There is little doubt that a healthy diet can help reduce your risk of cancer, but did you know that certain foods can assist in the annihilation of existing cancer cells as well, helping your body to fight off the potentially fatal disease? These foods discourage something called tumor angiogenesis, and could hold the key to an anti-cancer diet.
Angiogenesis is the process of new blood vessels forming from existing vessels. Generally, it’s a good thing, but in the case of tumors, angiogenesis can be negative, feeding the cancer and advancing it.
As the American Cancer Society reports, a whole class of drugs addresses this. Known as angiogenesis inhibitors, they are designed to stop the formation of these tumor-feeding vessels and slow the growth of cancerous tumors. But what you may not know is that some foods could have similar properties.
A recent study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute looked at the effects of lycopene on prostate cancer, and found men who received more dietary lycopene (found in tomato products) had a reduced risk of prostate cancer. Further, the researchers suggested these benefits were possibly due to the angiogenic effects of the nutrient.
“Dietary intake of lycopene was associated with reduced risk of lethal prostate cancer and with a lesser degree of angiogenesis in the tumor,” the study concluded. “Because angiogenesis is a strong progression factor, an endpoint of lethal prostate cancer may be more relevant than an endpoint of indolent prostate cancer for lycopene in the era of highly prevalent prostate-specific antigen screening.”
- Green tea
- Citrus fruits
- Olive and grape seed oils
- Dark chocolate
- And others (Here are 4 cancer-fighting foods).
“One of the limitations of antiangiogenic therapy today is that we’re primarily treating very advanced disease,” says Dr. William Li, president of the Angiogenesis Foundation. “So we started a research program looking at natural sources of angiogenesis inhibitors, and what we discovered is that Mother Nature has laced many foods and beverages with naturally occurring inhibitors.”
Li, and many others, believe food should play a bigger role in cancer treatments and prevention. Angiogenesis is the basis of his life work.
“Drugs are prescribed by doctors, but what happens in between the times you see your doctor? There has been a huge gap in the research when it comes to arming patients with their own tools,” Li says. “We want to shift the paradigm away from relying only on the doctor by putting information in the hands of the patient, and a major part of that shift is changing how we think about food.”