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Lung Cancer

Preventing Lung Cancer

To lower the risk of lung cancer, the following interventions are recommended:

Stop smoking. Smokers should stop smoking (by using nicotine replacement therapy, Zyban®, and counseling) because at present there are no known dietary changes that can guarantee prevention or lower the occurrence of lung cancer in smokers. Medicinal herbal tea made from cloves and milk vetch reduces smoking withdrawal symptoms and increases the rate of smoking cessation (Lee HJ et al 2005).

Test your home for radon. Read the section above titled “What Causes Lung Cancer?” to learn why this is important and to find important sources for more information.

Take aspirin. Take aspirin regularly if your physician approves (Moysich KB et al 2002).

Monitor your diet. Smokers, ex-smokers, and people who have never smoked should all consume five or more servings of colorful vegetables (including raw, darkly colored, and root vegetables) and fruits daily to achieve serum levels of micronutrients associated with the lowest risk of lung cancer. A diet rich in tomatoes, tomato-based products (containing lycopene), citrus fruits, and carotenoids (lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-cryptoxanthin, and retinol) reduces the risk of lung cancer (Holick CN et al 2002). Egg yolk is a bioavailable source of lutein and zeaxanthin (Johnson EJ 2002). Good food sources of carotenoids are spinach, kale, carrots, cantaloupes, cherries, and sweet potatoes.

Phytoestrogens (plant estrogens) from food sources are associated with a decrease in the risk of lung cancer in both current smokers and people who never smoked, but less so in former smokers. Food phytoestrogens include isoflavones, phytosterols, and lignans. High intake of the lignans enterolactone and enterodiol and use of hormone therapy are associated with a 50 percent reduction in the risk of lung cancer (Schabath MB et al 2005). The soy isoflavone genistein significantly prevented lung tumor formation and cancer metastasis in mice (Menon LG et al 1998). Phytoestrogens are also available as nutritional supplements.

Consider antioxidants. Studies examining the role of antioxidants in lung cancer have gained significant attention. In the 1990s, a study was launched to determine if alpha-tocopherol and beta-carotene could reduce the risk of cancer, particularly lung cancer. The study, however, indicated that lung cancer incidence increased among people who took beta-carotene. These results were later replicated in a study that tested a combination of beta-carotene and vitamin A. Additional studies found that beta-carotene raised the risk of lung cancer among smokers (Albanes D et al 1996).

However, newer studies have examined the role that dosage plays and found that low-dose antioxidants, including beta-carotene, in combination with additional antioxidants may reduce the incidence of lung cancer. One study tested the effectiveness of daily, low-dose antioxidant supplementation with vitamins (vitamin C, 120 mg; vitamin E, 30 mg; and beta-carotene, 6 mg) and minerals (selenium, 100 mcg; and zinc, 20 mg) in reducing the frequency of cancers. After 7.5 years of supplementation, this low-dose antioxidant regimen lowered total cancer occurrences and deaths in men but not in women (Galan P et al 2005). Based on these study results, Life Extension recommends that people at high risk for lung cancer avoid high doses of beta-carotene but supplement with low-dose antioxidants to reduce their risk of lung cancer.

Add folate and vitamin B12. Folate and vitamin B12 reduce abnormal bronchial cell growth in smokers (Heimburger DC et al 1988).

Take alpha-tocopherol. In the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention Study, higher serum alpha-tocopherol status was associated with lower lung cancer risk. Alpha-tocopherol supplementation may reduce the risk of lung cancer associated with increasing smoking exposure for some people more than for others, depending on hereditary factors (Ratnasinghe D et al 2001).

Drink green tea. Consumption of green tea by nonsmoking women is associated with a reduced risk of lung cancer, and the risks decrease with increasing consumption (Zhong L et al 2001). Experimental studies consistently show that green tea and its polyphenols (e.g. EGCG) can slow the growth of, and kill, lung cancer cells (Clark J et al 2006).

For More Information...

The complications related to lung cancer treatment can be acute (such as low blood cell counts) and chronic (heart and lung damage). For more information, please refer to the following chapters: