual impairment. Even with so-called "nerve-sparing" techniques commonly used today, up to 60 percent of men will experience devastating sexual problems following their prostatectomy. Wouldn't it be great to avoid prostate cancer all together? That's why a new study out this month caught my attention. Scientists found that a man's vitamin A intake may play a role in preventing the aggressive type of prostate cancer that's often treated by removing the prostate gland. In this study, scientists looked at levels of retinol (an active form of vitamin A found in the blood) in 692 men who had prostate cancer and compared it to 844 men who didn't have the disease. While high concentrations of retinol didn't reduce a man's overall risk of developing prostate cancer, it did provide protection against the deadliest forms of the disease. In fact, the men with the highest concentrations of retinol in their blood had a 42 percent reduced risk of "aggressive prostate cancer" compared to the subjects with the lowest levels of retinol in their blood. Translation? Well, the men with the most vitamin A were 42 percent less likely to suffer from really aggressive prostate cancer. And that's huge, especially when you consider the type of treatment you're often facing when they discover your cancer is a fast-growing type. Interestingly, the study authors wrapped up their conclusions with this statement: "Our results suggest that higher circulating concentrations of retinol are associated with a decreased risk of aggressive prostate cancer. Further research is needed to better understand the significance of elevations in serum retinol concentrations and the possible biological mechanisms through which retinol affects prostate cancer." Why scientists don't make good historians Of course, I had to laugh when I read this. The authors made it sound like they are the first to ever determine that vitamin A can reduce a man's risk of getting prostate cancer. The truth is, we've known for at least 30 years (maybe even 80 years) that vitamin A can be a man's best friend in preventing prostate cancer. According to Robert E. Willner, M.D., Ph.D. in his authoritative book The Cancer Solution, "Shortly after its discovery in 1922, Vitamin A was found to be effective in the prevention of cancer." Dr. Willner also reminds us of a massive vitamin A study conducted in 1974 by the National Cancer Institute. Scientists followed 25,000 men over the age of 50 for ten years to see if they developed prostate cancer. (Yes…25,000 men! That's a huge study with results you just can't ignore.) Surprise, surprise... they found a direct correlation between vitamin A intake and prostate cancer. In fact, the scientists at the NCI confirmed that the lower the level of vitamin A in the blood, the higher the risk of prostate cancer. And that was more than 30 years ago! Isn't anyone listening? In 1974 scientists knew that low vitamin A could put you at risk for prostate cancer. But this month scientists put out a study that "suggests" a connection between vitamin A and cancer? So what gives? Why isn't anyone listening? How many times do we need to turn up the same results before someone starts to listen? Heck, 2,000 years ago Hippocrates said: "Let your food be your medicine and let your medicine be your food." If we all just followed his advice, there certainly would be fewer cases of prostate cancer today. Urologists should be handing out vitamin A, well, like candy! In any case, to get more vitamin A in your diet (and you should if you're a man who'd like to lower his risk of prostate cancer and possible prostatectomy), here are some good food sources:
    • Carrots (keep a cup of them out on your countertop; fill the bottom with a ½ inch of water to keep them fresh)
    • Sweet potatoes
    • Beef & chicken (another reason to keep some organic meat and poultry in your diet)
    • Kale
    • Spinach
    • Cantaloupe
    • Winter squash
    • Egg yolks
    Supplementing safely with Vitamin A Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin and protects your cells against abnormalities. There are four things to be aware of when supplementing with vitamin A. First, you can technically get too much, though it's very rare. The symptoms of excess vitamin A aren't hard to spot: dry hair, headaches, etc. But I've found if you're supplementing with vitamin A in conjunction with vitamin C (at least 1,000 mgs 2x per day), you won't run into any problems. Secondly, beware of synthetic vitamin A. All the hype about vitamin A toxicity was due to synthetic A, which you should never take. Also, don't assume beta-carotene is the same as vitamin A. Go for natural fish oil vitamin A. Thirdly, the Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamin A is too low, in my opinion. Many good supplements will include 10,000 IUs of A. But that's probably not enough if you're looking to treat a specific problem. Believe it or not, the starting threshold for the therapeutic use of vitamin A for acne, for example, is 50,000 IUs daily. (I usually recommend trying 100,000 IU for two to three months and if the acne improves, go lower.) Some practitioners who use vitamin A therapy with their cancer patients prescribe in the neighborhood of 1,000,000 IU per day (yep, a million). Lastly, there is a definite risk of birth defects due to high-dose A use during conception and the first trimester. So if you're a young woman of childbearing years, I would recommend exercising caution and, of course, working closely with your obstetrician or naturopath. I take 50,000-75,000 IUs a day of vitamin A and have for decades. It's just another safeguard we as men can -- and should -- take to protect ourselves against this all too common form of cancer.

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