In our previous two blogs about prevention of cancer, we have focused on decreasing the amount of oxidative stress the body has to handle and providing adequate antioxidants to prevent such stress to DNA of the cell. In this blog- we will focus on the amazing repair system of the body when coupled with adequate nutrients enabling the cell to repair significant damage that has already occurred. Precancerous lesions or growth offers us a unique insight into the use of antioxidants in the prevention of cancer. It is difficult to follow these tumors within the body, but many studies have followed such tumors on the surface of the body. Such studies primarily look at leukoplakia, which is a pre cancerous tumor found inside the mouth of tobacco chewers, and cervical dysplasia, the precancerous tumor on the surface of the cervix. We hope that by observing the use of various antioxidants on these tumors we will gain insight into the possible effect on the already damaged DNA. Cancer is a multistage process, and even precancerous tumors are in a relatively advanced stage. The next step in the multistage process is the development of a true cancer itself.
Great interest has piqued in the prevention and treatment of leukoplakia. Several studies have shown these tobacco chewers have low antioxidant levels. Consequently, those with highest level of antioxidants also demonstrate the lowest risk of developing leukoplakia. Dr. Harinder Grewal wrote a review article on the effect of antioxidants not only in the prevention of oral cancer but also the reversal of leukoplakia. This article is landmark to phase 3 of prevention of cancer. His findings provide hope that not only can antioxidants halt the process of developing cancer; they may actually empower the body’s repair system to reverse cell damage. Here is a list of several clinical trials he studied.
1. A study in India used vitamin A and beta carotene, researchers observed complete remission of the leukoplakia at rate ten times greater than placebo group.
2. A pilot study that used only beta carotene showed a reversal of the leukoplakia back to normal cells in 71% of their patients.
3. In a study in US, patients received a combination of beta carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E, researchers witnessed a response rate of 60 percent, and the abnormal precancerous cells reverted back to being normal cells.
4. In a multi-institutional US trial, patients received only beta carotene, they had response rate of 56 percent.
5. A study done with male hamsters that had experimentally induced oral cancer considered using beta-carotene, vitamin E, glutathione and Vitamin C both in combination & alone. Significant improvement occurred in each group; however, the group receiving the combination had by far the best results. This was not merely an additional effect as more and more antioxidants were used but rather the result of a synergistic effect of the supplements working together.
Cervical dysplasia is another precancerous tumor that occurs on the surface of the body, several studies have shown that individuals with low levels of beta carotene and vitamin C have significantly increased risk of cervical dysplasia. Women who had an intake of less than 30mg of vitamin C had a ten times greater risk of cervical dysplasia than women whose intake was higher. Other epidemiological studies have shown that dietary deficiencies in vitamin A, Vitamin E, beta carotene and Vitamin C increase the risk of cervical cancer.
Beta carotene supplementation actually has been shown to prevent cervical dysplasia from progressing to cervical cancer. In addition, some clinical trials have shown the role of vitamin C & beta- carotene in reversing or reducing the risk of cervical dysplasia altogether. After researching studies like the ones mentioned earlier. We have no doubt these antioxidants nutrients work together, in synergy. This means we not only need an assortment of different antioxidants, but also the minerals like manganese, zinc, selenium and copper and the B-Vitamins that support their enzymatic function.