How Cancer Occurs
UNDERSTANDING HOW CANCER OCCURS &
How the Body Attempts to Heal Itself
The Body’s Natural Cancer Fighter:
Superoxide Dismutase (SOD)
If you’ve been around the world of alternative cancer treatments for more than a week, you’ve probably noticed a theme. Cancer can be caused by exposure to toxins, and it can be prevented by elimination of such toxins. Your body has its own ingenious way of getting rid of toxins, and maybe you can give it a boost!
Here’s how. . .
Each cell of the body has a personalized system for removing toxic matter. The key “cleansing tool” used for this process is the cell’s network of enzymes and enzyme systems. These enzymes work to break down toxic materials and flush them out of the cell. When there are more toxins than a cell’s enzymes can handle, or when there aren’t enough enzymes in the first place, cells are at risk to become cancer cells. Researchers are looking for ways to fix this problem and maintain a steady count of enzymes.
A Cell’s Power Tool for Scavenging
One enzyme in particular is a major power player in a cell’s detox system. Its name: Superoxide dismutase (SOD). Its mission: Scavenge for and dismantle one of the body’s most deadly free radical toxins, superoxide.Superoxide (the enemy) is a reactive particle that bounces around a cell. It damages everything it comes in contact with. This might seem surprising, but the superoxide toxin is actually produced by cells themselves, as a byproduct of their metabolic process to produce energy. Through a series of enzymatic reactions, cells strip away electrons in order to create energy. During the process, electrons attach to oxygen molecules and thereby create the toxic chemical, superoxide. This process of creating energy creates a handful of other toxic radicals too, like hydrogen peroxide and hydroxyl radicals. When these toxic radicals are produced, the body’s natural supply of cell enzymes like SOD act to shield the cell and quickly eliminate the toxins before they harm the cells. You probably recognize this as the usual antioxidant-free radical reaction. Yes, SOD is an antioxidant – a powerful one your own body makes. In addition to breaking down toxins created by cell metabolism, enzymes also tackle toxins that enter the body by way of air pollution, smoking, or other forms of ingestion. Each enzyme serves a specific function by attacking an assigned free radical. Superoxide dismutase, for instance, functions solely to attack superoxide and break it up into hydrogen peroxide and oxygen. Hydrogen peroxide itself is a toxic radical, so another type of enzyme, catalase, is then tasked with decomposing the substance into water and oxygen. Other superhero cell enzymes are catalase, glutathione, and epoxide hydrolase.
SOD’s Healing Power
The more scientists study SOD, the more benefits they find. The enzyme acts as both an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory. As it breaks down superoxide particles into harmless substances (a process called dismutation), it neutralizes the free radicals and keeps them from damaging cells. If cells are damaged, they suffer from what’s called oxidative stress – which in turn leads to severe health problems. Inevitably, the problems include cancer. The benefits of SOD are much more extensive than just cancer prevention. They include relief from arthritis, prostate problems, inflammatory diseases, burn injuries, inflammatory bowel disease, and fibrosis. Beauty suppliers rave about the enzyme and its ability to prevent wrinkles and hair loss. And for those who have cancer, SOD helps prevent damage and side effects from cancer therapy like radiation and chemotherapy.
Research for SOD and its relation to cancer dates back to 1979 when scientists at the University of Iowa noticed the lack of enzyme activity in cancerous cells, plus the proliferation of superoxides and other free radicals. They realized that tumours appeared to produce excessive amounts of superoxide free radicals, so the body’s regular production of superoxide dismutase could not effectively compete.
Here’s what other studies show:
· A 2004 study tested 44 breast cancer patients who developed fibrosis as a result of radiation therapy. An SOD treatment applied to the skin was found to reduce the size of the fibrotic area and significantly decrease pain levels in more than half the patients. The only side effect was one case of a localized allergic reaction.
· A skin cancer study on mice found that topical SOD cream relieved oxidative injury and proliferation of skin carcinomas without affecting the death of healthy cells. A joint study that used oral SOD treatment resulted in decreased tumour sizes by 33% to 57%.
These results are promising, and since SOD is a natural product of the body, it’s hard to see why there’s any problem using it for treatment. The challenge is that SOD levels decrease as we get older and can’t compete with an excess of toxins. So the question is, how can we best improve the count of SODs in the body if the body isn’t making enough? And will synthetic versions be effective?
Boosting the SOD count
The superoxide dismutase enzyme is the body’s natural protector, but there are many cases where additional SODs could help the body’s detox process. If we can do that, we can help prevent cancer and recover from it if we already have it.
Eating the right foods and supplements would be my first choice for boosting SOD production numbers. From a dietary angle, it’s important to consume plenty of vitamins and minerals. In particular, vitamin C and copper are needed to help the body produce the natural antioxidant.
Eating more greens is another way to raise SOD levels. Plants like barley grass, broccoli, wheatgrass, brussels sprouts and cabbage are full of SODs, so eating these might help maintain steady production of superoxide dismutase. When cells need more SODs than they can make on their own, synthetic SOD might be the way to go. Synthetic versions of the enzyme can be given by way of injection, topical cream, or oral supplement. Sounds simple enough, but there may be a catch. . .
Apparently, SOD can’t hold up to stomach acid, so oral supplements should only be taken if they are enteric-coated (a coating that prevents absorption until a pill reaches the small intestine). The enzyme has to get past the stomach intact to reach the small intestine and be properly absorbed into the body. That raises the question for vegetables. If you eat vegetables rich in SOD, like the ones I mentioned above, will you get a healthy dose of SOD? I haven’t been able to find proof that they survive the stomach acid on their journey through your body. I’m still an advocate for eating plenty of greens, but I’m not sure how well they boost SOD production.
Another important question is whether synthetic SOD is really as helpful as it could be. The research studies mentioned above about skin cancer and post-radiation breast cancer both used synthetic SOD treatments. Looking at their findings, it seems like synthetic treatments can be useful. However, there’s an opposing view on that matter. According to Dr. Mercola, synthetic SOD supplements signal the body to stop its own production of enzymes. This leaves patients reliant on the synthetic versions. Relying on a drug is not the goal. So if synthetic SOD is no good, and oral consumption of SOD fails, then we’re back to square one. What we need, as usual, is much more consistent, clear research. My hope is we’ll soon have a better understanding of how SOD works in relation to any type of cancer cell, and we’ll discover a foolproof method to increase levels of SODs. With these advancements, I think we’ll be onto some very great medical discoveries.
Cancer Defeated Newsletter #92 Lee Euler, Editor