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10 new things we’ve learned about cancer

The 21st century has been, and will continue to be, shaped by cancer. Although heart disease remains the United States’ number one killer, cancer is quickly closing the gap and may soon surpass it.

The 21st century has been, and will continue to be, shaped by cancer. Although heart disease remains the United States’ number one killer, cancer is quickly closing the gap and may soon surpass it. Some oncologists claim a cure is five, 10, certainly no more than 20 years away. Others aren’t so sure because, in a way, cancer is the price we pay for evolutionary success.

“It is no coincidence that the very genes that allow our embryos to grow — our hands to grow, our feet to grow — if you mutate them in inappropriate contexts, [they] will ultimately release the disease that kills us,” said oncologist Siddhartha Mukherjee, who dubbed cancer the Emperor of All Maladies, also the title of his Pulitzer Prize-winning book.

Whether for five years or forever, cancer won’t be going anywhere any time soon. Yet, the more doctors and scientists discover about it, the better we can learn to live with it.

A love-hate relationship: Cancer and antioxidants

Contrary to what many believe, cancer enjoys a nutrient-rich diet as much as the next cell because it helps it grow, even those legendary antioxidants.

In two independent studies published in Cell, Swedish and American research teams found that lung cancer utilizes antioxidants to activate a protein called BACH1. This protein stimulates the cancer cells to metabolize glucose and accelerate metastasis. Even without a ready supply of dietary antioxidants available, the tumor would simply produce its own.

Professor Martin Bergo, who led the Swedish study, hopes this research will help develop new treatments. “We now have important new information on lung cancer metastasis, making it possible for us to develop new treatments, such as ones based on inhibiting BACH1,” he said in a release.

Does this mean you should abstain from antioxidant-rich foods? Not at all. Antioxidants do neutralize the free radicals that cause oxidative stress on cells. Preventing such cell damage can help prevent cancer.

Read on: 10 new things we’ve learned about cancer

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