Are you proactive about blood cancers?

Nutrition

By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD

Did you know that blood cancers are the third leading cancer killer in the United States? Today, nearly 1.3 million people in the U.S. are either living with, or in remission from the 3 types of blood cancer: leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma. These cancers are sometimes highlighted by famous people such as Jill Clayburgh, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Ryan O’Neal. We recently reported about this cancer when it took the life of comedian, Charlie Murphy.

September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month. It is a time when we can create even greater awareness about how we can be more proactive about these cancers.

It All Starts In The Bone Marrow…

Regardless of what type of blood cancer it is, this disease generally starts in the marrow within our bones. There are generally two types of bone marrow: red bone marrow is the red spongy tissue that produces red cells, white cells and platelets; and yellow bone marrow that produces fat, cartilage and the bones themselves.

When cells are normal and healthy, they eventually die so new ones can be replaced.  This is known as apoptosis. But when the DNA of immature cells become damaged, they mutate into cancer cells.  Unlike healthy blood cells, cancer cells don’t die.  Instead, they continue to divide at an abnormal rate and spread throughout the bloodstream to different organs in the body, eventually crowding out the healthy cells in the process.

These abnormal blood cells are referred to as cancerous cells.  They prevent your blood from performing the normal functions such as preventing infections or serious bleeding.

Blood cancer generally gets categorized into three main types:

  • Leukemia – Those with leukemia suffer from an abnormal production of leukocytes (white blood cells).  The DNA of immature leukocytes become damaged and begin to grow and divide at a rapid rate throughout the bloodstream.
  • Lymphoma – Lymphoma is the type of cancer that begins in the cells that are part of the body’s immune system. They begin to affect the lymph glands in the body. When this happens, lymphocytes enlarge and start to grow out of control.
  • Myeloma – Myeloma is cancer of plasma cells, another form of white blood cells.

So how can we be proactive about these types of cancers?

One way is nutrition.  Below are some nutrients which studies suggest may be beneficial for these cancers:

  • Selenium - Studies have shown that selenium may suppress leukemia through the action of endogenous eicosanoids.  Selenium has also been proven to trigger apoptosis at non-toxic doses. More importantly, apoptosis activated by selenium did not trigger apoptosis in hematopoietic stem cells, which increase the production of all blood cells (including the cancerous ones). Selenium can be found in spinach, eggs, and brazil nuts.
  • Vitamin A - Vitamin A controls the proteins produced by your cells to help produce and develop new cells. Vitamin A also promotes healthy development and maturation of stem cells in the bone marrow.  Without vitamin A, the bone marrow may have difficulty producing stem cells. You can find vitamin A in foods like sweet potatoes, carrots and pumpkins.
  • Iron - High amounts of iron improves the function of bone marrow.  Studies have shown that out of the 1 milligram of every 10-20 milligrams you consume, your bone marrow and other lymphatic organs will store up to 30 percent - most of that iron being consumed by the bone marrow to make new red blood cells (erythropoiesis). Iron can be found in leafy vegetables like spinach, cabbage, and broccoli, as well as lima beans.
  • Folic Acid & Vitamin B12 - These two nutrients make quite the team against blood cancer.  Folic Acid may boost your platelets, which are responsible for blood clotting and thickening.  Folic Acid may also improve DNA synthesis which help the reproduction of healthy cells.  Vitamin B12 works with Folic Acid to stimulate the enzymes in bone marrow to increase the production of new red and white blood cells. Both of these nutrients can be found in whole grains, asparagus, bananas, Brussel’s sprouts and oranges.

Finally, it is important to do routine testing of your nutrients levels to determine whether there is an imbalance.  As you can see, the nutrients discussed above such as selenium, folic acid, vitamin B12 play a huge role in keeping us healthy.  Imbalances of your nutrients may be a contributing factor to cancer.  For more information on how various minerals may increase or reduce your risk for cancer, read here.

Enjoy Your Healthy Life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. To learn more about the pH Health Care Team, click here.

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