The process by which normal cells become cancer cells has to do with genetic damage,
that is, the genes that we have inherited become damaged.
Our body is build-up of approximately 75 trillion cells and there are many different
types of cells of every part of our body. They continually replicate themselves.
Each cell has a set of genetic instructions in its center, called the DNA, which controls
cell growth, development and replication.
The DNA is the vital component that gets damaged, the chemical blueprint in genes,
in the form of oxidation and the main cause of this is reactive oxygen ( technically
referred to as reactive oxygen species ) , or the more common name: free radicals.
When DNA is damaged by free radicals, it can replicate a damaged cell.
When this cell replicates itself, it can become cancer.
Cancer is fundamentally an oxidative process and many types of cancers depend on the
conversion of particular molecules in the cells or carcinogenic chemicals to reactive
oxidized forms. The oxidation is largely caused by free radicals.
Oxidation in our body is the main cause of many forms of cancer, heart disease,
atheroclerosis, adult onset of diabetes, cataracts, lung – and liver disorders and
degenerative diseases of the brain.
Every day, the DNA in each cell in our body faces about 10,000 attacks from cell-
damaging forces known as free radicals, which are unstable oxygen molecules
that have lost an electron.
Ironically, both chemotherapy and radiotherapy that are used to treat cancer
cause more oxidation.
In healthy living cells, reactive oxygen species are formed continuously during
the process of respiration in the cells.
Although the body is well equipped to repair genetic (DNA) damage, the repair processes
are usually less than 100 % efficient. Despite even extensive repair, oxidized DNA is
usually abundant in human tissues. Significantly, damaged DNA is particularly abundant
in tumors. The damage rate may be up to 10 modifications in each cell every day,
so it is apparent that damage accumulates with age.
The CSIRO Division of Human Nutrition believes that this increase in genetic damage
with age is due to the cumulative effects of free radical damage and dietary and
environmental chemicals that damage genes.
Our bodies have to face daily an over production of free radicals, caused by our polluted
environment, stressful lifestyles and mal nutrition. Free radicals are naturally produced as
your body turns fuel to energy, you can get them also from stress, smoking and radiation
from the sun.
These volatile molecules cruise around your body, trying to stabilize themselves by stealing electrons from other molecules. When they succeed, they create still more free radicals, causing a sort of snowballing procession of damage.
Free radicals don’t just occasionally pop up here and there. Up to 5% of the oxygen that each cell uses is converted into free radicals.
Ionising radiation is a potent generator of reactive oxygen species, while tobacco smoke has been found to increase the DNA damage by 35-50%. Other well-known causes include:
many polluting chemicals, including the hydrocarbons from petroleum, many pesticides, the chlorine in town water supplies; iron in access of the body’s needs: amines and nutrates.
It is a surprise to see iron, as being one of the essential nutrients, on the ‘bad list’, yet
the effects of excess iron are so significant, that the increased incidence of testicular cancer this century has been attributed to the increasing iron content of the Western diet.
Can our body defend itself against oxidative damage by excessive free radicals?
The answer is: yes! Our body is equipped with very powerful defenses against free radicals and this is largely through antioxidants, which are consumed in the diet or made within our body, and enzymes.
Balance is the key. If there are not enough antioxidants available to neutrolize the free radicals, oxidative stress develops.
The key antioxidants in the diet are the carotenoids, vitamin A ( which we consume or make from carotenoids), vitamin C, vitamin E and the trace minerals selenium and zinc.
The prominent enzymes that destroy free radicals are called: superoxide dismutase, glutathione (particular melatonin) and a host of other natural compounds, such as
those occuring in grape seeds and skins (OPC’s) and in the herb Ginkgo biloba.
Vitamin E has been extensively researched and there is strong evidence that it is beneficial
at much higher intakes than the current RDA (Recommended Daily Allowances) of
15 IU ( International Units). Vitamin E is especially required to protect unsaturated fats against oxidation.
The least amount found to inhibit oxidation is 40 IU per day, with 60 IU/day the minimum to enhance immune response. The Optimal level is 450 IU/day. Up to 800 IU has been found to be beneficial.
The researchers suggest an intake of 135 – 150 IU/day.
To obtain this amount from food, we would need to consume daily almost a kilogram
of almonds, or 150 grams of soya oil, or 55 grams of wheatgerm oil, each of which would be not only unpractical, but even a harmful quantity of food.
That’s why it make sense to supplement our diet with high quality nutritional supplements
(multiminerals and antioxidants) to ensure that the optimal levels are being met.