Cancer cases in the United States continue to grow—trailing closely behind heart disease, the No. 1 killer of Americans. Poor diet, no physical activity, and stress have all been linked to cancer. Cancer, however, is largely preventable through lifestyle choices.
Colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths among men and women in the U.S. Five percent of Americans will likely develop colon cancer in their lifetime. And early screening, especially in people who have a family history, helps to detect colon polyps before they become cancerous. Because of early detection and better treatments, over a million Americans have survived colorectal cancer. Unfortunately, cancer cells are strategic and can develop unique ways to avoid the effects of treatments. Cancer cells are abnormal cells that continue to grow with no plans of ever dying. These aggressive forms of cancer have defects that make them resistant to treatment.
If intestinal polyps are detected early, they can be surgically removed. When polyps aren’t caught in time, they develop into cancer. If colon cancer is detected at a later stage, chemotherapy and radiation therapy may be used alone or in combination to treat patients. Also, cancer stem cells (CSCs) can develop resistance, which renders conventional cancer treatments ineffective. That is why, in my practice, I integrate allopathic treatments and targeted-based nutrition to not only treat a patient’s symptoms but also the underlying cause of the medical problem.
The revolutionary science of epigenetics discusses the way in which environmental factors affect our genes to cause disease or promote health. Turmeric is a spice used to add flavor and yellow color to many Indian dishes. Often referred to as Indian saffron, it has been used to treat myriad health problems for thousands of years in Southeast Asia, such as arthritis, digestion problems, and parasitic infections.1 It’s also been shown to attack cancer cells.
A PLOS One study examined the effects of curcumin, an antioxidant compound in turmeric, on chemotherapy-resistant colon cancer cells.2 Researchers used two colorectal cell lines that were sensitive to 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), a chemotherapy drug. They also used 5-FU-resistant clones of these cell lines. One of the two sensitive cell lines and its corresponding resistant cell line were deficient in DNA mismatch repair (MMR).
Why is this deficiency relevant? Normal DNA uses MMR to recognize and repair genetic errors. Without MMR, damaged DNA can avoid replicative checkpoints and make it into future cell lines. This leads to genetic instability, cancer pathogenesis, and chemoresistant cancer cells.
Each cell line was exposed to different treatments: (1) 5-FU alone, (2) curcumin, and (3) pretreatment with curcumin followed by 5-FU. Although 5-FU worked in reducing the growth of sensitive colon cancer cell lines, curcumin reduced the proliferation of all cancer cell lines. And the combination therapy remarkably decreased cancer stem cells.
In my newest book, The Gene Therapy Plan: Taking Control of Your Genetic Destiny with Diet and Lifestyle, which will be published in April 2015 by Viking, I discuss the healthful benefits of turmeric and provide recipes for curry dishes. The spice is both chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic. If Indian food isn’t your thing, don’t worry. Foods such as salmon, blueberries, broccoli sprouts, and kale contain anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds that fight cancer.
1. Prasad S, Aggarwal B. Turmeric, the Golden Spice: From Traditional Medicine to Modern Medicine. In: Benzie IFF W-GS, ed. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2 ed. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 2011.
2. Shakibaei M, Buhrmann C, Kraehe P, Shayan P, Lueders C, Goel A. Curcumin Chemosensitizes 5-Fluorouracil Resistant MMR-Deficient Human Colon Cancer Cells in High Density Cultures. PloS one. 2014;9(1):e85397.