“Cancer death rates show decline” was one of the CBC/health headlines on May 09 this year, that got a lot of of people thinking. The article seemed to have raised awareness to some extent, hoping to catch the eye (I mean, breath) of stubborn smokers, for 27% of all cancer deaths are due to lung cancer, says the group director of Cancer Cancer society. The decline was attributed to increased screening and decreased smoking, so that the consistent hike in cigarette prices might have been a blessing in disguise. I certainly see laboratories busy screening people with increasing wait times over the past few years, as cancer has changed its status from being a ‘stigma’ to a ‘death threat that everybody wants to avoid’. Well, that is good news.
But then, is that all? ‘Quit smoking and go for screening to reduce cancer death rates’ is all that we as a society need to do in order to look good on the frontline of our fight against cancer?? Surely, cancer is more than just a side-effect of smoking (I hear that smoking causes more heart problems than cancer and some people might even argue that all these attacks on smokers is merely a publicity stunt). We hear a lot about anti-oxidants such as Vitamin C and Vitamin E having shown some promised results in fighting cancer. Wow!! A magic pill indeed? Well, what does it do and how does it cure the deadly disease that even chemotherapy and radiation fail at times in controlling?
Anti-oxidants, as the name suggests, have something to do with the process of inhibiting oxidation (removal of oxygen from complex compounds) inside our bodies. The plain English definition of oxidation in us is “any chemical reaction in which a material gives up electrons, as when the material combines with oxygen such as burning (rapid) or rusting (slow).” Basically, it is a chemical reaction or a series of chemical reactions caused by eating (my best guess) in which body compounds lose electrons. Can we avoid that? As much as we can avoid eating – the ultimate thing to do if we are generating too many ‘free radicals’ which nothing but charged ions or electrons. What do these free radicals do to cancer? Most likely, are major sources of causing cancer. A free radical, if energetic enough, can run around in the neighbourhood and if happens to be present at the wrong place at the wrong time, can disrupt the fine process of cell division inside our body. There are certain areas inside our body where cell division does take place continuously. We do not want free radicals in that neighbourhood, because once the cell division process disrupts, it can go haywire and boom!! Before we know it, we get a tumor.
Scary, isn’t it?? But that is what a renowned Radiation Biologist once told me. I have no reason to believe he was lying. We must, as much as possible, have as few free radicals inside of us as possible, and that is where antioxidants help. They neutralize the free radicals floating around in our body and essentially catch the tiger with its tail.
I will give you some time to think on this for a while and encourage you to do your own research. We will talk more on cancer once I get you more involved.
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After all, your health is in your hands.