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How Cancer Works

From the website

Cancer refers to diseases where abnormal cells multiply uncontrollably, or simply won’t die. These cells often invade nearby tissues, inflicting more and more damage until, if left unchecked, they eventually shut down our entire life support system. As a result, cancer is the second leading killer in both the US and worldwide, responsible for one in every six human deaths (2,26).

Cancer thrives when oxidative stress activates chronic inflammation, which can damage or mutate our cellular DNA, transforming a normal cell into a tumor cell (27).

If some of this sounds familiar, you’re right. As we discussed in The Plant-Based Advantage, Animal foods — including processed, red, and white meat, as well as fish, dairy, and eggs — contain (or help create) a wide range of pro-inflammatory constituents, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heterocyclic amines, each of which “contribute to inflammation, oxidation, and carcinogenesis” (28).

Making matters worse, animal foods are incredibly low in anti-inflammatory constituents, including the powerful antioxidants that help protect us from oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. On average, animal foods contain less than 2% of the antioxidant content of plants (29).

The protein found in animal foods also puts us at risk for cancer. As Dr. Walter Willett, former Chair of Nutrition at Harvard, explains in the The Game Changers, “The amino acids that come from animal sources tend to make our cells rev up and multiply faster. For example, there is accumulating evidence that high consumption of proteins from dairy sources is related to a higher risk of prostate cancer. That chain of cancer causation actually seems pretty clear.”

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