Zinc May Help in the Fight Against Esophageal Cancer

Nutrition

By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year in the United States about 15,000 people are diagnosed with esophageal cancer. The CDC also reports that less than 15% of esophageal cancer cases occur in people under the age of 55. This type of cancer is also reportedly more common in men.

In 2003, Robert Kardashian Sr., a lawyer known for working as O.J. Simpson’s defense attorney and the father to the famous Kardashian sisters, was diagnosed with esophageal cancer.

Less than three months later, he died at the age of 59.

So what is esophageal cancer?

Cancer that forms in the esophagus is referred to as esophageal cancer.

The esophagus is the long, hollow muscular tube that connects the throat with the stomach. Essentially, its purpose is to transport liquids, food and saliva from the mouth to the stomach. When the cells that line the esophagus change and become malignant, they grow out of control and may form a tumor.

Common symptoms include difficulty swallowing, weight loss without effort, chest pain and other chest discomfort, bad indigestion or heartburn and coughing or hoarseness.

“Esophageal cancer is often diagnosed at an advanced stage because there are usually no early signs or symptoms,” according to the National Cancer Institute.

What does zinc have to do with esophageal cancer?

Recently, zinc, an essential trace mineral found in a variety of foods including oysters, red meat, poultry, nuts, whole grains and more, was reported as one of the best weapons you can have in your arsenal for fighting esophageal cancer.

Zinc is necessary for normal growth and development in children, proper functioning of the immune system, many neurological functions and reproduction. Some studies have also shown it may help prevent lung cancer.

And now a study, led by researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington, states that zinc may selectively halt the growth of esophageal cancer cells but not normal esophageal epithelial cells.

In esophageal cancer cells (and in cancer cells in general), a calcium channel called Orai1 is highly expressed. They found this by removing tumor tissues from people with esophageal squamous cell carcinoma. They also discovered that zinc inhibits Orai1 in the cancer cells.

According to a medical report, zinc inhibits the formation of esophageal cancer cells. It “dampens excitable calcium signaling - a known contributor to cancer cell growth - and prevents cancer cell proliferation.”

There are also earlier studies, which identified zinc deficiency in patients with esophageal cancer.   

This may be an exciting discovery. But before you go downing zinc supplements, talk to a competent physician about whether this type of treatment involving zinc will work for you.  

How can you be proactive?

If you do not already have esophageal cancer, you might want to get your nutrient levels tested to make sure minerals, like zinc and other nutrients, are balanced in your body. Clearly, nutrients such as zinc play a key role in keeping us healthy.

To learn more about zinc, read more information here from the National Institutes of Health.

There is also a very simple test you can take to see if you have enough zinc in your system. Grab some liquid zinc from your local health store and swish a tablespoon around in your mouth.

If you immediately get a strong unpleasant or metallic taste in your mouth, then you probably have an adequate amount of zinc in your system. However, if the zinc tastes like water or even sweet you may be deficient. Without enough zinc in your diet, you may experience a decreased sense of taste.

Also avoid smoking and consuming too much alcohol. Both of these habits are known to increase the risk of esophageal and other types of cancer.

Chronic acid reflux may also increase your risk for this cancer, so talk to your doctor about how you can better manage your condition.

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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