The incidence of cancer continues to rise at an alarming rate. Currently, one out of every two men and one out of every three women have cancer; so most likely, you have a family member or close friend that has some form of cancer. " In 2014, there will be an estimated 1,665,540 new cancer cases diagnosed and 585,720 cancer deaths in the United States. Cancer remains the second most common cause of death in the U.S. accounting for nearly 1 of every 4 deaths." Although these dismal statistics make us feel like helpless victims, switching to a whole-food plant-centered diet offers powerful protection against cancer development. This article highlights how milk protein (casein) raises our levels of a powerful cancer-promoting growth hormone (IGF-1) which has been found to be the "most relevant cancer promoter ever discovered."
Reducing Cancer Risk During the Promotional Stage
Cancer development is divided into three main stages: (1) Initiation (2) Promotion (3) Progression (metastasis). The first two stages are discussed briefly by Dr. T. Colin Campbell and can be seen here. The video explains how our food choices act as "fertilizer" on cancer cells - which fuels cancer progression. Cancer development, (or any other disease) may begin with a genetic component, however, these "cancer genes" can be influenced by an outside stimulus. "Although the initiated cells are not considered to be reversible" Dr. Campbell states, "the cells growing through the promotion stage are usually considered to be reversible." These cells respond well to nutritional intervention. Exciting new research supports this concept. "For example, the nutrients from animal based foods, especially the protein, promote the development of the cancer whereas the nutrients from plant-based foods, especially the antioxidants, reverse the promotion stage." These observations offer new hope.
IGF-1 Hormone Identified as Cancer Promoting
Dr. Campbell's 20-year groundbreaking research, the China Project, witnessed and identified the essential element which "turned on" and "turned off" cancer growth. These findings were published in The China Study. The element which was found to initiate cancer gene expression was protein from animal sources, especially the protein (casein) from cow's milk. This protein stimulates a powerful growth hormone called Insulin-Like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1). IGF-1's specific purpose is to promote growth, which is especially important during childhood. Dr. John McDougall explains this in more detail here. Dr. Campbell's research demonstrates how diet and lifestyle habits can alter the expression of mutated cancer cells. He firmly believes that cancer promotion is almost entirely related to food choices and lifestyle practices. An explanation of this can be seen in Kathy Freston's interview with Dr. Campbell here or our blog, "Animal Protein "Turns On" Cancer Genes."
IGF-1 in Childhood
As mentioned above, animal protein, especially dairy casein, "stimulates the production of the same growth hormone that spurs childhood growth." Dr. McDougall reinforces this by saying, "There are several things that make IGF-1 go up or down. At the stage of our lives now, we don't need to grow anymore or faster. So we want to decrease the growth stimulation as much as possible. The dairy industry uses this knowledge to promote their products...because dairy raises IGF1-1 which promotes bone growth. The down side of this is that not only does IGF-1 promote the growth of normal tissue, it promotes the growth of abnormal tissues like cancer." (Especially hormone-dependent cancers such as breast and prostate cancer.)
Diet Plays a Role in IGF-1 Levels
Studies show dairy products are capable of raising our IGF-1 levels by 10%. Elevated levels can be attributed to as little as one glass of milk per day. According to Dr. Michael Greger, "Higher IGF-1 levels were just associated with animal protein intake; in fact plant protein seemed to decrease IGF-1 levels. Animal protein appears to send a much different signal to our livers than most plant proteins. So even those vegans eating the same amount of protein as meat eaters, still had lower levels of the IGF-1, so it's apparently not about excessive protein in general, but animal protein in particular." Dr. Greger's video explains this concept in more detail here.
Women and men who follow a vegan diet have 13% - 9% lower IFG-1 levels respectively. "The reason animal proteins trigger the release of the cancer-promoting growth hormone IGF-1 more than plant proteins may be because the relative ratios of amino acids in animal proteins more closely resembles our own." If this is true, this would explain why consuming eggs are associated with higher rates of cancer as noted in our article, Unscrambling the Truth About Eggs. (Remember how the egg industry boasts about the amino acid pattern in eggs matching very closely to the pattern of the human body.)
IGF-1 Responsible for Cancer Metastasis
Because IGF-1 promotes rapid growth, "it helps cancer cells break off from the main tumor, migrate into surrounding tissues, and invade the bloodstream." Dr. Greger says that IGF-1 is responsible for the metastasis of breast cancer cells spreading to the bone, liver, brain, and lymph nodes. "IGF-1, helps transform normal cells into cancer cells in the first place, then helps them survive, proliferate, self-renew, grow, migrate, invade, stabilize into new tumors, and even helps hook up the blood supply to the new tumor. IGF-1 is a growth hormone that, makes things grow—that's what it does. But too much growth when we're all grown up can mean cancer."
- "When you're a fully-grown adult, cell growth is something we want to slow down, not accelerate. Animal protein appears to send a much different signal to our livers than most plant proteins." As a result, our livers produce more IGF-1 hormone, thus promoting more abnormal cell growth.
- "IGF-1 levels drop low enough to reverse cancer cell growth" after only a few days of switching to a whole-food, plant-based diet.
- "Consuming plant based foods offers the best hope of avoiding cancer, perhaps even reversing cancer once it is diagnosed. Believing that cancer is attributed to genes is a fatalistic idea but believing that cancer can be controlled by nutrition is a far more hopeful idea."
- Dr. Joel Fuhrman is one of the many nutritional experts that believe many cancers can be prevented. He states, "After billions of dollars devoted to researching drug treatments for cancer and minimal increases in life expectancy.... many authorities such as the National Institute of Health and the American Cancer Society, have been issuing a stronger voice advocating more preventive measures to reduce cancer incidence. Diet has become a key element in the fight against cancer."
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