Prevent Cancer with These Essential Diet and Lifestyle Changes - Transcript

Mark Hyman
A 10% increase in ultra processed food in your diet, you're gonna have a 13% higher overall risk of cancer, an 11% higher risk of breast cancer, and a 30% higher risk for colon cancer and a 50% increase risk for pancreatic cancer, which is almost universally deadly. Hi. I'm doctor Mark Hyman, and welcome to health bites. Today, we're confronting a pressing issue that's been grabbing headlight everywhere. The alarming rise in cancer among young people.

Now early onset cancer rates are up nearly 80% from 1990 to 2019. That is terrifying. In the US alone, the American Cancer Society estimates over 2,000,000 new cancer cases that will show up in 2024. We're seeing significant spikes in cancers of the digestive system like colon cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, uterine cancer, and lung cancers. And, notably, colorectal cancer has become a leading cause of cancer deaths, particularly striking men under 50 and rising as a major concern for young women.

But why? What's driving this influx of cancer rates in younger generations? That's exactly what we're gonna cover in today's episode of of his podcast. And unlike the news and social media, I'm not just gonna spotlight the problem. I'm gonna offer real research backed solutions.

We'll delve into the root cause of cancer and explore the impact of chronic inflammation and how our everyday lifestyle choices are creating a cancer feeding frenzy, accelerating biological aging, and discuss actionable steps to mitigate these risks. From the importance of early screening to diet and reducing exposure to environmental toxins, my goal is to hit help you get equipped with practical strategies to take control of your health. Now cancer is increasing in young people. The rate of more than a dozen cancers has been increasing since the 19 nineties especially among young adults. So what types of cancers are on their eyes?

Well, it's estimated that in 2024, there will be over 2,000,000 cancer cases in the US alone equal to about 5480 new diagnoses every single day, over 600,000 cancer deaths. Digestive system cancers, which affect esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, rectal, and pancreas are the biggest ones. And then there's for women, the biggest, which is breast and prostate uterine and respiratory cancers rank the highest among all the new cases. Now Could our Ultra process diet be to blame? Well, I think so.

In a 2023, Systematic review in the Lancet exploring the relationship between ultra processed food and cancer risk. A 9 out of 11 studies found a positive association between ultra processed food and all cancers except prostate cancer. Now each 10% increase in ultra processed food in the diet correlated when you gotta get this, just 10% increase. And there's by the way, the average American has about 60% of their diet is ultra processed food and kids at 67%. If you have a 10% increase in ultra processed food in your diet, you're gonna have a 13% higher overall risk of cancer.

An 11% higher risk of breast cancer and a 30% higher risk for colon cancer and a 50% increased risk for pancreatic cancer, which is almost universally deadly. That's terrifying. And and this is even more infuriating because recently the dietary guidelines committee of America for a dietary guidelines said that there's not updated to say ultra processed foods make you gain weight, and they basically didn't look at anything else. Well, we we know that they both make you obese diabetic and cause a host of other diseases including cancer. So let's let's take this from a framework of functional medicine.

What is the root cause Like, how do we get to the root cause of cancer? What's going on? We're seeing such a rapid spike in cancer cases. Well, people are getting sick or younger, and they're aging at an accelerated rate. I mean, across the board, not just for cancer, but everything else diabetes.

I mean, like, you know, I I talked about this before, but, you know, we used to call, now we call type 2 diabetes. We used to call it adult onset diabetes because we never saw in kids. Now we see it in kids all the time, and it's because of their crappy diet. A new research presented at this year is American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting revealed that people born in or after 1965 might be experiencing accelerated cell aging, which could be driving cancer at an earlier age. And in fact, researchers from the University of Washington School of Medicine reported that accelerated aging was associated with higher risks, developing early onset cancers, such as lung cancer, 42% increased risk, GI cancers, 22% increase, uterine cancer, 36% increase, and genetics only account for a small portion of that variability.

In longevity, about 25% if I'm not even that much, what's really driving our accelerated aging is our epigenome, which is how our genes are expressed based on everything we do to them. Every day. What we eat, our lifestyle, toxins in our environment, and these things can all turn on cancer genes. So is a huge role of our diet in driving cancer, particularly sugar and starch. And we'll talk about that.

And environmental toxins, which are increasingly on the rise. Petrochemical, plastics, phthalates, endocrine tropic cancers, heavy metals, you name it. We've done a lot of of discussions on The Doctor's Farmacy podcast about this. I talked about this in my book, Young forever, and we'll link to it in the show notes, but there's a number of things that go wrong as we get older, all of which can contribute to cancer. Right?

The we call these the 10 hallmarks of aging. There's now, like, 13, but they're basically more or less the same. People don't really understand this, but there's a huge link between type 2 diabetes prediabetes or metabolic syndrome, obesity, and they're risk for a whole slew of cancers. So if your blood sugar's out of whack, and your insulin is out of whack, and you have some degree of insulin resistance. You are at much higher risk of a whole host of cancers, not all cancers, but all of the big ones that are killing us, colorectal cancer, liver cancer, pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, uterine cancer and many other cancers.

I mean, smoking used to be the biggest risk factor. Now it's our food. And it's all the other co morbidities that are driving cancer. So 4 to 8% of all cancers are attributed to obesity. I think it might even be more than that, but That's on a conservative note.

Obesity is associated with 40% greater odds of early onset colon cancer and rectal cancer. So if you're obese, you have 40% higher risk of getting early onset colon and rectal cancer. 45% of adults 59 younger are obese. So this is a huge thing. And up to 80% of cancer patients have type 2 diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance time diagnosis.

So think about that. Pancreatic cancer is a huge killer. And if you have insulin resistance, if you have type 2 diabetes, If you have impaired glucose tolerance, if you're on that spectrum of poor metabolic health, you're driving an dramatic increase in the risk of getting pancreatic cancer. Studies also show that diabetes significantly increase the risk of cancer and that many people who have cancer have a high rate of diabetes. Now There's 38,000,000 adults, about 1 in 10 who have diabetes in some populations.

It's a lot more like the African Americans Hispanic populations and the native Americans. A hundred million people have pre diabetes. I think it's probably way more than that. It's very conservative. 1 and 3 are, basically Americans.

If you look at the, you know, that's based on this very strict criteria, but if you look at more, a more detailed criteria of insulin resistance, it's probably affecting over 90% of Americans. Which is, you know, probably 300,000,000 people. It's a scary. The incidence of type 2 diabetes has been going up by about 5% every year. Since, 2002 in young people, not in older people used to get it.

And so what do most chronic diseases have in common? Well, these chronic diseases and aging itself and cancer all have in common something called insulin resistance. I cofounded a company called function health, so you can access your data and learn about your own blood work and lab tests. And find out if you indeed have any degree of insulin resistance by measuring insulin levels, a 1c, blood sugar, lipoprotein fractionation, measure inflammation levels, nutritional levels, all things that play a big role in cancer. It's gonna we're gonna talk a little bit about what testing you should get but you can go to function health dotcom forward slash mark and jump the wait list.

It's about 200,000 people on that, but you can jump it if you wanna to look at what really is going on. And we need to do this. And there's there's even newer, more sensitive testing called an insulin resistance score that's available through Quest that actually is very sensitive and can pick up insulin resistance way before any other test. Now why is insulin bad? Well, it's a growth hormone.

Combine new malignant cells, which often over express insulin receptors. And it can also cause cancer cells directly to grow. High insulin levels can also increase the production of something called IGF 1 or insulin growth factor 1. Or it's unlike growth factor 1. And now it's a hormone that increases cell division and growth and inhibits something called autophagy, which is what you need to clean up old damaged cells, which is what's happening when you're preventing yourself from getting kids.

I mean, all of us have cancer right now in our body. Just realize that. Everybody does. But if our immune system is working, It's serving the landscape. It's finding those cancer cells.

It's sending out the natural killer cells to hunt and destroy, and usually we're good. But if we don't have this process of improving our immune system by having the proper lifestyle and diet, and I detail this all in my book young forever, then we're gonna get in trouble. Now high blood sugar, is a huge issue. High high blood sugar is a huge issue in cancer cases. High blood sugar is found in 39 to 99 percent of cancer cases, and that leads to insulin resistance, to free radicals, or oxygen stress, and more inflammation.

Now what about alcohol? Alcohol is a big problem. 750,000 global cases of cancer in 2020 could be directly attributed to alcohol according to a study published in Lancet. Now we're gonna put all the references, everything I'm saying. There's links.

There's references. There's scientific data. I'm just not making this stuff up. So you can check-in the show notes for that. Now while heavy drinking accounted for most of the cancers, even light to moderate drinking accounted for about a 100,000 cases, So how does alcohol increase cancer risk?

Well, according, to international bodies that look at carcinogens, it's a group 1 carcinogen according to the AR I ARC. Now when alcohol or ethanol has metabolized in the body, it's first converted something called, acetaldehyde. It's a highly reactive and a toxic compound. Now acetaldehyde can cause DNA damage, It can produce harmful mutations that lead to cancer and also interferes with DNA repair mechanisms. Now alcohol metabolism in cells, particularly the liver, leads to the production of reactive oxygen species.

It damages also your cellular components like lipids, proteins, DNA, and it promotes inflammation. It also impairs the absorption of really important nutrients like vitamin a and c and d and folate as well as increases the excretion of minerals that you need for your immune system So you can see alcohol causes cancer in all sorts of ways. It also can increase circulating estrogen levels. So when more alcohol you drink, the higher estrogen level, even if you're And it's a risk factor for breast cancer. And we're even seeing breast cancer in men now because of the increase in estrogen in their bodies because of the extra fat that they accumulate and fat produces estrogen.

And one of the major modifiable risk factors for breast cancer is getting rid of alcohol. For every 10 grams of alcohol per day, which is about one drink, The risk for breast cancer goes up 10%. The average risk, if you, for example, a woman, you have one glass of wine a day, increases your risk of breast cancer by 40%. Now chronic alcohol consumption also causes other problems. Right?

So you're a little bit you're you're getting a risk, right, but There's more aggressive use of alcohol that can cause liver cirrhosis, scarring of the liver, and that's another big risk factor for liver cancer. Alcohol also damages mucus membranes in the mouth, the throat, esophagus, the larynx, the stomach, and the colon, and the rectum. And that's why it increased the risk of all these digestive cancers 30 grams or more, which is about 3 drinks per day of alcohol increases the risk of colorectal cancer. And the problem is alcohol consumption increased during the pandemic. Which maybe has led to the rising cancers we're seeing after the pandemic or it may be due to COVID.

We're not sure if the coronavirus, some way, creates this chronic low grade inflammatory state that increases cytokines, even when the viruses seems to be over, there's just lingering effect of long COVID. And that may be why we're seeing is increasing cancer risk, and rates after COVID. Also nutrient deficiencies are a big factor. And, in fact, Having adequate vitamin D levels is protective against cancer. So you need to get your levels tested.

You need to know your numbers because you can't just guess You can't know what your vitamin d level is because some people need more or less. Most people are deficient. And vitamin d is so critical because it has so many cancer fighting functions within the body. And there's also a large body of evidence that vitamin D is so protective against cancer. And that low vitamin D is a huge risk factor, for getting cancer and having high vitamin d is a big factor in reducing the risk of most types of cancer.

So how does vitamin D work to fight cancer? Well, it inhibits cancer cell growth and proliferation. It reduces cancer metastases or the spread of cancer. It stimulates the maturation of healthy cells, so it makes your cells turn into normal cells. And it is the death of cancer cells we call apoptosis or programmed cell death.

That's a good thing. It prevents the blood vessel growth in tumors or angiogenesis. It prevents inflammation associated with cancer, and it reduces the incidence and or death due to cancer. So, basically, it lowers the the chance of getting it and of dying from it, women with a mean vitamin d serum level greater than or equal to 40 nanograms, had a 71% lower risk of cancer than women with serum levels less than 20. And and that was looked at over a period of about 4 years for all invasive cancers combined, excluding skin cancer.

Maybe that's because they go in the sun. Now that's just stunning to me. And in most lab reference ranges say 20 is an oral, some some have moved up to 30, but certainly 40 is considered a higher end level of vitamin d according to most lab reference ranges because the reference range is 20 or 30, not 50, which is probably what it should Colorectal cancer is another big factor in vitamin d. Meta analysis of many randomized controlled trials report a 30% reduction in disease progression or death from colorectal cancer among patients who supplement it with vitamin d. So even if you had cancer and you took vitamin d, it seemed to reduce your risk.

Another meta analysis of 15 studies in 14 countries reported dose response relationship between serum vitamin e level and the risk for colorectal cancer. So the more elevated your vitamin e level was, the lower your risk of colon cancer. 30 nanograms was associated with a 33% lower risk of colorectal cancer, but field was 50, which is, I think, it should be 50 or more. It was associated with a 60% lower risk of colorectal cancer. So, most reference ranges say 30 is is quote, the bottom limit of normal, but I don't think that's normal.

I think that's suboptimal. What else can cause cancer? Well, our sedentary lifestyle. Exercise is one of the best tools that we have to prevent cancer. It's anti inflammatory.

It produces also to antioxidants. It supports your blood and lymph flow and helps bounce your blood sugar, helps you detoxify. It's great. Right? Everybody knows exercise is good for them.

And a sedentary lifestyle means we're missing out on all the benefits for physical metabolic hormonal and overall. So you gotta exercise. Just don't worry about it. Now what else might be going on? Well, up to 10% of cancers may be genetic.

But just because you have the genes, doesn't mean you're gonna get the cancer for sure. In fact, there was this twin study. I think it was in Denmark. It was 88,000 twins, 44,000 twin pairs. And they looked at cancer in that group, and they found only 10% of cancers kinda matched with identical twins.

So 90% is environmental. How that's a pretty depressing bunch of news. Right? Cancer risk is going up. It's younger people.

It's all these things that cause cancer. The coronavirus. I'm like, what are we gonna do? Right? Well, the good news is we know a lot about how to lower our risk.

So what would be a coherent and a comprehensive functional medicine approach? Well, first, you need to do testing because you don't wanna guess you wanna test, and you wanna look at testing that indicates your risk of cancer. For example, insulin, very important. Fasting insulin is is a highly, highly predictive of insulin resistance. And there's a, actually, a newer test that Quest is doing called insulin resistance score, which combines a an insulin test with a C peptide test.

That's a precursor of insulin and looks at the ratio. And it's using a very sophisticated measurement called mass spectrometry much more accurate than what you're getting a regular blood test. So this is the test I'm gonna be using for all my patients because even better than anything else we're using right now. Also, you need to look at lipid panel to see if you have insulin resistance, your lipoprotein fractionation, your blood sugar, your a 1 c, as we talked about, your blood count, which can detect many blood cancers, a whole nutritional analysis, because vitamin d, omega threes, b vitamins like folate b12 and b6 affect cancer risk, zinc, iron, magnesium, looking at inflammation levels with CRP, cortisol, looking at metabolic factors like leptin, uric acid, which we talked about, sex hormones, you know, if your estrogen is really high, maybe a factor, fatty liver also drives cancer risk. So looking at your liver enzymes, heavy metals, All these things can be done with our test called, function health test.

And I, as I mentioned before, I co founded a company function health, allowing easy access to testing without going through doctor insurance. It's $15,000 worth of test for less than 500 bucks. I, and it's twice a year testing with a membership model. And you can learn all this about yourself. In fact, we also have, test available there called gallery by Grayal, which is a liquid biopsy of 50 different cancers that is highly predictive of what's going on, less than a half a percent false positive rate, which is far lower than most other screening tests like mammograms and so forth.

And and also, is accurate about 70% of the time, meaning 75% of the time you have a cancer, it'll pick it up. Now it'll miss maybe very early ones, but it's it's actually better than most reading tests. It picks cancer up a year or 2 or even 3 before, you'd see it on any other screening test. And that's part of our our offering with function health. And we've already picked up a significant number of cancers and save many lives as a result of this early testing.

And it's the young people too. Now you recommend doing it every year as a screening test. It's well worth the the effort and the time and the money. And you can learn more about function. You can go to function health dot com forward slash mark.

There's other things you might wanna do as well. You like stool analysis, looking at genetics, looking at, even toxin levels in your cells. I I've been recently using a lab in Germany called IGL that does deep toxin testing and and mitochondrial testing and looks for DNA damage and very, very helpful. I think you need to do that with a physician who understands that, a functional medicine doctor. But, but, first, you gotta test and see what's going on, and you gotta correct all those things.

And those are all treatable things. So what can we do, in addition to testing to lower risk of cancer? Well, many cancers are lifestyle related. And according to the WHO, estimated between 30 to 50% of cancer cases are preventable through a healthy lifestyle and avoiding occupational carcinogens and environmental toxins. So that's a lot.

I mean, think about it. You can cut up to 50% of cases down, by simply living a healthy lifestyle and avoiding toxins, pretty good. Now, I mean, you have to know what to avoid, right? And it's not that hard. Right?

Don't smoke. Don't drink. Or if you drink, keep it to a beer minimum because we know that there's really not even a safe level, even red wine. Also food, right? Just get your diet sorted out.

I mean, I think you're listening to me. You probably already know that, I'm very passionate about food as medicine, and you wanna eat the right drugs and you wanna avoid the wrong drugs. Right? Because food can can heal, but food can harm. And you wanna make sure eating the foods that are healing that harmful.

So obviously avoiding ultra processed food, starch, sugar, refined grains, all those things. I mean, if you're gonna have grains, don't have them refined, If you can have starch, don't have too much, you're gonna have sugar occasionally as a treat. Obviously, don't eat fast food. Don't eat sugar, sweetened beverages. Don't eat hot dogs, hamburgers, low quality meats.

Maybe it's obviously grass fed hamburger. That's fine. Dairy products also may be, increasing the risk of cancers through, there are no load of hormones that are naturally in them as well as hormones that can be added. There's also pesticides and try to eat organic when you can. So, you know, just be smart.

I don't need anything that comes in a package of the long list ingredients you can't pronounce. I mean, I, I did a whole health bite episode on ultra processed foods. We're gonna link to it in the show notes. Artificial sweeteners. Interestingly, it's it's listed by the I ARC, which is an international body that it looks at carcinogens, a classified as per name as a group to be carcinogen, which is possibly carcinogenic to humans, including equal and neutral suite So, you know, no reason to really have those artificial sweeteners.

You know, if you want a little stevia or monk fruit, that's fine, but stay away from all the weird stuff. A reduced fructose intake, not in the form of fruit, but in in the form of Taylor sugar, high fructose corn syrup, ultra processed food, liquid fructose, and things like soda, fruit juice, not okay. Whole fruit is okay. It has all the fiber. The phytonutrients, polyphenols makes it fine.

Obviously, don't eat fried foods, charred foods, sugary sauces and barbecue foods. Those will cause the advanced glycation end products. They raise your a 1 c. Of course, what you should eat is real food. Right?

Keep your blood sugar balance. With a low glycemic anti inflammatory diet. Get a lots of disease fighting phytochemicals and antioxidants which come from plan Peck a Lancet paper reported that a low intake of vegetables and fruit, along with other dietary risk factors led to about 11,000,000 Yes. A year. And that is not just not having the protective foods, but also eating a lot of processed food.

And about 200 and 55000000 years of disability adjusted life in 2017. So whether it kills you or not, it's gonna make you sick and unhealthy and feel bad. Just try to cook more meals at home. Eat out less. Eat a variety of whole colorful plant foods.

More color and more benefit. Right? That's where all the phytochemicals are. It it fruit, but have low glycemic fruit that's got lots of fiber. Only females, berries, all kinds, pomegranate and apples, stone fruits like plums and nectarines, peaches, cherries, and don't eat high glycemic fruits a lot.

Right? You know, if you're diabetic, they're for sure, but things like pineapple, melons, things like that. Grapes, not so great. Plenty of fiber. At least 30 grams or probably 50 grams a day is a is where to shoot for ideally, and that keeps your microbiome healthy.

Prevents cancer, make most of your plate non stretchy veggies, eat foods that help you detox, environmental toxins, like the Christopher's vegetable family, Choy, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, collard greens, dandelion greens, you know, have whole grains and legumes, but, Make sure you have the ones that are not full of glyphosate and sprayed and don't definitely, you know, if you want to eat wheat, have wheat berries that are regenerated grown. Don't eat, don't eat the modern dwarf wheat, which is just full of gliding and inflammatory compounds. You also wanna make sure you reduce your toxic exposures, right, water filter, air filter. Don't use plastic stuff. Go to, the environmental working group, to really dive into all the resources they have to help you reduce your exposure to toxins, your food, your household cleaning products, your skin care products, your food, everything.

Make sure you focus on simple changes that can make found difference over time. It's not the one big thing you're gonna do. It's all the little things that add up over time, but I think the good news is we know now a lot about causes cancer. We can do a lot to prevent it. And and we need to be basically the seals of our own health.

So check out your lab tests at function health dot com forward slash mark. You know, I wouldn't get too depressed about it because so much now we can do, especially with the grill, gallery testing for liquid biopsies. That that made me feel a lot better because I have based on my mother, had some cancer in my father, died of cancer, my sister, died of cancer. So I I deeply understand the the the concern about cancer, and I definitely don't want it. So I'm gonna get that test every year.

So by understanding these trends and making good health choices, we can really all stay take great steps for preventing cancer and promoting longevity in our own life and our community. So stay informed, stay proactive. Let's use this knowledge to positively impact our health and the health of future generations. And I'll see you next time on the podcast.