Prevention of Cancer

An effective program for avoiding cancer in the first place entails diet and nutrition, lifestyle modification, and chemoprevention.

Diet and Nutrition

Thinking has changed since 1949, when the American Medical Association stated, "There is no scientific evidence that food or other nutritional essentials are of any specific value in the control of cancer." Diet, lifestyle, and nutrition have actually been shown to play an important role in determining cancer risk. For instance, research indicates that populations that consume large quantities of plant-derived foods have a lower incidence of several types of cancer. In 1991, the National Cancer Institute incorporated these findings into the 5 a Day for Better Health Program. It recommended five daily servings of fruits and vegetables as part of a low-fat, high-fiber diet. Despite widespread promotion of this program over the past decade, fewer than one in five American children and fewer than one in four adults eat five portions of produce a day, a statistic that hasn't changed in 10 years. Ray & Terry's Longevity Program regards the 5 a Day program as a good start, but we recommend our 5-to-10-a-Day program, encouraging five to seven servings of vegetables and zero to three servings of fruit daily. See Pay & Terry's Food Pyramid on page 106. Emphasis should be on low-glycemic-load (low-starch) vegetables -- typically, green vegetables as opposed to higher-carbohydrate root vegetables. Fruit is beneficial, but caution is needed -- while it's almost impossible to eat too many low-starch vegetables, you can eat too much fruit and consume excessive sugar.

Some people feet that by taking nutritional supplements, they can compensate for a diet insufficient in plant-based foods. While supplements are clearly of proven value, taken alone they do not offer sufficient protection against cancer. A diet rich in naturally occurring nutrients, as found in fruits and vegetables, is needed for optimal cancer prevention. Our dietary recommendations include:

Drink vegetable juice. Start your day right with an 8-to-12-ounce glass of freshly squeezed vegetable juice as part of, or instead of, breakfast: juice some cucumber, broccoli, kale, cabbage, a carrot (for flavor, but not more than one, to avoid excess sugar), and other green vegetables you find in your refrigerator. This can provide almost half of your 5-to-10-a-Day requirements even before you leave your house in the morning. We also re-emphasize the importance of eating organic produce whenever possible to minimize exposure to pesticides and other carcinogenic chemical residues.

Eat a Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet, which is low in red meat and emphasizes whole grains, fish, and fresh fruits and vegetables, has been associated with reduced cancer risk. Digestive-tract cancers (mouth, esophagus, stomach, and colon) and cancers of the lung and prostate are lower. In a recent study of more than 22,000 Greeks, those who followed the Mediterranean diet had a 24 percent decrease in total incidence of cancer, compared with individuals who did not eat this way. The Mediterranean diet includes generous amounts of extra virgin olive oil, which protects against several types of cancer -- colon, breast, and skin -- as well as coronary heart disease. The Mediterranean diet also calls for large portions of fresh tomatoes and tomato sauces. Cooked tomatoes, along with most other red fruits and vegetables, are rich in the bioflavonoid lycopene, which has been associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer.

Avoid the white Satan -- sugar. Because cancer cells consume sugar so avidly, the PET scan used by doctors to locate cancer in the body involves giving patients radioactive glucose (or sugar), which is concentrated in areas harboring malignancies and shows up as hot spots on the scan. The 1931 Nobel laureate Otto Warburg demonstrated that cancer cells have a fundamentally different metabolism than normal cells and utilize sugar as their predominant food for growth. You can inhibit cancer formation by avoiding dietary sources of simple sugar as well as foods with a high glycemic load, which are rapidly converted to sugar in the body.

A direct relationship between sugar consumption and pancreatic cancer was seen in women who participated in the Nurses' Health Study. The Women's Health Study, published by researchers at UCLA in 2004, found that a high-glycemic-load diet significantly increased risk of colorectal cancer. When coupled with excess weight and a sedentary lifestyle, women in this study who consumed excess sugar had more than three times the average risk of developing cancer of the pancreas. Avoid "the white Satan" whenever and wherever possible.

Lifestyle Modification

Exercise. Exercise has been associated with a lower incidence of cancer, while a sedentary lifestyle increases cancer risk. We are in favor of the following American Cancer Society recommendations:

  • Adults should engage in moderate (or even more vigorous) activity for a minimum of 150 minutes a week. This can be done as three 50-minute sessions, multiple 10-minute sessions, or any combination to total two and a half hours a week.
  • Children and adolescents should engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity almost every day.

It is often good to perform your exercise in the great outdoors. Sunlight exposure is itself protective against many types of cancer. UVB (ultraviolet B) radiation found in sunlight is associated with reduced risk of cancer of the breast, colon, ovary, prostate, and lymphoma. Lower mortality rates are seen with higher amounts of UVB exposure for cancers of the bladder, esophagus, kidney, lung, pancreas, rectum, and stomach. Sunscreen interferes with absorption of UVB radiation, so we disagree with conventional recommendations that people should use sunscreen whenever they're outside. Unless you're someone who sunburns easily, such as people with very fair complexions and redheads, we recommend you use don't use sunscreen all the time. Instead, apply it primarily when risk of sun damage is high: during midday in summer, at high altitudes, or during any prolonged exposure to intense sunlight, such as when boating or skiing on a bright day.

Better yet, cover up exposed skin with clothing or avoid midday direct sun exposure if possible. Regular exposure of skin to non-burning sunlight is itself cancer-protective. Increased consumption of fish and the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA (along with decreased consumption of omega-6 fatty acids such as from corn oil and safflower oil) can be very protective against melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, which has been associated with excessive sun exposure.

Avoid pesticides. Exposure to agricultural chemicals has been linked to numerous cancers. Agricultural workers are at higher risk of cancers of the stomach (40 percent increased risk), rectum (50 percent), larynx (40 percent), and prostate (40 percent). The increased risk of prostate cancer was specifically related to application of pesticides (70 percent increased risk). Again, we stress the importance of eating organically grown foods whenever possible.

Lose excess body weight. Being overweight or obese is an independent risk factor for several types of cancer, a fact that is not widely known. A survey conducted by the American Cancer Society in 2002 revealed that only 1 percent of the American public realizes that maintaining a healthy weight reduces cancer risk. Yet according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of the year 2000, 64 percent of American adults were overweight and about 30 percent were obese. A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine prospectively followed more than 900,000 American adults to assess the relationship between weight and cancer risk. This study showed that being overweight or obese accounted for 20 percent of cancer deaths in women and 14 percent in men. Obesity was specifically linked to cancers of the liver, pancreas, prostate, and cervix, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and multiple myeloma.

Avoid tobacco. It has been more than 40 years since the first report of the Surgeon General's Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health was released on January 11, 1964. Thanks to widespread dissemination of information linking smoking to multiple health risks, including cancer, emphysema, and heart disease, the percentage of Americans who smoke has decreased significantly. This downward trend is most prominent among American men: 52 percent smoked in 1965, but only 28 percent smoke currently. Thirty-four percent of American women smoked in 1965, while 22 percent do today. Unfortunately, smoking rates in the United States have remained flat for several years, with little decrease since 1990.

The list of illnesses linked to cigarette smoking reads like the little black book of the Angel of Death. Cigarette smoke increases risk of cancer of all the tissues tobacco smoke touches on its way into the body (lung, mouth, throat, and larynx), on its way out of the body (kidney and bladder), and some places in between (cervix and pancreas). Cardiovascular diseases, including heart attack, sudden cardiac death, and stroke, are increased dramatically in individuals who smoke. Lung problems such as emphysema, asthma, chronic bronchitis, and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) are all much higher among smokers. And this is only a partial list!

Smoking cessation is a fundamental part of any cancer-prevention program. There are a number of medications and therapies now available to help smokers kick the habit. If you still smoke, we strongly advise that you implement a smoking-cessation program immediately.


"Chemoprevention" refers to the use of natural or synthetic substances to reduce the risk of cancer. A number of naturally occurring nutrients are chemoprotective, including vitamins, minerals, herbs, antioxidants, and hormones. While insufficient to prevent cancer by themselves, the following natural chemoprotective agents are a valuable part of a comprehensive cancer-prevention program. Other chemoprotective agents are discussed in chapter 21, "Aggressive Supplementation."

Vitamin C. Linus Pauling, the only scientist ever to receive two unshared Nobel prizes, was so impressed with the ability of vitamin C to both prevent and treat cancer that he coauthored a book on the subject. Vitamin C, particularly when combined with the mineral selenium, can induce cells that are "on the way" to becoming cancerous to turn back from "the dark side" and remain benign. Estimates of optimal doses of vitamin C vary between 1 and 10 grams per day. Our program recommends that most adults take 2 grams (2,000 milligrams) of vitamin C daily for chemoprevention.

Selenium. There are four well-known antioxidant "ACES": three are vitamins (A, C, and E), one is a mineral (selenium). Selenium is the mineral cofactor that activates the powerful antioxidant enzyme GSH-Px (glutathione peroxidase). In the Nutritional Prevention of Cancer trial, selenium supplementation reduced the total incidence of cancer, particularly cancer of the prostate. We recommend a chemopreventive dose of 400 to 600 micrograms of selenium daily.

Coenzyrne Q10. Coenzyme Q10 is critically involved in energy generation within the mitochondria of the cell. Malignant tissues in the body create increased levels of free radicals. Antioxidant enzymes are under increased stress when attempting to control the free-radical damage found in cancerous tumors. The metabolic needs of these protective enzymes increase dramatically, and coenzyme Q10 is vital in helping to provide them with the energy needed to fight cancer.

Breast tumors have dramatically decreased levels of coenzyme Q10 as a result of free-radical stress, and breast-cancer patients are typically given large doses of supplemental coenzyme Q10 by nutritional physicians. Coenzyme Q10 has numerous other protective effects in the body, including lowering blood pressure and protecting the heart. We recommend that healthy adults take from 60 to 200 micrograms of coenzyme Q10 a day.

Curcumin. This herb, derived from turmeric (a common spice), has been used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for centuries. Curcumin has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and arrests the growth of cancer cells at the G2 stage of their cell division. Combining curcumin with ECGC (epigaRocatechin-3-gallate) from green tea provides synergistic cancer prevention.

Curcumin fights growth of cancer cells in at least a dozen separate ways. It blocks estrogen-mimicking chemicals like pesticides from causing excessive stimulation of hormonally sensitive tissues such as those in the breast and prostate. In this way, it works in harmony with other phytonutrients that have similar actions, such as soy isoflavones and cruciferous vegetables.

Curcumin is used as a natural anti-inflammatory to treat patients with inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. It blocks the COX (cyclooxygenase) enzyme, which creates inflammation in the body. It is well known that colon cancer has a significant inflammatory component and that patients who take COX inhibitors such as aspirin have a reduced incidence of colon cancer. Studies have shown that taking curcumin can also help prevent colon cancer.

We encourage the regular use of the spice turmeric, which contains curcumin, in food preparation, as well as taking 900 milligrams of supplemental curcumin a day for cancer prevention.

Melatonin. Many people know that melatonin can help with sleep. A few people also know that it is a powerful anti-aging hormone. Fewer yet are aware of the fact that melatonin has an important role as a cancer-protective agent. One paper reviewed 27 studies on the use of melatonin as a cancer preventive or treatment. The authors concluded that "melatonin could indeed be considered a physiological anticancer substance."

Many studies have centered on the use of melatonin in the prevention and treatment of breast cancer. Melatonin can directly inhibit the growth of breast-cancer cells. It also has important antioxidant and immunostimulatory effects. We recommend taking 0.1 to 3 milligrams of this naturally occurring chemopreventive agent daily, at bedtime.

Folic acid. As discussed in chapter 13, folic acid is intimately involved in numerous methylation reactions. These include synthesis of DNA, turning genes within the cell on or off, and detoxification of chemical toxins. Abnormalities in all of these reactions have been linked to the risk of malignancy. Recently, folic acid deficiency has been implicated as a risk factor for developing cancer. In a review article of 34 studies on the connection between folic acid and cancer, a direct link was found between low folic acid levels and cancers of the colon and breast.

Folic acid, which is important for both heart health and cancer protection, is one of the few nutrients that works better when taken as a separate supplement than as part of food. A minimum of 800 micrograms per day is recommended, but depending on other factors (such as homocysteine level), this can be raised to 5,000 to 10,000 micrograms or more.

EPA/DHA. The cardiac benefits of the essential fatty acid derivatives EPA (eicosapentaneoic acid) and DRA (docosahexaneoic acid) are well known, but these "fish oils" also play important roles as naturally occurring chemoprotective agents. Like curcumin, fish oils possess an anti-inflammatory action that is the basis of the cancer-protective effect. As discussed in chapter 12, EPA and DHA are naturally occurring COX-2 inhibitors. COX-2 is an enzyme that increases levels of inflammatory chemicals in the body such as PG E2 (prostaglandin E2) and is found in high levels in precancerous and cancerous tissues. Increased levels of both COX-2 and PG E2 have been found in cancers associated with inflammation, such as breast and colon cancer. Consumption of cold-water fish, which is rich in EPA and DHA, as well as EPA/DHA supplementation, is anti-inflammatory, cardioprotective, and chemoprotective.

We recommend a minimum of 1,000-3,000 milligrams of EPA and 700-2,000 milligrams of DHA daily.

Beta-carotene (a special case). Not all vitamins are cancer-protective -- at least, not for all people. In particular, the Finnish Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta Carotene (ATBC) Cancer Prevention Study showed that supplementation with beta-carotene actually increased the incidence of lung cancer when taken in supplement form by cigarette smokers. Several other studies have confirmed this association, so we recommend that people at increased risk of lung cancer (such as smokers or workers exposed to asbestos) not take supplemental beta-carotene. Here's the solution for anyone seriously concerned about cancer prevention: if you smoke, stop. Stop today, right now. But if for whatever reason you are unable to quit, don't take supplemental beta-carotene.

Between early-detection tests and preventive and treatment strategies, it is likely that the death rate from cancer will soon begin to plummet and, in the near future, cancer will no longer be the gruesome killer that it is today.

Secrets of Soy and the Japanese Diet

Besides possessing a lower incidence of heart disease and menopausal symptoms, the Japanese also appear to have less cancer. This is due in part to their greater consumption of soybean-based foods such as soy milk, tofu, and soybeans. The soy isoflavones genistein and daidzein have cancer-protective properties, particularly against hormonally sensitive cancers, such as prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women. The typical Japanese diet is also low in meat and high in seafood. Fish contains significant concentrations of the important cancer-fighting fatty acids EPA and DHA. Another cancer preventive typically consumed at almost every Japanese meal is green tea, which contains a powerful anticancer agent known as EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gailate). Drinking several cups of green tea every day is highly recommended.

©2004 Ray Kurzweil and Terry Grossman, M.D.

Source: Ray Kurzweil and Terry Grossman, M.D. Authors of Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever

Ray Kurzweil is one of the world's leading inventors, thinkers, and futurists. Called "the restless genius" by the Wall Street Journal and "the ultimate thinking machine" by Forbes magazine. Kurzweil's ideas on the future have been touted by his many fans , who range from Bill Gates to Bill Clinton. Time magazine writes, "Kurzweil's eclectic career and propensity of combining science with practical -- often humanitarian -- applications have inspired comparisons with Thomas Edison." A recipient of the National Medal of Technology and an inductee in the National Inventors Hall of Fame, among many other honors, he is the author of three previous books: The Age of Spiritual Machines, The 10% Solution for a Healthy Life, and The Age of Intelligent Machines.

Terry Grossman, M.D., is the founder and medical director of Frontier Medical Institute in Denver, Colorado, a leading longevity clinic. certified in anti-aging medicine, he lectures internationally on longevity and anti-aging strategies. In the words of Arline Brecher, coauthor of Forty Something Forever, "I've met good writers and good doctors, but seldom are they one and the same. Dr. Terry Grossman breaks the mold and sets a new standard for physicians." He is the author of The Baby Boomer's Guide to Living Forever.

Contact Us | Disclaimer | Privacy Statement
Menstuff® Directory
Menstuff® is a registered trademark of Gordon Clay
©1996-2017, Gordon Clay