Cancer cells are commonly present in the body, but cannot grow into tumors without hooking up a blood supply. Angiogenesis inhibitors in plant foods may help prevent this from happening.
Probably about a third of common cancers can be prevented by eating a healthy, plant-based diet, being physically active, and maintaining a healthy weight. One of the ways plants may help is by cutting off the supply lines to cancerous tumors.
A tumor cannot grow without a blood supply. Currently, it is believed that a tumor mass cannot exist in a volume greater than about size of the ball at the tip of a ballpoint pen without a proper blood supply, which indicates that angiogenesis—angio means vessel, so the genesis—the creation of new blood vessels is critical to tumor growth. Each one of us has cancer cells in us right now. By age 70, microscopic cancers are detected in the thyroid glands of virtually everyone, for example. Most of these tumors never cause problems, never become clinically significant, leading to the concept of “cancer without disease” as a normal state during aging. Cancer cells are commonly present in the body, but they can't grow into tumors any bigger than that tiny dot size, no more than 10 million cancer cells before needing to get hooked up to a blood supply. So tumors diabolically release angiogenic factors, chemicals that cause new blood vessels to sprout into the tumor. The most important one is called VEGF, vascular endothelial growth factor. But we can suppress VEGF with Ve-ggies.
Many of the phytonutrients we know and love in tea and spices and fruit and berries and broccoli and beans can block cancer's stimulation of new blood vessels. They're ideal for prophylactic long-term use against breast cancer because of their reliability, availability, safety, and affordable price. Dietary agents used to suppress angiogenesis may be an important step in the prevention and treatment of breast cancer, and in fact all types of tumors. The review concludes that we now have convincing evidence that dietary plant constituents possess the unique ability to affect tumor angiogenesis, which may be deemed advantageous in the prevention and treatment of human breast cancer.
Most of these studies have only been done in a petri dish, though. You stimulate human blood vessel cells and they start forming these tubular structures trying to make new capillaries to feed the tumor, but if you add plant flavones like apigen or luteolin, found thoughout the plant kigdom—like in citrus, celery, and peppers, you can see they help block the tube formation. Here’s the effect of fisitin, a phytonutrient found in strawberries and other fruits and veggies. It just shrinks the beginnings of new blood vessel formation right down.
Where do researchers get their hands on human blood vessels? Human umbilical vein endothelial cells. They get them from discarded umbilical cords, or, more controversially, from the eyes of aborted fetuses. But either way you can stimulate blood vessel formation with the tumor compound VEGF and then abolish that effect with plant compounds, in this case from purple rice. Therefore, the daily consumption of natural foods containing adequate flavonoids could be beneficial for the prevention of cancer metastasis or could improve cancer prognosis.
Given the power of plants, one might speculate that the foundation of an anti-angiogenic approach to cancer might be a whole food vegan diet.
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Ariel Levitsky.
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The cancer-promoting growth hormone IGF-1 is another angiogenic factor, helping tumors turn on the gravy train. This may be another reason plant-based diets protect against cancer, since as few as two weeks on a healthy diet can lower IGF-1 levels. See my series on the elegant experiments that discovered this:
One way cancer turns on the tap is silencing certain tumor suppressor genes. How do you turn them back on? See, for example, Apple Skin: Peeling Back Cancer.
Because we all likely have cancer cells inside us, Cancer Prevention and Treatment May Be the Same Thing. To die with cancer rather than from cancer, we need to slow down cancer doubling time. Check out one of my oldie-but-goodie video Slowing the Growth of Cancer.
For more context, check out my associated blog post: Flax and Breast Cancer Survival
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