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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

Cancer is a Metabolic Disease: Dr. Martha Grout discusses why we do not all develop cancer

Jul 30, 2013 09:17AM ● By Martha M. Grout, MD, MD(H)

Why does everyone not develop cancer? We do appear to be approaching the point where more than half of us will develop cancer at some time in our lives, and yet half of us will remain healthy, or at least cancer-free. A review of the scientific literature reveals connections with the diet, lifestyle, chemical exposures, early childhood environment and traumatic events in our lives.

Yet childhood leukemia and childhood cancers of the brain and nervous system exist, as well as cancers in people that exercise every day and eat raw foods, vegetarian foods and organic foods. How can we blame a child’s cancer on something caused by environmental exposure? How can we blame parents for something over which they have no control? The blame game may be useful in the long run to avoid exposing future generations to carcinogenic compounds. But we have to deal with cancer in the here and now, and most of us have very little, if any, control over the larger aspects of our environment, such as water pollution, smog and wireless networks.

The National Cancer Institute has stated that the causes of childhood cancers are largely unknown. A few conditions, such as Down syndrome, other specific chromosomal and genetic abnormalities and ionizing radiation exposures, explain a small percentage of cases.

Environmental causes of childhood cancer have long been suspected by many scientists, but have been difficult to pin down, partly because cancer in children is rare and because it is difficult to identify past exposure levels in children, particularly during potentially important periods such as pregnancy or even prior to conception. In addition, each of the distinctive types of childhood cancers develops differently—with a potentially wide variety of causes and a unique clinical course in terms of age, race, gender and other factors.

A few causes are clearly identified. Ionizing radiation damages DNA and has the potential for transforming normal cells into cancer cells. Thyroid cancer may develop decades after childhood exposure to head and neck radiation. Childhood chemotherapy and/or bone marrow transplantation also results in significantly increased incidence of adult cancers.

Molecular biology has demonstrated in recent years the validity of Otto Warburg’s postulates formulated in the 1920s – the unusually high breakdown of glucose and production of lactic acid in the presence of oxygen. Warburg speculated that this abnormal glucose metabolism was characteristic of cancer cells as they began to undergo reprogramming of their cellular metabolism.

Natural substances contained in foods have the ability to affect cellular signaling through epigenetic mechanisms – turning genes on and off chemically, thus altering gene expression and cellular metabolism. If we can alter our gene expression through the foods we eat, then we should logically be able to alter our expression of cancer, as well.

Diabetics have an increased incidence of cancer of all types. Obesity is associated with both diabetes and increased cancer. Exercise reduces the risk of cancer. Change metabolism; change the odds of developing cancer. We can vote with our forks and our feet. It’s no guarantee of perfect health, but diet and lifestyle changes seem like a smart choice to increase our chances of better health.

Dr. Martha Grout is the medical director of the Arizona Center for Advanced Medicine, in Scottsdale. For more information, call 480-240-2600 or visit

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