Cancer touches virtually all of us in some way. International World Cancer Day was launched in 2011 to encourage awareness of how to prevent, detect and treat cancer.
Here, Dr Angus Dalgleish, Professor of Oncology at St George’s University of London, shares some simple practical tips, both to help prevent cancer and to maximise treatment.
Dr Dalgleish is a leader in the emerging and hopeful field of cancer immunotherapy, where the patient’s immune system is stimulated to step up its natural fight against the damaging cells.
Since 2000, Dr Dalgleish’s research has been funded by the Institute for Cancer Vaccines and Immunotherapy, the only national charity in the UK that exclusively funds research into fighting cancer with vaccines and immunotherapy (icvi.org.uk). He is now Principal of ICVI.
So what can help us challenge cancer?
Dr Dalgleish says that reducing inflammation in your body could help protect you against cancer. If the worst happens, it could mean you respond better to cancer treatment. The ICVI recently carried out a study, which showed that cancer patients who showed signs of inflammation did not respond to treatment as well as those without those signs.
Inflammation is a process in which our white blood cells react to protect us from infection with foreign organisms, such as bacteria and viruses.
While we wouldn’t survive without the protection of inflammation, it has a dark side when it comes to cancer because it can aid and abet the development of tumours and their spread around the body, according to Dr Dalgleish.
- Avoid anything that causes inflammation, such as smoking, pollution eg diesel fumes, processed foods and alcohol in excess. (However, the occasional glass of red wine or beer can be good for you.)
- Avoid intense and excessive sun exposure, which inflames the skin and leads to melanoma and other cancers.
- Conversely, it’s really important to make sure you get 20 minutes of bright sunshine daily from April to September to maintain vitamin D levels. In the winter, take a vitamin D3 supplement [see list below for products].
- Obesity is an inflammatory state, so make sure you stay at a reasonable weight. Eat fresh foods, such as anti-inflammatory vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, healthy oils (eg olive) and oily fish.
- Take regular exercise, eg walking, dancing, yoga, Pilates.
- Seek treatment for chronic infections such as recurrent cystitis, hepatitis, and other viral infections including HIV, which may all cause cancers.
- Avoid, reduce or manage chronic stress, including divorce, job loss or financial problems.
- Consider taking well-chosen nutritional supplements, such as vitamin D3, zinc, magnesium, and selenium.
- If you do have to go through cancer treatment, research carried out by the Institute for Cancer Vaccines and Immunotherapy (ICVI)shows that patients have more chance of success with good levels of vitamin D3 in their system. Most people are deficient in D3 so ask your doctor for a blood test and if the level is not optimal take a supplement (see below) to bring it up to normal.
- A short course of soluble aspirin (maximum 300mg) taken once daily with food before starting treatment may help patients fare better during the regime, according to recent research by the ICVI. However, it is essential to consult your doctor first, as it is unsafe for anyone with bleeding problems, including gastritis, ulcers, etc.
- A natural alternative is the Indian spice turmeric, which is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant; ongoing international research suggests turmeric may help in several ways. (See below for products.)
To read more about Professor Dalgleish’s pioneering work on cancer treatments, visit icvi.org.uk.
Pharmacist Shabir Daya recommends:
- BetterYou DLux 1000iu Spray, £6.95 for 15ml (100 individual doses)
- BetterYou Turmeric Oral Spray, £17.95 for 25ml (spray against your inner cheek; unlike most capsules, this can be taken at any time of day and is also highly absorbable)
- Solgar Formula VM75, £9.99 for 30 tablets, one daily: this vegan and Kosher-friendly product provides selenium and zinc in a high strength multivitamin and mineral formulation.