Diet and Cancer

April 13, 2004

MWF 10:30 AM

Biology II

Cancer is an abnormal growth of cells. Cancer cells proliferate and become tumors (aggregates of abnormal cells within normal tissue). There are two types of tumors, benign and malignant. Benign tumors are lumps of abnormal cells that remain at the original site. Most benign tumors do not cause serious problems and can be completely removed by surgery. Malignant tumors become invasive enough to impair the functions of one or more organs; one who has this kind of tumors is said to have cancer.

The cells of malignant tumors are abnormal in myriad ways. They have rapid growth, unusual numbers of chromosomes, unregulated metabolisms, unconstructive functions, abnormal changes on cellsí surfaces, they lose their attachment to neighboring cells and the extracellular matrix, and they can spread into nearby tissue. Metastasis is the spread of cancer cells to locations distant from their original site. When this occurs they proliferate in different areas to create more tumors.

Breast cancer occurs when the cells of malignant (cancerous) tumors grow in an uncontrolled way and can spread to neighboring tissues and, via the circulatory system,

to the other parts of the body. The spread of cancer cells beyond their original site is called metastasis. Breast cancer begins when a tumor grows from a single cancer cell in the glandular tissue of the breast. Cancer cells invade neighboring lymphatic tissues. Cancer cells spread through lymph and blood vessels in the breast to other parts of the body through metastasis.

Diet can increase your chances for developing cancer by not acquiring essential nutrients and carbon skeletons for biosynthesis (the process of making molecules). The essential nutrients are materials that must be obtained in preassembled form because the animalís cells cannot make them from any raw material. Malnutrition and undernutrition can lead to serious illnesses. Malnutrition occurs when one or more essential nutrients is said to be missing from oneís diet. There are four classes of essential nutrients: essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.

Diets saturated with foods that contain excessive amounts of fat, sugar, and salt

are usually deficient in essential nutrients. Homeostasis and integral life processes cannot be carried out successfully without specific nutrients. The genes become altered and they skew the cell cycle control system. Changes in the genome lead to various abnormalities and sometimes growth of cancerous cells (malignant tumors).

The types of diets that are recommended for healthy living contain a wide array of fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins that contain essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), one should follow the food pyramid. A healthy diet along with regular exercise would immensely diminish this problem.

Various organizations are trying to alleviate the problem of unhealthy diets by implementing school lunch programs that require students to eat healthy foods that do have high contents of fat, salt, and sugar. There are many uncontrollable factors (genetic predisposition and environment) that can lead to cancer, but diet is one that can be controlled. That is why people must be educated on this matter and subsequently change unhealthy diets and lifestyles.