Cancer is a disease caused by genetic mutation. Most people have a difficult time grasping the molecular complexities of genes and their relationship to cancer. To bring this down to the simplest level, the following definition from the New England Journal of Medicine (Haber 2000) should enable lay persons to understand how genes are intimately involved in cancer processes: "Cancer results from the accumulation of mutations in genes that regulate cellular proliferation."
This one sentence description enlightens us to the critical importance of maintaining gene integrity if we are to prevent cancer from developing in our bodies.
Cells operate under the direction of genes located in the DNA. Our very existence is dependent on the precise genetic regulation of all cellular events. Healthy young cells have relatively perfect genes. Aging and environmental factors cause genes to mutate, resulting in cellular metabolic disorder. Gene mutations can turn healthy cells into malignant cells. As gene mutations accumulate, the risk of cancer sharply increases.
The first lines of defense against the many carcinogens in the human diet are agents that prevent gene mutation. Many antimutagenic agents have been identified in fruits and vegetables, the most potent being the indole-3-carbinols, the chlorophylls, and chlorophyllin (Negishi et al. 1997). The traditional dietary antioxidants should be considered only as a secondary line of defense against cancer because it is more important to inactivate or neutralize carcinogens in the first place than to try to protect the cells and proteins downstream from their effects. Chlorophyllin is the modified, water-soluble form of chlorophyll that has been tested as an antimutagenic agent for more than 20 years. In one of the great ironies of natural product science, we now have a very large body of data concerning the anticancer, antimutagenic, antioxidant, and potentially life-extending benefits of chlorophyllin but much less information on the effects of natural chlorophyll itself (Negishi et al. 1997; Tsunoda et al. 1998).
For example, chlorophyllin can cross cell membranes, organelle membranes, and blood-brain barriers while chlorophyll cannot. Chlorophyllin even enters into the mitochondria, the energy-producing organelles of the cell where 91% of oxygen reductions occur and where the majority of free radicals are produced (Boloor et al. 2000; Kamat et al. 2000).