Last week we began a short series on preventing cancer. Obviously there are no guarantees when it comes to your health. You can do everything exactly right and still get cancer while the next guy lives a life on the edge and dies at 104 with a whisky in one hand and a cigar in the other.
However, over the past several years research scientists have identified some recognized risks and genetic predispositions that you can act on.
Being a BRCA gene carrier or a carrier of Lynch syndrome can place you at risk for breast, ovarian, colon, or endometrial (uterine) cancer. If your family has a high number of these cancers, your primary care doctor can test you and then refer you to a genetic counselor.
If you want to skip that step, last week I referred to an interesting and modestly priced test called DNA Health, which checks for groups of genes associated with poor detoxification, antioxidation, and inflammation systems.
Since the development of cancer is known to increase when the human body is exposed to environmental toxins, especially those the body can’t clear efficiently, people who genetically have issues with detoxification literally can’t clear potentially cancer-causing poisons from their bodies. For this group, periodic detoxification (see below) is probably the best route to cancer prevention.
I also mentioned last week a test called ELISA-ACT, which actually measures your exposure to a variety of cancer-causing materials. I’ll also add an older test we use from Genova Labs called Oxidative Stress.
Let’s take the worst-case scenario, cancer risk-wise
Listing all your blood relatives, let’s say you have an uncomfortable number of people who’ve had cancer. These don’t necessarily have to be cancer deaths. They can also curable skin cancers, positive Pap smears, and precancerous colon polyps.
–You’ve ordered your DNA Health genetic profile (click through for a sample report) and find to your dismay that you’re at high risk in the gene categories Detoxification and Oxidative Stress.
–The results from your ELISA-ACT curl your toes, especially when the DNA Detox is marked “high priority.” You knew it was a toxic world out there, but you didn’t know your body was a magnet for it all.
–Since your DNA Antioxidation results are also marked “high priority,” your next step would be to order the Genova Oxidative Stress Profile. Click through and bring the kit to your doctor or schedule a lab-only at WholeHealth Chicago. Don’t be surprised if your results confirm what your genes are saying: that they’ve got problems in this area.
Before you start wondering if you should tell your friends goodbye, cancel your automatic bill payments, and get your affairs in order, let me pause and say that even with poor genes and mediocre detox and antioxidant systems, you can take charge and with relatively few steps maintain a detoxed body with a high antioxidant profile and very likely a significantly reduced cancer risk.
Your liver is the detox master
The main organ of detoxification—and also your largest single organ—is your liver. Operationally, your liver is so complicated that the late physician writer Lewis Thomas wrote that he’d be more comfortable flying a Boeing 747 blindfolded than attempting to operate someone’s liver. Just think about your daily intake of buffalo wings, Tanqueray, birth control pills, nicotine pods, and the fumes from the #57 bus you’re biking behind. All these are being rendered fairly harmless by your liver, which dumps the garbage into your intestine, circling it back to your kidneys for you to pee out. Sort of makes you want to take a long hot shower, doesn’t it?
There are two phases of liver detoxification, unimaginatively named Phase I and Phase II. With Phase I, envision gathering up the garbage in your body into big plastic bags and taking them outside for pick up.
With Phase II, the garbagemen come, load the bags onto their trucks and drive off. Click here for a lot of detailed information on these stages, if you’re interested.
Your cancer detox
Patients who know me are aware that I try to keep it simple when it comes to health and preventive maintenance. I’ve read through many detoxification programs over the years that were so complicated and so discouraging that you needed a martini just to deal with the stress of it all. Click below to evaluate your cancer risk in each of the areas.
If you find that you don’t have any particular risks, just cool it, eat a healthful whole-food organic diet, exercise, keep stress under control, and enjoy your life.
If you’re from a cancer-prone family, eat organic whole foods, avoid obvious carcinogens, and avoid processed foods. Take the next steps too. I’m lifting these from last week’s Health Tip because it doesn’t hurt to say it twice.
Take these steps
Here’s a list of commonsense steps you can take to avoid exposure to environmental toxins:
–Use chemical-free household products (click here for the Environmental Working Group’s recommendations).
–Use chemical-free cosmetics and personal care products (click here for EWG’s main page).
–Eat whole foods rather than chemically laced processed ones (here’s EWG’s guide to the most and least pesticide-laden whole foods).
–Limit yourself to organically raised (pesticide/herbicide free) produce and ethically raised, hormone/antibiotic free meat and dairy.
—Avoid foods with additives and preservatives (virtually all processed foods).
–Avoid seafood from areas laced with heavy metals.
Finally, take a look at EWG’s Cancer Defense Diet.
–Get the DNA Health Test (Nordic) to determine if you have specific issues with detoxification, antioxidation, and/or inflammation.
–Get the ELISA-ACT Test to see if you’re a magnet for the world’s chemical sludge.
–Get the Genova Oxidative Stress Test to check your antioxidant status.
Once you’ve had your test results explained by one of our practitioners (me or Drs. Sharma, Gemelas, or Scott or nutritionists Marla Feingold and Olivia Wagner), we’ll likely recommend that every six months or so you engage in a formal ten-day detoxification.
Many of us prefer the Clear Change 10-Day Program by Metagenics. It’s simple and straightforward with clear instructions and an accompanying webinar that generally answers all questions.
Once you’ve completed your semiannual detoxification, I suggest as daily maintenance two specific supplements to support detoxification and antioxidative systems. Personally (and the apothecary manager can attest to this), I’ve been taking both of these for (yikes) more than 20 years.
—Detoxication Factors (Integrative Therapeutics) to support my somewhat elderly liver, which faced many challenges in its younger days.
—Cyto Redoxin (Integrative Therapeutics), a potent blend of antioxidants.
And that’s all. You’re now doing everything right in the cancer prevention scheme of things.
David Edelberg, MD