Many studies have been conducted as to defining a proper diet to deter the growth of cancer. Though Lynch syndrome is hereditary, environmental factorsdo play into the propensity to contract cancer. A diet to deter cancer is simply eating good nutritional foods. It isn’t all that different from eating a normal, healthy diet. It’s simply balance.
The reason diet is so significant and plays into creating a predisposition toward cancer is historical. Accumulating data in respect to cancer is fairly new, as good statistics on cancer incidence have only occurred since 1950, although the oldest cancer registry was established in 1932. Data on mortality, which goes back much earlier in the developed world indicates stomach cancer has decreased, taking second seat to lung cancer worldwide. However the rise of other cancers have increased, including breast cancer and colon cancers.
Cancer diagnostic technology vastly improved and became more sophisticated, progressing at higher and higher levels through the years. Today, mortality rates have decreased as a result of improved diagnostic knowledge, skill and technology, resulting in earlier diagnoses. The benefit we have seen from this is the improvement of survival.
Within the United States and the western world, general technology improved during the 1900s, as well, and the world became involved in mass industrialization which put emphasis over quantity of product and created an adverse effect upon the quality of environment, creating problems such as unclean air, mass fuel emissions, polluted waters, polluted soils, etc.
As the age of affluence approached, so developed the age of convenience. Vehicles became more readily available and less costly. Many families owned several and the family horses were put out to pasture. As a result, today, many people have stopped walking. Its not unusual to see them hop into the car and young moms and dads drive five or six blocks to the nearby elementary school several times a day in order to deliver or retrieve their children. As a result of technology, instead of an everyday necessary activity, as walking once was, exercise has become a “recreational activity” and a luxury only when it can be afforded or….desired.
As the consumer society developed, individuals purchased items that were convenient in nature, including processed foods, foods with chemical additives, non-stick coatings on cooking utensils, cooking with items made of plastics, etc. This love and desire for convenience extended to quick and different food preparation methods including use of the microwave, the outdoor gas barbecue and the creation of chemically improved wood chips to enhance food flavor. Meats became a staple in homes, used in large quantities, whereas in the past, it was only eaten in small amounts on occasion. The world developed a sweet tooth for items with sugar–sodas were no longer savored “treats” but an everyday drink, rich foods became part of the everyday diet as did artificial sweeteners. The people of the world took to excesses as competition and products became more and more available and more and more affordable.
We began to become a “feel good” nation which focused on the desires of the individual and not the needs of the person. The “me society” became one of entitlement and one that was prone to excess…anything, as long as it felt good. That is where we currently are today, destroying ourselves, our environment, our communities and our families unless we find a balance.
During the 1900s, food production became more enhanced to meet the demand of the new consumer society which had developed. Methods were developed including genetic modification of food, the injection of hormone, arsenic including in animal feed, and controlled artifical and unnatural feeding of animals instead of grazing in fields. Pesticides, meat additives, artificial preservatives, soil additives, chemically enhanced flavors, water fluoridation and a host of other items were developed to feed into the gluttony of the world.
As a result, we humans began eating differently. Instead of coming in from the fields or going home for lunch and eating fresh, wholesome foods, we began commuting further distances to work and grabbing quick, convenience items–a bag of chips, a quick cheeseburger and fries, processed marshmallow filled cupcakes and a can of soda for lunch, or munching on a processed donut while drinking a cup of coffee on our way to work.
Not only did food have to taste good but it had to look good. Dyes were used. Flours became processed and bleached, as did rice, to create a pleasing aesthetic appearance. Refined sugars were developed with a pretty, sparkling, crystal white appearance, rather than its natural state. The result was individuals were losing a considerable amount of nutrition required to stay healthy and had lost the natural balance of eating.
The world and the human being, in its ever constant pursuit to perfect itself had been poisoning itself. The result was a flurry of studies by medical researchers to find out why people were getting ill and contracting cancers. Study after study has determined outside influences, such as environment, diet, lifestyle and technology imposes a big effect upon whether or not one will get cancer and the more predisposed we are, the easier it will be to contract.
This becomes obvious with those of us who have Lynch syndrome. How is it that twenty percent of those who have the mutated gene don’t get Lynch cancers while many acquire a myriad of cancers during their lifetimes? What is the difference between those who have survived a cancer or two and live to old age while others succumb while young? Clearly something occurs which increases the odds of survival for some and decreases the odds for others.
It appears cancers, including those of Lynch syndrome, may have possibly evolved as a result of the above mentioned factors.
Prior to 1913, a University of Ann Arbor, Michigan professor and pathologist, Dr. Aldred Scott Warthin noted and identified a family that had a “familial cancer.” During treatment of a young woman within the family, he gleaned the members medical histories and in 1913 documented his findings of this fascinating German family.
Within that family, which had been researched back to before the Civil War, it was noted there had been a history of stomach cancer, colon cancer and uterine cancer. At the age of sixty (60) the first diagnosed died of colon cancer at the age of 56, leaving behind ten children. Three of his five sons and two of his five daughters died of a possible Lynch cancer, the men developing stomach cancers and the women, uterine cancers.
Warthin died by 1936 and had documented 17 individuals from the first two generations of that family had sustained cancers, with an introduction to intestinal cancer in the third generation. Upon his death, his associates Carl Weller and Jerome Hauser, continued his work, finding far more individuals within the family contracting similar cancers. There was little note of colon cancer.
The third generation, which consisted of seventy individuals indicated only two of those individuals died of stomach cancer, fifteen died of uterine/ endometrial cancer, seven died of colon cancer, three died of rectum cancer and one died of cancer of the intestines. It appeared the family had evolved during the 20th century and the incidence of stomach cancer had decreased and cancer of the colon had increased. Finally, in the last generation, Dr. Henry T. Lynch, who had followed this family, following Weller and Hauser, noted the incidence of stomach cancers had dramatically decreased and was almost nonexistent with many of the cancers sustained being replaced by cancers of the colon and the rectum.
We have to ask ourselves why and how the cancers evolved and changed. Dr. John Potter, MD, PhD, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center studied this and published an opinion piece in 2001, entitled “At the interfaces of epidemiology genetics and genomics.”
He determined based upon his experiences with Lynch syndrome and study of the family documented above, “High risk variant alleles, (forms of gene ordinarily arising as a result of mutation and causing hereditary variance ) such as MSH2 mutant alleles in HNPCC families, with pleiotropic (multiple) effects across generations of the same family, probably, as a result of changes in environmental exposures.”
What environmental factors? Certainly smoking and diet has played a major role in the evolution of the cancers. In fact, individuals with Lynch syndrome may be at an increased risk for colorectal cancers. As a result of environmental factors, in the U.S., we have noted an increase in cancer. Interesting to note is this trend is being followed globally as the same sort of evolution of cancers which has occurred here is beginning to occur more widely in some European countries and elsewhere in the world.
It is important we ask ourselves why the risk of contracting cancer for the average male in India is one fifth of that for the average American male? Why has the rate of colon cancer in Japan become the highest in the world and much higher than within the United States? Why do the Chinese have lower rates of colorectal, breast and prostate cancers than we sustain in the U.S., and why are there rising occurrences of these cancers now being observed in their urban areas? Finally, why do those who consume a Mediterranean diet (lots of fruits, nuts and vegetables and very little red meat) have far less cancer than their American brothers and sisters?
So, what do we do to survive? We eat an anti-cancer diet, which is basically a balanced diet. We exercise and protect ourselves by using less chemicals around our homes and yards, engaging in healthy activities and avoiding unhealthy environments.
It has become clear to us that diet, exercise and attitude is a big factor for deterring cancer and perhaps growing and providing our own food sources are far more reliable than those commercially available to us. Gardening our own food is certainly healthy in it allows fresh air and activity for us.
What is also clear to us is, whether or not we have a predisposition to cancer or whether we get cancer, a big factor in contracting cancer and/or a specific cancer is likely a result of lifestyle, cultural and environmental impacts. The big question is whether or not we will recognize many cancers are a result of our love and desire for technology, self gratification and convenience and what choices we are going to make in the future in order to protect ourselves and our families.