Note: before anyone pooh-poohs this article for being in a blog mostly about weather and climate, note the description on the masthead. Note also that I have recently experienced cancer in my family as I’m sure many readers have at some time, therefore it is relevant to me, and may be helpful to others, and that’s all that matters. – Anthony
Guest post by David Archibald
Before starting out in climate science in 2006, my main hobby was cancer research. To that end, I had co-invented a cancer drug with two professors from Purdue University, Professor Jim Morre and his wife Professor Dorothy Morre. I went on to lodge a patent on a benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) drug myself. I still operate in that space. Early in that journey, I was given the draft manuscript of a book on how isoflavones from soy and other legumes modulate the human female hormone system.
That was in 1998. The manuscript had been written by Dr Graham Kelly who had founded a company to commercialise isoflavone supplementation in men and women. Dr Kelly’s journey in cancer research started in the 1980s when a friend with bowel cancer asked him to look into the science of it. Dr Kelly was intrigued by the epidemiological differences in cancer rates between populations. For example, Japanese who migrate to the US go to the US breast cancer rate in a generation. The US breast cancer rate is five times the Japanese breast cancer rate. The difference in cancer rate is not genetic, it is obviously dietary. So what is the difference in diet that is causing the difference in cancer incidence? A big difference is isoflavone consumption. Amongst the Japanese, it is an average of 40 mg per day. The US average is 3 mg per day.
In Western countries, breast cancer and prostate cancer have the same incidence. In women, 11% get diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime and 5% die of it. In men, 11% get diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime and 5% die of it. There are very big epidemiological differences in prostate cancer rates. As the following graph shows, the Vietnamese prostate cancer rate is one fortieth of the Western prostate cancer rate:
Defeating the scourge of a lot of common cancers is as simple as changing your diet. It is a bit like Vitamin C. If you don’t get any Vitamin C in your diet, you die of scurvy within three years. Pigs and dogs make their own Vitamin C, and presumably some precursor ape to humans had the ability to make it. Humans must have lost the ability for an evolutionary advantage. There are probably a large number of other plant molecules which we evolved to rely upon in our diet. We might not die in the near term if we don’t get them in our diet, but we suffer an increased incidence of degenerative diseases if we don’t. With respect to the dietary components that might cause the low Vietnamese prostate cancer rate, the national dish of Vietnam is called pho. It is a bowl of noodles and meat with three side dishes – bean sprouts, chillis and mint. The anticancer effect would be the result of synergistic blocking of the tNOX molecule on the external membrane of cancer cells by sulforaphane from the bean sprouts with capsaicin from the chilli peppers, stopping the overproduction of anti-apoptotic proteins and allowing the death receptors to trigger the apoptotic cascade of the caspases.
Back to Dr Kelly’s book, “Hormones with Harmony”. It is 70,000 words and goes into highly readable detail on how the daughter metabolites of isoflavones become human hormones in the body. They then become very useful in evening out the peaks and troughs of the body’s estrogenic hormones: estradiol, estrone and estriol. The book goes into detail on how the plant-derived hormones are beneficial in pms, mastalgia, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, menopausal symptoms, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, cataracts, senile dementia and breast cancer. Without being overly technical, it does not talk down to its readers. Earlier this year, I undertook to get it published and it is now available on Kindle for $5 per copy. I do recommend it.
Further to the subject of prostate cancer, there are a number of plant molecules that have an effect on it and BPH. All cancers have tNOX molecules on their external membranes. tNOX is the tumour variant of cNOX, or normal constituent NOX. No plant molecules bind to cNOX but a number bind to tNOX. tNOX has two binding sites. If both are bound to simultaneously, the effect is synergistic. For example, the combination of sulforaphane with capsaicin has twenty times the effect of sulforaphane alone. Another example of synergism is curcumin from turmeric with piperine from black pepper.