Cancer is a catchall term used to describe any malignant growth caused by uncontrolled and abnormal cell division. It may affect many different parts of the body, and may cause severe pain, problems with the body, or ultimately death. Cancer afflicts hundreds of millions of people worldwide, and the fight to battle different forms of cancer is one of the major fights of modern medicine. While advances have been made on a number of fronts, cancer rates continue to remain very high, especially in the industrialized nations, and so many people are looking for steps they can take in their daily lives to minimize their chances of developing cancer.
One great way to protect against developing cancer is to eat plenty of cancer fighting foods. These are foods that contain different compounds that are known to help prevent the development or spread of cancer. In some cases the exact mechanism occurring in these cancer fighting foods may not be fully understood, but some level of data appears to show a statistically significant link between eating those foods and fighting cancer. In other cases the link may not be well-documented, but popular wisdom may continue to hold the foods as good in the fight against cancer.
There are two main agents that occur in cancer fighting foods that help them do their job: phytochemicals and antioxidants. Phytochemicals occur in plants, and refer to a range of nutrients that are not essential to human health, but that do appear to promote a healthier system. Some of these phytochemicals are so powerful that they have been turned into drugs. For example, the cancer-fighting drug Taxol® is derived from a phytochemical found in the Pacific yew tree. Antioxidants slow the oxidation of other molecules, and certain oxidation reactions may damage cells and lead to an increased likelihood of cancer.
One of the most well-known and strongest of the cancer fighting foods are blueberries. Blueberries contain a powerful set of antioxidants known as anthocyanosides, which are believed to be helpful in preventing all types of cancer. In fact, anthocyanosides are currently the strongest naturally-occurring antioxidants known. Another powerful antioxidant found in berries is ellagic acid, which is found in raspberries and strawberries. Ellagic acid not only slows the oxidation process, but also slows the reproduction of cancer cells, and is especially useful against breast, lung, bladder, and skin cancer.
Flaxseed is another of the cancer fighting foods that is often seen promoted as a health supplement. Flaxseed contains phytoestrogens, which are believed to help prevent lung, breast, and skin cancer. Garlic also battles cancer, by slowing or entirely ceasing the growth of tumors through the presence of a compound, diallyl disulfide, which is especially potent against lung, colon, and skin cancers. Wine is also thought to help prevent cancer, as are grapes themselves, because of the presence of resveratrol, which actually stops cell damage from occurring, lessening the risk of cancer.
Tomatoes are a food looked at as being very beneficial in fighting prostate cancer, because of the presence of lycopene. Soy, rich in isoflavones, is thought to help ward off lung, cervix, stomach, and bladder cancer. And the entire class of cruciferous vegetables, including kale, cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli, contain a wide range of anti-cancer compounds, thought to help especially against colorectal, prostate, bladder, lung, and stomach cancer.