When I worked at the National Cancer Institute, most science bureaucrats there considered lung cancer “incurable” and a “behavior problem.” But two studies show the potential of natural approaches for lowering your lung cancer risk, even if you’re a heavy smoker.
In the first study, researchers wanted to assess the dose-response effect for vitamin E and lung cancer. So — they looked back on six decades of research on the protective role vitamin E plays against the development of lung cancer. The research included studies that ran between 1955 and 2015.
They found subjects with the highest levels of vitamin E intake, on average, had a 16 percent lower lung cancer risk compared to those with the lowest vitamin levels. Plus, for every two mg/day increase in dietary vitamin E intake, the risk of lung cancer decreased by five percent.
In the second study, researchers looked at the association between fruits and vegetables in the diet and lung cancer risk.
Researchers used data from Canada to examine the roles of beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein/zeaxanthin, lycopene, and vitamin C in the development of lung cancer.
They obtained dietary information from 1,105 new cases of lung cancer and 1,449 population-based control participants. They looked at how often participants ate 49 different fruits and vegetables for two years prior to diagnosis. And they assessed potential confounding factors and smoking history.
They found that participants with higher beta-carotene (as consumed in foods) had an average lung cancer risk reduction of 34 percent. Participants with higher beta-cryptoxanthine consumption had an average risk reduction of 35 percent. Higher lycopene reduced average lung cancer risk by 25 percent. And higher vitamin C reduced it by 26 percent.
Overall, all carotenoids showed a protective effect in men who were heavy smokers. And higher vitamin C also showed a protective effect in women who were heavy smokers.
The ability of these simple dietary factors to lower lung cancer risk — even among heavy smokers — suggests that the U.S. government has missed the big picture for the past 60 years by focusing exclusively on smoking cessation and prevention.
The “new” breakthrough 100 years in the making
Actually, we first learned that increased intake of fruit and vegetables reduces lung cancer, as well as almost all common cancers, a century ago from the British Empire Cancer Campaign. But in the U.S., conventional wisdom held that evidence for individual carotenoids and vitamin C was “insufficient” to recommend specific nutrient intakes.
Instead, as I said, the focus has been entirely on lung cancer as a “behavioral problem” due to smoking.
Heavy smoking increases lung cancer relative risk by 10 times. In other words, about 1 out of 10 heavy smokers get lung cancer, while only 1 in 100 non-smokers get lung cancer.
Granted, individual dietary risk factors don’t show this degree of relative risk. But everybody eats, and not everybody smokes.
Plus, there are fewer and fewer smokers to begin with. And many smokers are not “heavy” smokers. Furthermore, today most people diagnosed with lung cancer already quit smoking, or never started in the first place — especially among women.
So this new research is especially important for the large percentage of individuals — ignored by the U.S. government — whose lung cancer ISN’T attributed to smoking.
Other parts of the world ahead of the U.S. — again
Of course, these results on carotenoids, vitamin C, and vitamin E come from outside the U.S. Half a dozen other studies from outside the U.S. show vitamins A, C, and E as well as other nutrients help prevent lung cancer and other “incurable” cancers, like glioma of the brain.
I helped discover the role of carotenoids — like lutein and lycopene — in human metabolism and nutrient composition over 30 years ago. So — we have only known about them for about half as long as we’ve known about vitamins. And interest in lycopene has mostly focused on prostate health and its ability to prevent prostate cancer.
But lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. Clearly, as these new studies show, the government’s “war on cancer” should include prevention advice, not just advice about smoking cessation.
The authors of the new study wrote “other modifiable risk factors must be identified so that all possible lung cancer prevention strategies can be implemented.” They added “the multifactorial etiology of lung cancer suggests that factors other than smoking, such as diet, can influence its occurrence.”
Studies like these also suggest that dietary antioxidants — like carotenoids and vitamins C and E — may relate differently depending on your sex, type of lung cancer tumor, and smoking intensity.
Of course, the government’s one-size-fits-all, blanket approach ignores these important differences. (Our analysis at the National Cancer Institute 25 years ago turned up this important difference.)
It also ignores the fact that not all types of lung cancer tumors are susceptible to smoking in the first place.
Plus, the important differences between women and men have also been given short shrift in research studies, as I report in this month’s issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter. I call it “the real war on women’s health.” (If you’re not yet a newsletter subscriber, now is the perfect time to get started.)
To learn about all the factors the government ignores that can help you prevent, detect and even reverse cancer, check out my new Authentic Anti-Cancer learning protocol by clicking here.
“Inverse Association between Dietary Intake of Selected Carotenoids and Vitamin C and Risk of Lung Cancer,” Frontiers in Oncology, 2017; 7: 23
“Association of Dietary Vitamin E Intake With Risk of Lung Cancer: A Dose-Response Meta-Analysis,” Asia Pacific J Clin Nutrition 26 (2), 271-277, 2017