Lifestyle & Cancer
Our changing lifestyle and habits are exposing us to various cancer causing agents known as carcinogens. We are constantly exposed to a variety of carcinogens in the food, we eat; in the water, we drink; and in the air, we breathe. Electromagnetic Radiation emitted by man made technological devices like Cell Phone Towers, Cell Phones, Computers and other electrical appliances can cause cancer. Moreover, the modern life has become fast and competitive leading to chronic stress that further enhances the risk of cancer by suppressing immune system of the body.
Pesticides & Insecticides
The food containing residues of pesticides is one of the top three risk factors of cancer. The commonly used pesticides are Carbaryl, Chlordane, Diazinon, Dichlorvos, Dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT), Lindane, Malathion and Toxaphene. Most of these chemicals used as pesticides have strong carcinogenic effect. The residues of pesticides enter into food articles such as fruits & vegetables. When such a food containing residues of pesticides is consumed, the body gets exposed to these highly carcinogenic chemicals, which can cause cancer by damaging the cellular DNA. Studies have shown that the farmers and agricultural workers, who are directly exposed to pesticides, have much higher risk of developing cancer, particularly the non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Conventionally grown coffee beans contain high content of DDT residues, which can cause cancer by suppressing the activity of immune cells of the body.
About 15,000 chemical compounds and 35,000 formulations have been used as pesticides since the last 50 years. The global use of pesticides has increased tenfold since 1950. It has been observed that the agricultural produce of Southeast Asia contains much higher levels of residues of carcinogenic pesticides, because pesticides are used aggressively in this part of the world. Southeast Asia has 1.4 per cent of the world’s available land for agriculture, but uses 3.6 per cent of the total consumed quantity of pesticides in the world.
Consumption of fruits & vegetables containing the residues of agricultural pesticides has shown six fold higher risk of cancer in children. About 50 per cent of the insecticides are used for non-agricultural purposes (such as fumigation of homes), which can cause cancer after entering the human body. Herbicides used to control weeds are another major source of chemical carcinogens, which can cause various cancers including leukaemia & brain tumours.
Our single meal might contain residues of a dozen of chemicals carcinogens from various pesticides, insecticides and herbicides. After entering the body, these carcinogenic chemicals get accumulated in the breast, prostate, brain and fat tissue. This process is called bioaccumulation. These chemical carcinogens are seldom discharged from the body except in the breast milk of nursing mothers. The bioaccumulation of chemical carcinogens damages the DNA causing mutations in the genes, thus causing cancer.
A study conducted by the department of Occupational Health at Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School in Jerusalem has revealed that there are higher levels of Polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs), Dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT) and certain other pesticides in the breast tissue samples of those women who have the breast cancer as compared to those women who have benign tumour of the breast. Similarly, the men having prostate cancer were found to have much higher levels of pesticides in their tissue samples, as compared to those men who have benign prostate hypertrophy (BPH). Studies have revealed that there is fourfold higher risk of breast cancer in those women, who have higher levels of DDE (a major metabolite of DDT) in their blood.
In 1978, Israel banned Dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT) and Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which are directly linked to the breast cancer. Over the next 10 years, after the ban of these chemicals, the rate of breast cancer declined sharply in Israel. A Swedish study has revealed that the exposure to pesticides can cause many cancers including the Hodgkin’s disease, testicular cancer, cancer of the endocrine glands and malignant tumours of brain.
Organic agricultural products are gaining popularity among the discernible section of society, who prefer to grow cereals, vegetables and fruits in the organic way for their own consumption. There is a big challenge ahead for our plant pathologists, genetic engineers and other agricultural scientists to provide sufficient poison free and non-carcinogenic food to the huge population.
It is estimated that about 10 per cent human cancers are caused by industrial toxins. Most of the industrial toxic chemicals and heavy metals such as Lead, Arsenic, Mercury, Aluminium, Nickel and Cadmium are known carcinogens that cause cancer after entering the human body. Lead can enter the human body through canned food, cooking utensils and rusted water pipes. Cadmium is found in instant tea, coffee, soft drinks, fungicides, nickel-cadmium batteries and plastic items. Mercury can find its way into the human body through paints and dental fillings. Aluminium is found in certain drugs, deodorants, aluminium foils and utensils. Other occupational carcinogens include benzene, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), diesel exhaust, hair dyes, mineral oils and painting materials. These industrial toxins accumulate in the breast, brain, bones, glands, hair and fat tissues. The bioaccumulation of these industrial toxins in different tissues and organs of the human body causes cancer by damaging the cellular DNA.
The incidence of lung and skin cancers is much higher among tanners, oil refinery workers and insecticide sprayers due to arsenic. The risk of lung cancer is exceptionally high among shipyard workers, demolition experts and brake-lining mechanics due to asbestos. Hospital & laboratory staff and manufacturers of wood products are exposed to formaldehyde, which can cause cancer. Studies have revealed that the women living in vicinity of the toxic-waste dumpsites have the highest rate of breast cancer due to certain chemicals, which mimic the activity of oestrogen. It has been observed that many weak environmental oestrogenic chemicals have synergistically enhanced combined effect, for example, a combination of Dieldrin, Endosulfan and Toxaphene produces thousand times enhanced oestrogenic effect.
In a recent study conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency of USA, more than 400 toxic chemical carcinogens were found in the human body (48 in fat tissue, 40 in breast, 73 in liver and 250 in blood). A study done by Dr. Hildegarde L.A. Staninger, an expert in industrial toxicology, has revealed that the tissue samples of patients suffering from cancer of the prostate are found to have abnormally high levels of Arsenic, Chlordane & Dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT).
Tap water supplied by municipalities for drinking purposes may get contaminated by toxic chemicals (organic & inorganic), living organisms, solid particulates and radioactive substances. It might contain toxic industrial wastes, chlorine by-products, fluoride, lead & other heavy metals that can cause cancer by damaging the DNA. Similarly, the groundwater may get contaminated by alpha particles released from natural radionuclides (such as Uranium, Radium and Radon) and human made radionuclides, which can cause cancer.
Chlorine is commonly used to kill harmful bacteria in the drinking water such as Shigella, Salmonella and Vibrio cholera. Chlorination of water can lead to formation of various cancer-causing compounds in the drinking water. When chlorine reacts with organic matter, present in the water, certain toxic and carcinogenic compounds known as trihalomethanes are produced, which include Chloroform and Trichloroethylene. Chloroform (earlier used as an anaesthetic agent), has already been banned since 1976, due to its carcinogenic effect. It has been observed that the prolonged use of chlorinated water can lead to genesis of cancers of the rectum and the bladder. When chlorine interacts with the humus in water (that is produced by decaying plants in water), it produces two chlorinated acids known as MX and DCA. Both of these chlorinated acids promote the growth of cancer and possess mutagenic activity. DCA is known to cause cancer of the liver. A Norwegian study published in 1992 in the “International Journal of Epidemiology” revealed that the incidence of colorectal cancer increases 30 per cent due to consumption of chlorinated water. Inhalation of chlorine is even more dangerous than drinking the chlorinated water. According to a report published in the International Health News, the amount of chloroform inhaled or absorbed through the skin during a shower is 6 times higher than that absorbed from the chlorinated drinking water in a day. It has been observed that about 70 per cent of toxins found in water enter into the body through skin during bath & shower.
Fluoride is another highly toxic and carcinogenic compound that has been added to the public drinking water and toothpaste since the 1950s, with the aim to protect teeth against formation of cavities. It has been observed that fluoride has carcinogenic effect in concentrations as low as 1ppm. Fluorine (a component of fluoride) slows down the mechanism of natural DNA repair. Fluoridated water causes bone and skin cancers.
A tobacco smoker prepares the most fertile ground and create the perfect conditions for genesis & growth of cancer by providing many lethal carcinogens, toxins & free radicals as well as creating deficiency of antioxidants and suppressing immune system of the body. Tobacco smoking can cause many cancers including those of the mouth, throat, vocal cord, lung, stomach, pancreas, kidney, bladder, cervix and blood. India has the highest rate of oral cancers in the world due to the wide spread habit of tobacco chewing. Studies have revealed that the tobacco related cancers account for more than one third of all the cancer deaths.
Tobacco smoke generates more than 2000 chemical compounds, most of which are toxic and carcinogenic. The level of Carbon monoxide in tobacco smoke is eight times higher than the maximum permissible limits. Carbon monoxide cuts down the oxygen carrying capacity of the red blood cells, thus reducing the oxygen supply to the vital organs such as brain, heart and lungs.
Tobacco contains Nicotine, which is not only addictive but also one of the major cancer promoters. Tobacco tar contains hydrocarbons such as Nitrosamines, Benzene, Benzopyrenes and other toxic compounds, which are major carcinogens. Benzopyrene damages the tumour suppressor gene (p53 gene) in the exposed cells of the lungs, leading to genesis of cancer. Tobacco tar also contains radioactive compounds such as Potassium-40 and Radium-226, having carcinogenic effect. Cigarette smoking generates extraordinary amount of free radicals (highly reactive, unstable molecules) in the body that promote growth of cancer. Antioxidants normally neutralise the free radicals but the smokers are having much lower levels of vitamin C and other antioxidants in their blood. The activity of natural killer (NK) cells also gets suppressed in tobacco smokers that further enhances the risk of cancer. Cancer genesis in smokers depends on the quantity of cigarettes and the duration of smoking. Even non-smoking persons living in the vicinity of smokers (passive smokers) are not spared from the carcinogenic effects of tobacco smoke. It is estimated that about twenty per cent of the total lung cancers develop due to the passive smoking. The risk of cancer drops considerably, when a person stops smoking.
Leukoplakia is a white thickened patch that usually appears in the mucous membrane of the oral cavity in tobacco-chewers & smokers. With continued use of tobacco, it progresses to form cancer. On the other hand, if the person having Leukoplakia stops tobacco-chewing & smoking, the leukoplakic patch does not develop into cancer, instead it gradually reverts back to the normal tissue. Tobacco smoking in women can lead to cServical dysplasia (an altered patch of cervical tissue that can progress to cancer). Studies conducted by the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in London on the women smokers having cervical dysplasia, revealed that the lesions reduce remarkably in those women who stop smoking for more than six months.
Smoking is a learned behaviour that is usually adopted at a young age. Once trapped, the person is likely to continue smoking despite the feeling that he or she can give it up. Tobacco smoker easily becomes physically and mentally addicted to it. By the time the smoker develops craving; it becomes a true addiction. It has been observed that the smokers have an exceptionally powerful desire to smoke, as strong as in the heroin addicts.
Many tobacco smokers have the excuse that smoking is the solution for their problems such as the inability to concentrate, lack of confidence and boredom. The most common excuse for a person to smoke is the perception that it relieves anxiety & stress. Smoker thinks that the smoking tranquillises the person in anxious moments, unaware of the fact that it has just the opposite effect as the smoking makes the person more tense by increasing the pulse rate and blood pressure.
A firm determination is required to quit smoking. Most of the smokers, who would like to give up smoking, might succeed initially, but ultimately only twenty per cent of them are able to quit. The effort to quit smoking may not yield much result, unless the conditions that have inspired the person to start smoking behaviour are altered. The best time to quit smoking is during an illness, when the natural desire to smoke is reduced. Withdrawal symptoms of smoking include lethargy, headache, sore throat, weight gain, etc., most of which are temporary in nature and normally disappear within a fortnight. The risk of cancer drops considerably, when a person stops smoking.
Most of the cancers are caused by food related factors. Certain foods contain carcinogens, while in some; carcinogens are produced during the process of cooking & storing. Nutritional imbalances are also known to cause cancer, for example, today's fast food, which is rich in sodium and cholesterol but poor in fibres, vitamins and calcium, can lead to the development of cancer.
Some bitter tasting cereals, peanuts and corn might contain Aflatoxins, which are broken down into Epoxide in the liver. Epoxide is highly carcinogenic agent that remains in the body for a very short duration, but this period is sufficient for it to damage the cellular DNA. Aflatoxins can cause cancers of liver, stomach and kidney.
Grilled, tandoori and fried foods contain Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons along with some other toxins, which enhance the risk of cancer by damaging the DNA. In China, the incidence of stomach and oesophageal cancer is higher due to excessive consumption of smoked & pickled foods that contain several carcinogenic substances.
Excessive consumption of animal proteins produces large amount of nitrogenous waste in the intestine that get converted into highly carcinogenic compounds called Nitrosamines, which are known to cause various cancers including those of the breast, colon, pancreas, kidney, prostate and uterus. Studies conducted in the U.S.A. have revealed that the persons consuming red meat have twofold higher risk of the breast cancer in females and threefold higher risk of the prostate cancer in males. Another study has shown that there is higher incidence of colon cancer among the persons who consume beef, pork or lamb meat. Certain carcinogens are produced when meat, poultry and fish are fried, broiled, grilled or barbecued for longer periods at higher temperature. The fried and broiled meat have higher content of mutagens. A study conducted on non-vegetarians has shown that 20 per cent of them have toxic mutagens in their digestive tract.
Excessive consumption of fat, particularly the animal fat enhances the chance of damage to DNA, causing various cancers including those of the breast, colon, rectum, uterus, prostate and kidney. On the other hand, low intake of fat decreases the risk of cancer. Most of the consumed animal fat is of Omega-6 class, which acts as cancer promoter by generating free radicals (highly reactive, unstable molecules that promote growth of cancer) and suppressing immune system of the body. But the fat found in fish and vegetable oils (such as Corn, Safflower, Sunflower, Flaxseed, Sesame, Walnut and Pumpkin seed) is of Omega-3 class, which are beneficial to the human health. Omega-3 fatty acids promote production of the good eicosanoids (such as PGE-1) and prevent synthesis of the bad eicosanoids (such as PGE-2). It is worth mentioning that Omega-3 fatty acids synthesise PGE-1 in the presence of certain co-factors like Zinc, Niacin, Pyridoxine and Ascorbic acid. By avoiding meat, eggs, fried foods, creamy sauces, oily dressings and other dairy products in the diet, one can get rid of bad eicosanoids. A study conducted in the USA on 429 non-smoking lung cancer patients for 6 years, has shown that the excessive dietary intake of saturated fat is one of the major causes of lung cancer.
Eicosanoids are hormone like substances produced from Arachidonic acid & other fatty acids. The Good Eicosanoids improve immunity and overall health of a person. The Bad Eicosanoids promote genesis & growth of cancer by stimulating inflammatory process, enhancing proliferation of the cancerous cells and paralysing immune cells of the body, especially the natural killer (NK) cells.
Consumption of contaminated fish can cause cancer. It has been observed that industrial and agricultural pollutants such as mercury, nickel and hydrocyanic acid get entered into the tissues of fish through food chain. Other chemicals such as Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and Methyl mercury also get accumulated in fish. Studies have shown that Polychlorinated biphenyls can cause cancer in the human beings, even in very small quantity. Methyl mercury decreases the activity of immune cells, thus predisposing the body to cancer.
The recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) injections are routinely used in dairy cows to increase the milk yield. The use of dairy milk from rBGH treated cows can cause cancer of the breast. Consumption of dairy products & meat contaminated with steroids and antibiotics is another risk factor of cancer.
Excessive consumption of sugar & other refined carbohydrates lowers oxygen level in the body thus creating favourable condition for the tumour to grow. Sugar promotes the growth of cancer by stimulating PGE-2 production in the body. Sugar also reduces the activity of immune cells in the body. Studies have shown that after consuming 100 grams of sugar, working capacity of the white blood cells is reduced by 35 per cent for at least 2 hours. The immune suppressive action starts within 30 minutes of taking sugar and lasts up to 5 hours. It has been observed that consumption of sugar stimulates production of insulin in the body, which in turn promotes growth of cancer.
Most of the food additives like preservatives, sweeteners and colorants have carcinogenic activity. Butylated hydroxytoluene used as a preservative, can cause cancer of the liver. Saccharin and Cyclamates, used as artificial sweeteners can cause cancer of the bladder. Another artificial sweetener called Aspartame is known to cause brain tumours. Other food additives, which are known to cause cancer, include Blue Dye No 2, Red Dye No. 3, Propyl gallate, Gentian violet, Nitro furans and Aldicarb.
Food irradiation can cause cancer. Irradiation of food is done to kill insects, bacteria, moulds and fungi with the aim to extend its shelf life. During the process of irradiation, food is exposed to radioactive substances such as Caesium-137 and Cobalt-60. The process of food irradiation can produce certain toxic substances (such as Benzene and Formaldehyde) in the food. Irradiation also increases the level of Aflatoxins (one of the major carcinogens) in the food. When the residual contents of herbicides, insecticides, pesticides, fungicides, colorants, antibiotics, steroids, preservatives and stabilisers present in the food are irradiated, these get transformed into certain toxic radioactive products known as Unique Radioactive Products (URPs), which are highly carcinogenic substances.
Alcohol stimulates the growth of cancer by suppressing the activity of the natural killer (NK) cells, leading to various cancers including those of the breast, mouth, throat, oesophagus, pancreas and liver.
Excessive intake of caffeine (found in coffee, tea, cola and chocolate) can cause cancer of the urinary tract. Caffeine damages the cellular DNA as well as impairs the natural DNA repair mechanism, thus enhancing the risk of cancer.
Iron promotes the growth of tumours by producing free radicals (highly reactive, unstable molecules that promote the growth of cancer). A recent research data has shown that even moderate accumulation of iron in the body enhances the risk of cancer.
Advances in science & technology have exposed the modern society to radiation from various sources (ranging from the electromagnetic waves emitted by cell phones to the nuclear radiation) that can cause cancer. Radioactive waves emitted in atomic explosions have significant carcinogenic effect. Most of the survivors of 1945 atomic bomb explosions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki developed leukaemia due to atomic radiation. Studies have revealed that incidence of pancreatic and breast cancers increased manifold in Japan after the atomic explosions. Similarly, after the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986, incidence of thyroid cancer increased 100 times among the children residing in the most exposed areas of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.
People living near nuclear power plants are exposed to radioactive gases, which are highly carcinogenic. A study conducted by Steve Wing, an epidemiologist, at the University of North Carolina on 8000 men working at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (where uranium is processed), has shown that the workers, who are exposed to nuclear radiation have much higher incidence of leukaemia, lung cancer and stomach cancer. It has also been observed that the children living near nuclear installations have much higher incidence of leukaemia. In the USA, about 33 per cent population is exposed to the nuclear radiation, because 1321 out of the total 3053 counties in the USA are having nuclear facilities. Studies have shown that residents of the nuclear counties have much higher rate of breast cancer due to the exposure to radioactive Iodine & Strontium (by-products of nuclear fission). It has been observed that four out of the sixteen most industrialised countries had a much lower incidence of breast cancer during 1971 to 1986 as compared to the remaining 12 countries, because these 4 countries (New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong and Israel) did not possess large nuclear reactors during that period.
Major carriers of the fission by-products are water, air and dairy products. Studies have revealed that there is much higher risk of cancer among the people, who consume dairy products and other food items contaminated by radioactive releases from nuclear power plants. The radiation emitted by nuclear fission by-products work synergistically with other environmental carcinogens such as air-pollutants, diesel fumes, asbestos, cigarette smoke and pesticides.
Exposure to ionising radiation such as X-rays, Gamma rays and particle radiation from radioactive substances forms highly reactive ions in the exposed cells that can lead to genesis of cancer by rupturing the DNA strands, causing mutations in the genes. Studies have shown that exposure to even low-levels of ionising radiation can cause cancer. In earlier days, the radiologists were used to develop thyroid tumours and leukaemia because they were not protected from the X-rays. Research done by Ernest Sternglass, professor of Radiation Physics at the University of Pittsburgh, has shown that low-levels of radiation from X-rays, background radioactivity and nuclear reactor fallout can cause cancer.
Solar radiation (particularly ultraviolet B and ultraviolet C) is the cause of about 40 per cent skin cancers. Ultraviolet radiation induces permanent mutation in the tumour suppressor gene (p53 gene) in the exposed cells that leads to the genesis of cancer. Exposure to ultraviolet radiation is increasing, day-by-day, due to the expanding ozone hole in the earth’s upper atmosphere. It has been observed that the people having darker colour are protected from ultraviolet radiation due to the presence of a pigment (Melanin) in their skin. Caucasians of Australia are the worst affected by ultraviolet radiation, due to over exposure to sunlight and lower content of melanin in their skin.
Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) generated by certain devices such as fluorescent lights, electrical wirings, electric motors, food mixers, hair dryers, heaters, electric shavers, vacuum cleaners, microwave ovens, televisions, computers, video terminals and cell phones, etc., emit 30 to 100 times higher EMFs than the permissible limits, which can cause cancer by activating various Oncogenes. Ordinary home appliances generate large cumulative electro-magnetic radiation due to the proximity of the user to these appliances. The EMFs from these appliances drop off at a distance of about 16 feet but the users usually stand or sit closer to these appliances. The electrical current induced in the human body by these EMFs is weaker than that produced by the electrical activities in the nerve & muscle cells of the body. These low frequency EMFs promote tumour growth by affecting certain enzymes, which are related to the Growth regulation, Gene expression and Pineal gland metabolism. It has been observed that the prolonged exposure to electromagnetic fields activates various Oncogenes leading to the genesis of cancer, particularly the brain tumours and leukaemia.
Research done by Dr. Nancy Wertheimer, an epidemiologist, at the University of Colorado in 1979, has revealed that there is fivefold higher incidence of cancer in the children, who were exposed to EMFs arising from electric power lines running along the city streets. Another study conducted by the New York State Department of Health in 1987 confirmed Dr. Nancy Wertheimer’s findings and added that the exposure to EMFs inhibits production of a neuro-hormone called Melatonin, which has antioxidant, immune enhancing and anticancer properties. The National Council on Radiation Protection has reported that reduction in Melatonin can lead to the genesis of cancer. According to David A. Savitz of the University of North Carolina School of Public Health, the children living near high-tension power lines have threefold higher risk of brain tumours & leukaemia, and twofold higher risk of other cancers. Research done at the Veteran’s Administration Medical Centre in Loma Linda, California has shown that EMFs stimulate the activity of an enzyme called Ornithine decarboxylase, which promotes the growth of cancer.
Occupants of the homes situated above geological fractures and subterranean water veins are exposed to excessive magnetic radiation from the earth, which has carcinogenic effects. A large-scale study conducted by U.S. government has reported that geopathic stress plays a major role in about 40 per cent of all the human cancers.
In the modern society, life has become fast and competitive right from the cradle to the grave, generating a lot of stress, which enhances the risk of cancer by suppressing immune system of the body.
Stress is a highly individual response to the given situation (emotional, social or physical) rather than the situation itself. Stress can be defined as the non-specific response of the body to any demand made upon it. Anything that is new can evoke stress response because the body and the mind prepare to meet the unknown challenge. Stress may be acute, intermittent or chronic. The acute or short-term stress is generated by sudden unexpected hour-to-hour events in life. The intermittent type of stress is seen in conflicts. The chronic or long-term stress is generated by major events such as bereavement, financial loss, chronic disease, legal problem and unemployment. A certain amount of stress is in fact desirable, as it provides motivation & stimulation for constructive work and the personal growth of an individual.
It is not the amount but the quality of stress that matters. Some events that lead to enthusiasm, excitement, confidence, happiness, joy and love generate positive emotions. On the other hand, fear, resentment, anxiety, hate, irritation, jealousy, guilt, anger, frustration, boredom and dissatisfaction generate negative emotions. When brain is under emotional stress, adrenal glands produce corticosteroid hormones, which suppress the activity of immune cells of the body, thus enhancing the risk of cancer.
Certain persons and stress are made for each other. According to psychologists, the type A persons are tense, angry, impatient, fist clenching, ambitious, competitive and work oriented. They are always under pressure of time and refuse to acknowledge tiredness. On the other hand, the type B persons are easy going, less anxious, contented and philosophical. Studies have revealed that type A persons have much higher risk to develop cancer as compared to the type B persons.
Immune and nervous systems of the body are linked by extensive network of nerve endings in the spleen, lymph nodes, thymus gland and bone marrow. A psycho-neuro-immunological research has revealed that receptors for Catecholamines, Prostaglandins, Growth hormones, Thyroid hormones, Sex hormones, Serotonin and Endorphins are found on the surface of white blood cells, which indicate that mind and emotions can influence the body’s resistance (to fight cancer) by the interaction of nervous system, hormones and immunity. Under stress, the body reacts by releasing Adrenaline and Cortisol, which causes palpitation, hypertension, hyperglycaemia, hypercholesterolaemia, dryness of mouth, impaired digestion, vascular & muscular spasm and increases respiratory rate. This reaction of the body is a very high output state, known as Flight or Fight Reaction, which cannot be maintained for a long period.
Unrelieved chronic stress leads to hyperactivity of sympathetic autonomic nervous system, which in turn, suppresses the activity of immune cells in the body by inducing secretions of Adrenaline, Cortisol and certain other hormones. Chronic stress is usually unrecognised and the person accepts it as a part of life, totally unaware of its outcome. Stress often misleads a person to the habit of drinking & smoking, further enhances the risk of cancer.
The longest ever research in the history of medicine, done to study the role of emotions in the genesis of human cancer, was initiated in 1946, in which 972 students of John Hopkins School of Medicine were divided into five groups on the basis of certain psychological measures by Pirkko Graves and her colleagues. This study, which continued for more than three decades, revealed that the loner students who suppressed their emotions, were having sixteen times higher risk of developing cancer than those who expressed their feelings openly. A study performed on 1337 students, has revealed that those students, who lack closeness to their parents, have higher risk of cancer.
To avoid stress, one is advised to do regular exercises & Yoga; take adequate sleeps; develop the sense of humour; learn to laugh; use anger creatively; and above all, learn the art of forgiving.
Immune system of the body normally protects from viruses, bacteria, fungi, toxic molecules and other foreign proteins that find their way into the body. The immune system executes its work through two different modes, which include Antibody-mediated immunity (humoral immunity) and Cell-mediated immunity. The antibody-mediated immunity usually operates through B-lymphocytes (B cells) by producing specific antibodies. The cell-mediated immunity, on the other hand, operates through various types of immune cells such as T-lymphocytes (T cells), natural killer cells (NK cells), lymphokine activated killer cells (LAK cells) and macrophages, which are empowered to eliminate viruses, bacteria, toxic molecules and other foreign proteins from the body either physically (by engulfing) or by secreting specific chemicals. It is the cell-mediated immunity that works against cancer. Most of the newly formed cancerous cells never grow beyond the microscopic stage because immune system of the body is capable to nip these abnormal cells in the bud, before they grow to form a tumour. The transformation of a normal cell into the cancerous cells is probably not so critical event in the development of cancer as the body’s inability to destroy the newly formed cancerous cells, when they are few in number.
When a cell becomes cancerous, it acquires new surface antigens and even loses some normal antigens. This makes the cancerous cell antigenically different from the normal cells of the body. Immune system of the body normally recognises and destroys these newly formed cancerous cells through the cell-mediated immunity. This work is usually executed by T-lymphocytes (T cells), natural killer cells (NK cells), lymphokine activated killer cells (LAK cells) and macrophages. The T cells and NK cells are capable to recognise and destroy the cancerous cells at the first sight. The NK cells are armed with more than 100 biochemicals to destroy the foreign proteins and they play an important role in inhibiting micrometastases by killing the circulating cancerous cells. The macrophages work by destroying and ingesting the cancerous cells.
There are three major types of lymphocytes, i.e. T lymphocytes (T cells), B lymphocytes (B cells) and large glandular lymphocytes (null cells). The null cells include natural killer cells (NK cells), lymphokine activated killer cells (LAK cells) and antibody dependent cellular cytotoxic lymphocytes (ADCC). All types of the lymphocytes are produced in bone marrow but are matured in different tissues, for example, T lymphocytes and natural killer cells are matured in the Thymus gland, while the B lymphocytes are matured in the Mucosa associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) such as Peyer’s patches. Macrophages are produced in the bone marrow as monocytes but these get transformed into macrophages after reaching various tissues.
Immune cells of the body produce certain anticancer agents, known as cytokines (Lymphokines and Monokines), which include Interleukins (IL-1 to IL-15), Interferons (alpha, beta and gamma), tumour necrosis factors (TNF) and colony stimulating factors (CSF). So the body is having its own immunotherapeutic regime in the form of cytokines, which can destroy and eliminate the cancerous cells from the body without harming healthy cells. If there is spontaneous regression of a tumour (as seen in a few cases), the credit should not be taken away from the cytokines.
It has been observed that the risk of developing cancer is multiplied manifold in those persons, whose immune system is suppressed due to any reason, for example, under nutrition, old age, HIV and other viral infections. Immune system of the body also gets suppressed by the frequent, widespread, chronic and habitual use of certain drugs such as antibiotics, corticosteroids, painkillers and the drugs used in chemotherapy. Most of the antibiotics, corticosteroids and painkillers (such as aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen) inhibit the production of antibodies and suppress immune functions of the body. Antibiotics promote growth of Candida albicans in the intestines, which further suppresses the immunity. Vaccinations also suppress the immunity of body for a couple of weeks. Studies have shown that the count of helper T cells decreases in the infants and children after receiving the dose of multiple vaccines (vaccine cocktail). Almost all the drugs used in chemotherapy are known to suppress immune functions of the body, which could lead to the development of a new cancer.
Studies have shown that the patients suffering from AIDS (HIV infection) have a very high incidence of cancer (such as Kaposi’s sarcoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, carcinoma of the cervix and carcinoma of the anus) due to the suppressed immunity. It has been observed that the chronic stress leads to production of stress hormone (cortisone), which suppresses immune system of the body, thus favouring the genesis of cancer. Scientists all over the world are concentrating on the use of herbal medicines to boost immune system of the body against cancer.
Hormone replacement therapy in menopausal women is linked to the endometrial and breast cancers. Based on the data from 1976 to 1992, Harvard University researchers published a report in 1995, which is famous as Nurses’ Health Study. The report concluded that the women, who took oestrogen replacement therapy for 5 years or more, have 40 per cent higher risk of developing the breast cancer during the age of 55-60 years; The risk of breast cancer among these women was recorded 70 per cent higher during the age of 60 to 65 years.
Roswell Park Cancer Institute in New York conducted a study on 555 mothers who took hormones for infertility in the period, during which they were unknowingly pregnant. This study was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, which revealed that the children born to these women were having tenfold higher risk of neuroblastoma (a malignant tumour of the embryonic nerve cells) during the first 2 years of life.
Based on a study conducted on 4,212 women, the Science News reported in June 1995 that the women, who took birth control pills before the age of 18 years and continued its use for at least 10 years, have threefold higher risk of breast cancer before the age of 35 years. Another study based on Pap smear study conducted on 1221 pill-user women in comparison to 16,225 non-pill user women has revealed that the pill-user women have 300 per cent higher incidence of cervical dysplasia.
The recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) injections are routinely used in dairy cows to increase the milk yield. The use of dairy milk from rBGH treated cows can cause cancers of the breast and gastrointestinal tract.