How To Reduce Your Risk Of Cancer - Transcript

Speaker 1: Coming up on this episode of The Doctor's Farmacy... Dr. Mark Hyman: The truth is that all of us, all of us, have cancer right now in our bodies, our cells. It can become dysregulated and mutated, but we have an immune system that's designed to help manage that. Dr. Mark Hyman: Hey everybody, it's Dr. Mark Hyman. Welcome to The Doctor's Farmacy and our special episode called Masterclass, where we dive into popular health topics, including inflammation, autoimmune diseases, brain health, cancer, sleep, lots more. And today I'm joined by my guest host, my good friend, my business partner, and the host of the Drew [inaudible 00:00:35] podcast, Drew [inaudible 00:00:36]. And we are going to be talking about things you can do on a daily basis to reduce your risk of getting cancer. Dr. Mark Hyman: Welcome Drew. Dhru Purohit: Thanks, Mark. I know this is a hot topic. A lot of people are both super fearful of cancer, but there's a lot more that we've learned about cancer in the last decade or so. So let's jump right in. What are five, what are five of the top things that anyone can do starting today to significantly reduce their risk of getting cancer in the future? Dr. Mark Hyman: Well, Drew, the two biggest drivers are diet and toxins. In fact, I was on a rotation in medical school for oncology, and I asked my professor back in the day, this was in the eighties, I said, "What percentage of cancers do you think are diet related?" And I thought, he'd say like 10%, 20%. He said, "70%," and I'm like, "Holy crap. That's a lot." So the thing that I really focus on around diet is the starch and sugar because we know that insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, diabetes, that belly fat, that is a cancer causing factory. And the inflammation from there, the high levels of growth hormone, what we call IGF-1, which is a growth hormone analog, these all will cause tremendous amounts of cancer. So we know pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, and others are linked to this phenomenon of insulin resistance, which comes from starch and sugar in the diet. Dr. Mark Hyman: So that's a huge one. The second is environmental toxins, we talked about briefly, but we're exposed to 80,000 new chemicals since the last century. And many of these have not been tested for safety. Many of them are banned that are used here. They're banned in Europe and other countries, like BHT and other things. And we need to look at reducing our load, and that's really why I focus a lot on detoxification in my work, why I'm on the board of the Environmental Working Group. And they have a great website called And you can look at how you buy household products that are nontoxic, skincare products that are nontoxic, how do you use the right vegetables that are least contaminated with pesticides, about meat, fish. So it really gives you a really comprehensive view of how to reduce your overall toxic burden in your home. Dr. Mark Hyman: The next thing that's really important is exercise. We know that exercise actually reduces inflammation, reduces insulin resistance, helps prevent cancer. So exercise is really important. Half an hour walk, even after dinner, just a 15, 20 minute walk after dinner can really reduce your overall risk of insulin resistance, and all the things that drive cancer. Microbiome plays a huge role. The gut flora really determine a lot about your health and drive inflammation. And by the way, cancer is an inflammatory disease. So anything that causes inflammation can cause cancer. So getting your microbiome healthy, we have a whole approach toward repairing your gut. We're coming out with a new product soon called Gut Food, like a multivitamin for your gut. Last thing is your nutritional status. In America, 90% of Americans are deficient in one more nutrients at the minimum level to prevent deficiency disease, not the amount needed for optimal health. Dr. Mark Hyman: And there are certain nutrients that are critically important in cancer. One is a class of nutrients called the methylation nutrients. This is B6, B12, folic acid. We know that deficiencies in folate and others can lead to cancer, really important to get those B vitamins up. The next is vitamin D. Vitamin D is a significant regulator of immune function and health. So it's really important to get the cancer under control by making sure you have optimal nutrients, particularly on the B vitamins, vitamin D. And of course, there's many more, but those are the ones I think of first. Dhru Purohit: So Mark, to help set the context a little bit about what cancer really is and how it emerges in the body, can you discuss the seed and soil analogy of cancer? Dr. Mark Hyman: Well, I think, most of traditional medicine focuses on the wrong end of the stick. They burn, poison, and cut. And that can be helpful in some cases. And yes, it's helped us create a lot of survivors of cancer, but it's a pretty rudimentary crude way of approaching cancer, which is you use surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, or cut, burn, or poison people. Hope they don't die from the treatment. It's basically how it works. Functional medicine has a very different view, which is how do we create a healthy person so that the cancer can't develop. The truth is that all of us, all of us, have cancer right now in our bodies. Our cells can become dysregulated and mutated, but we have an immune system that's designed to help manage that and get rid of it. So many of us, if we have a healthy soil, we really can't get cancer to grow. Dr. Mark Hyman: So how do you create a healthy soil? What is your nutritional status? What is your immune status? What's your microbiome? How is your toxic load? What's going on with your hormone balance? What's going on with insulin, blood sugar. So we really can look at a lot of these root cause factors and help people to optimize the health of their soil, their health, sort of like regenerative agriculture, where you create a healthy soil and the consequences are healthy plants. Same thing with humans, and this is functional medicine. We create a healthy person and the disease has no place to reside. So functional medicine is really not about treating disease, it's about creating health. And when you look at the science of creating health, functional medicine is really the best model out there to do that. And it helps to really reduce the overall aspects of your risk. Dr. Mark Hyman: I remember one patient came in, Drew, she had three cancers. Over time, she had colon cancer, breast cancer, some other cancer. And each time they're like, "Oh, we'll treat that cancer and then we'll do active surveillance," which doesn't mean active anything. It just means every three, six months you get a cat scan and hope for the best. So it's not really active anything. It's really just tracking people to make sure it doesn't recur, as opposed to functional medicine, which is like, "Well, gee, why did this woman get three cancers and what can we do to look at the cause of that? And what is her soil like, and how do we optimize the soil so the cancer can't grow back?" That's really what we do in functional medicine, and it's such a powerful model, treating the terrain and not just the underlying cancer itself. Dhru Purohit: If you go on WebMD and you look up cancer and sugar, there are a couple prominent articles that basically say that your consumption of sugar, which also includes refined carbohydrates, has nothing to do with how cancer develops in the body. But then you have leading experts that have been on your podcast, individuals like Dr. William Li, who's the founder of the Angiogenesis Foundation and literally researches this for a living, who are sounding the alarm that actually, no, cancer can be fueled by having excess sugar in your diet. Help us understand why a trusted source like WebMD could be saying and educating people that maybe cancer and sugar don't have a link and then other people would be saying that there is a link. Dr. Mark Hyman: People say, "The more confused we are, the more opinions there are." I think it's complicated. For me, the data is not unclear. And I think the insulin resistance and cancer story is so important. And I think if you look, for example, on PubMed, looking at cancer and insulin resistance, there's 14,309 articles as of January 14th, confirming that there is a link between insulin resistance and the risk of cancer. There's no doubt about it in my mind. I think the people who are unfortunately saying that it's not an issue, or probably not up-to-date on the science, it's hard to ignore. It's not a couple of articles here, there. There's mechanistic articles, there's population health studies. There's, to me, no equivocation about the role of cancer and insulin resistance. Dr. Mark Hyman: And so sugar and carbohydrates, starch carbohydrates, cause insulin resistance. So if you just don't believe me, go to PubMed, just Google PubMed, type in insulin resistance and cancer. And you'll find the 14,000 articles and you can start reading the abstracts and the summaries. Don't take my word for it. You know? So I think it's important that people realize that there's a lot of forces at play in the medical industrial complex and the food, big food, and it's disturbing. I don't know. I don't know what else to say about it other than, yes, it's a thing. Dhru Purohit: You talked a little bit about active screening, which you have shared that is not really very active at all, but that's often the best advice that conventional medicine is giving. But as you've mentioned, there's plenty of things that you can do from a functional medicine standpoint. That's what today's podcast is about. What are your thoughts on a few of the emerging areas that are starting to get more attention like liquid biopsies and the usage of things like immunotherapy when it comes to treating cancers? Dr. Mark Hyman: We're in a real revolution now around cancer therapy and treatment, which is very exciting, because we're moving past the cut, burn, and poison phase of cancer to understand that we can use the body's own immune system and that we can even have early diagnosis. There is a new test called the Grail test, which is a test that is a liquid biopsy that measures proteins from 50 different cancers and can detect things very early. The challenge with that is you might get some things that are maybe not that significant or that would not progress to cancer and then you have to chase it down, follow it, and it's called a red herring. So you might need a total body MRI. You might need a PET scan, there are a lot of potential costs and fear that can be associated with getting a positive result. However, I'm going to do it because I want to know early if there's anything cooking and then I can address it. Dr. Mark Hyman: And the thing about a cancer is the earlier you address it, the better chance you have of survival. So I think this is really important and that we should be looking at those things. And there are other companies that are doing this as well. Freenome was looking at colon cancer and Grail testing. So there's a lot of companies that are really moving forward in this space. Dr. Mark Hyman: The next thing I would say is that in terms of the immunotherapy treatments and other treatments, there's a whole class of advances around how do we activate the body's own immune system for cancer. And checkpoint inhibitors are these new class of drugs that are basically called immunotherapy that can have dramatic results, like in stage 4 cancers, they can literally cure people where other things wouldn't work. There's also new personalized vaccines that type the cancer, look at the mutations, look at the proteins produced and then create these personalized vaccines against those particular proteins so your body's own antibodies won't kill that. That's a really cool thing. So it's really less side effects and it's more directed therapy. So we're seeing more and more options around how do we think differently about the treatment of cancers. I also think there's some other things that could be helpful too, that are being used in other countries that are very different from conventional approaches. Dhru Purohit: You started to answer this and I'd love you to expand on it further. If today you were diagnosed with cancer, what steps and things would you do to begin the process of addressing it? And how would you assemble a team around you to help you get to the root of treating that cancer? Dr. Mark Hyman: That's a great question. I mean, I feel like I try to design my days in my life to actually help prevent all chronic disease, whether it's heart disease, dementia, Alzheimer's, cancer. And you know, it's not like you have to do different things for every thing. Similar therapies will actually help all of these. So I double down on diet every day. I really make sure I have high quality nutrient rich food full of phytochemicals that are anti-cancer, full of good omega-3 fats, low in starch and sugar. And that actually has a lot of nutrients and things that can help my body actually handle the cancer. So diet is huge. Exercise, I do that regularly to help get enough sleep, stress reduction, also very important, because your thoughts and feelings do affect your cancer risk too. That's for sure. And then I make sure my nutrient status is optimized with vitamin D and B vitamins by taking the right supplements. Dr. Mark Hyman: This is sort of my daily maintenance approach. And then I do other things that I think can be very helpful. I like to do ozone quite a bit because I find it really helpful for me. And I think it can be an early treatment for just kind of boosting your immune system, helping increase your antioxidant enzymes, reducing inflammation, increase the stem cells. So it just helps the body to build a stronger terrain and be able to fight whatever is going on. And who knows, there needs to be more research on it. I think there's some controversy about it, but I think there's some really interesting options there. There's different people using hyperthermia over cancer, raising the body temperature and getting treatment that way. There are other therapies that are more aggressive dietary approaches. Dr. Mark Hyman: But I think building a comprehensive team that focuses on lifestyle and that also try some other modalities could be helpful. And to look at the ways in which whatever cancer, let's say I would have, what it responds to best or least so there's some personalization involved. But I think there's a lot of options now around cancer and cancer therapy that are pretty exciting, high dose IV vitamin C, there's people looking at compounds that are derived from marijuana plants. There are people looking at various kinds of immunotherapy and vaccines, as well as things like ozone hyperthermia, and other things. So there's a lot of research that needs to get done for some of these things, but it's really promising in my mind that we'll be able to lick this. Dhru Purohit: So Mark, is there a case study that comes to mind of someone who you were part of their cancer team, you don't work with a lot of cancer patients directly, but you might work with a team who would be helping them from a functional medicine standpoint. Is there a case study that comes to mind on the topic of cancer? Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah, I mean, years ago I had a patient with prostate cancer and it was fairly aggressive and he needed a bunch of therapies, but we were able to really keep it under control through aggressive dietary approach, a bunch of different supplements that helped, fixing his gut, getting rid of heavy metals. So we kind of cleaned up his whole terrain and he did remarkably well and lasted well over 20 years, which is a long time with cancer. So I felt like he probably would've been dead a long time ago if we hadn't have used this functional medicine approach and created an integrated model where he, I'm not going to say regular care, but he received the adjunctive care that helps support the body in its own healing and repair process. Dhru Purohit: Well, I have an anecdote that I'd like to toss in, which is my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, this was about eight years ago, and after her diagnosis, we put her team together. She had her traditional oncologist through her normal insurance and hospital system. She was at a great hospital, Christianity Care in Delaware. And as part of that, we understood the importance of making sure we had a functional medicine doctor in the mix. So we had a cancer survivor herself, Dr. Liz Boham, who was one of your colleagues and the medical director of the UltraWellness Center, was her main doctor. And so with her oncologist and Dr. Boham, who's a nutritionist, a medical doctor, and a cancer survivor, and then there was one other person, sometimes individuals who will use like a cancer CEO. Dhru Purohit: There's a gentleman named Ralph Moss, he's a PhD cancer researcher who was previously at Sloan Kettering and he has a website called, or .org, we'll link it in the show notes. And he walks through every major cancer and talks about all the centers around the world that have had good results in treating that cancer, some places you've visited in the past as well, like Sanoviv in Mexico and some clinics out of Germany. So he met with my mom as well, and he does consultations. They're a little pricey around like 700, $800, but well worth it. Dhru Purohit: But the combination of those three individuals, my mom's traditional oncologist, Dr. Liz Boham, Dr. Ralph Moss, they worked together to put together a protocol for my mom, which included putting her on a ketogenic diet, getting her off of all the foods that were consistently spiking her blood sugar and making her insulin resistance, which all the Indian vegetarian foods, unfortunately, that she had been grown up eating her entire life doing a complete oil change, getting her off of all the inflammatory oils, getting her to have high quality proteins and things like omega-3s in her diet and a bunch of other changes. Dhru Purohit: And knock on wood, we were able to catch it early and 8, 10 years later, she's doing fantastic. And about two years into her treatment, she was officially diagnosed in remission. Obviously every cancer is different, every patient is different, but that's another anecdote that I just wanted to add into the mix about what it looks like when you have a team approach to tackle something like cancer. Dr. Mark Hyman: It's so important. And I think you mentioned something I forgot to talk about earlier, which is in terms of dietary interventions. There's a lot of research now going into ketogenic diet research and cancer. And in animal models, it's a stage 4 pancreatic cancer, stage 4 melanoma are literally being cured with a ketogenic diets. And Siddhartha Mukherjee who wrote The Emperor of All Maladies, who was one of the top cancer experts in the world and won the Pulitzer prize for that book on cancer, is doing a lot of clinical research now with humans and ketogenic diets. Also, groups like Valter Longo and his work around fasting, mimicking diets, or calorie restriction, which also can put people in more of a ketogenic state was very effective in helping chemotherapy be more effective, radiation be more effective. Dr. Mark Hyman: So it's not an either/or, but it can be an adjunct of treatment. My friend Patrick Hanaway, who was the medical director with me at Cleveland Clinic, ended up getting throat cancer. And he ended up being on a ketogenic diet and almost had no side effects from treatment and is doing great a few years later. And his risk was 50/50 on that cancer. So really impressive to see the work that's being used around ketogenic diets and cancer. Dhru Purohit: Fantastic. Well, Mark, let's go into some community questions that have been sent in from listeners of the podcast. The first question that we have here is, what do you think is the progression of someone setting themselves up for cancer to grow in the body? For instance, do you think there are clues in the body that show up well before a cancer diagnosis is present, that are an indication of what's to come? Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah, like I said earlier, we all have cancer growing in us. And so the question is, what are the things you can look at that are potentially looking at your risk? I always look at insulin resistance, look at glucose tolerance test with insulin hemoglobin A1C, look at lipids because that tells you a lot about the blood sugar regulation, particle size, particle number, look at CRP which is another marker of inflammation, and there's many others. I like the liquid biopsy idea for sure. I think that, you know, we look at family history, we look at their lifestyle, we look at all their habits, exposures, and we just try to reduce all of that to create the best conditions for health. So, I think, for me, all of us should be living a cancer preventive lifestyle, a Alzheimer's preventive lifestyle, a heart disease preventive lifestyle, and it's all the same. Dr. Mark Hyman: We look at aging and all the age related diseases, the biggest risk factor is getting older. And when you get older, it's actually because there's a lot of breakdown in the normal systems in the body that are more likely to break down if you don't put the energy into reverse or mitigate those changes. It's really important to actually make sure you create a healthy environment in the body so that you're not prone to cancer. And we know how to do all the things we just talked about, diet, exercise, supplements, lowering toxic load, nutritional status, all those things are so important. So I feel like, it's an exciting moment in cancer therapy because we're beginning to understand really what are the conditions that drive cancer and how we reduce those. Dr. Mark Hyman: There are early detection tests like the Grail test which can be a help, or Freenome. But those are detecting cancer after you already had it. There's total body MRIs that people are getting, I've had one from head to toe. That's also something you can use for screening, although it's a very expensive intervention. So I think, as science advances, as we start to understand more about cheaper imaging and about this Grail testing, that prices will come down and people will be able to actually look and screen for stuff, and then get in on the game of fixing it much earlier. Dhru Purohit: Are there any experts or people who really focus in on cancer that you would recommend to our audience to look up, or check out their books, or to start following for more information on this topic? Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah, there is a few people who are talking about some of these issues. Jason Fung wrote Cancer Code. William Li wrote Eat to Beat Disease. Walter Longo has written a book called Longevity Diet. All these are interesting frameworks of how to look at a different approach to preventing and treating cancer. And I think William Servan-Schreiber also wrote a book about cancer. I forget what it was called, All About Cancer, or something. I forget the name it, but we'll get it in the show notes. And it's, again, it's really focusing on how do we change our lifestyle and environment so we reduce the risks and help improve outcomes, even if we get cancer. Dhru Purohit: All right, next question. This is a question about autoimmune medications. How do typical autoimmune medications play or not play a role in cancer and should there be any cause for concern for medications in general increasing your risk or likelihood of developing cancer in the future? Dr. Mark Hyman: One of the class of medications that's being used increasingly to treat the ever-growing burden of autoimmune disease, which now affects 80 million people, are these drugs called immunosuppressants or biologics, like TNF alpha drugs, Humira, et cetera, Enbrel, and many others that are now in the market. What they do is, they stop a molecule called TNF alpha, which is a really important immune molecule, which helps stop the inflammation in these autoimmune diseases. But at the same time, it lowers your own immunity. So you're more likely to get infections. You're more likely to get cancer. So there is a risk of these drugs in terms of long term risk of cancer and infection. So I much more prefer treating autoimmune disease using functional medicine and getting to the root cause and getting people healthy without using all that heavy duty drugs. But they do increase the risk of cancer and we should be aware of that. Dhru Purohit: What about foods that actually help us fight or potentially even reduce our risk of cancer? Are there foods or food categories that are helpful? We talked a lot about what's harmful, what about what's helpful? Dr. Mark Hyman: I think that's really important. So, you cut all the crap, what are you going to eat instead? It's really whole foods, anti-inflammatory foods, low glycemic foods, phytochemically rich foods, fiber rich foods. So we're talking about fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole beans, whole grains, in limited quantities, because that can be starchy for some people with metabolic issues, which is about 9 out of 10 Americans, and also all the phytochemicals in food. So colorful rainbow colored vegetables and fruits, super important. And then there's special foods like garlic and ginger and spices that are awesome to use, curcumin. So including a lot of spices is really important. Getting the fats right in your body is key. Dr. Mark Hyman: You talked about your mother getting an oil change, getting more omega-3 fats, olive oil, fish oil, getting off the refined oils, super important. So I think there are so many beneficial foods out there that can help reduce the risk of cancer simply by actually getting your phytochemical richness of your diet increased. And that's just eating lots of colorful fruits and vegetables. Dhru Purohit: What supplements can play a helpful role when it comes to the topic of cancer? And I mean more in the category of helping us potentially reduce the risk factors or improve certain aspects of our biomarkers or health that downstream could impact cancer. Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah. I mean, I think the most important ones are B complex and a vitamin D, and then maybe some fish oil, although there's been mixed data on that. But I do think it's so important if people get their levels up. So a good multivitamin, fish oil, vitamin D will take care of 90% of it for most people. And I think that should be a basic staple for everybody. You can add probiotics in there because the microbiome plays a big role in cancer. So making sure of adequate probiotics in your diet, either prebiotic or probiotic foods or probiotic supplements, super important. But those are the things that I really focus on when it comes to reducing the risk of cancer and helping to create a long term viable immune system. Dhru Purohit: Can intermittent fasting, or some version of regular fasting, be helpful in reducing our risk of cancer? Dr. Mark Hyman: Absolutely. Giving the body a chance to repair and heal every day is so important. So we talk about time restricted eating, which is a 12, 14 hour, 16 hour fast. It sounds like a lot, but if you eat dinner at six, you eat breakfast at six, that's a 12 hour fast. If you eat breakfast at eight that's a 14 hour fast. So it's not that hard. And what it does, it allows your body to go through this process of autophagy, mitophagy, waste disposal, cleaning up, recycling of old parts. It increases stem cell production, [inaudible 00:27:22] inflammation, increases antioxidant enzymes, helps your brain chemistry, bone density, muscle mass, reduces insulin resistance, increases muscle, and lowers body fat in the belly. I mean, there's just so many benefits to it. Dr. Mark Hyman: So I think it's an important adjunct of treatment for a daily repair maintenance. I mean, imagine living in a house and taking the garbage out every day, but eventually your garage fills up with garbage and it never gets picked up and your house starts to stink, and it's a mess. That's exactly what happens to us if we just keep eating all the time. You got to stop, take a break, let your body do the repair and healing. And then you'll create more longevity, reduce the risk of inflammation, cancer, and many, many other things. Dhru Purohit: So Mark, fantastic information, ton of content here on the topic of cancer. Something that is very scary to a lot of people, but I think that today's episode gives a lot of hope. I want to set you up for a little bit of a recap of what we covered today and some concluding thoughts. Dr. Mark Hyman: Yeah. So I think people need to look squarely in the face of their lifestyle, and their habits and behaviors and how they can be either promoting their increased risk of cancer or decreasing it. And we know really from the science, it's quite simple how to reduce your risk. One, eat a diet that's a whole foods, plant rich, photochemically rich, fiber rich, antiinflammatory, low glycemic starch and sugar diet. Do exercise, little bit of exercise is great, helps reduce your risk. Unburden yourself from toxins, get rid of the toxins in your home, in your skincare, in your food, and use to do that. Make sure you take a good multi fish oil, vitamin D. And make sure you take care of your gut, take probiotics, use our product Gut Food, which is coming out soon, and basically to make sure you tend your inner garden well. And those will get you a long way down the road to preventing cancer. Dr. Mark Hyman: And if you get cancer, think about doing the early biopsies with Grail. Think about the liquid biopsies. Think about, looking at a more integrated approach around diet and other modalities that we talked about if you have to get cancer treatment. So I'm excited about this new phase of cancer and our potential to rethink our ability to regulate our immune systems with the kinds of new therapies that are coming out, that gets away from the barbaric cut, poison, and burn people. So this is it. Dr. Mark Hyman: And Drew, thank you so much for doing this interview with me. And for those of you who listen, love to hear what you're learning about cancer, how you approached it in your life and the people you love. Let us know how that's going. And we'd love to hear from you, leave a comment, subscribe where you get your podcast. Please share this with your friends and family on your social media. And we'll see you next week on The Doctor's Farmacy. Speaker 1: Hi, everyone. I hope you enjoyed this week's episode. Just a reminder that this podcast is for educational purposes only. This podcast is not a substitute for professional care by a doctor or other qualified medical professional. This podcast is provided on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services. If you're looking for help in your journey, seek out a qualified medical practitioner. If you're looking for a functional medicine practitioner, you can visit and search their Find a Practitioner database. It's important that you have someone in your corner who's trained, who's a licensed healthcare practitioner and can help you make changes, especially when it comes to your health.