I think that when most of us think of cancer, the two big ones that come to mind are probably lung and breast cancer. After all, these two get a lot of press. However, there’s one type of cancer that isn’t in the spotlight as much — but should be…
Yep, although many people don’t really think about the liver when they worry about a cancer diagnosis, the truth is that liver cancer is now the second leading cause of death worldwide as more and more patients and families are being ravaged by the disease.
In fact, I lost my uncle to this cancer close to twenty years ago.
Now, a new study is shedding light on how one process in the body may hold the key to the development of liver cancer — so that we can put the brakes on it for good…
Stimulating and protecting cancer cells
The study, published in the journal Nature was conducted by researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine.
And, while the team already knew from previous research that not only does chronic inflammation drive cancer, it actually directly affects liver cancer cells, stimulating their division and protecting them from cell death — they made a discovery that puts the dangerous cherry on top of the cancer sundae.
For the study, the team used a mouse model of liver cancer. Rather than artificially triggering cancer by engineering genetic mutations, this model allowed the team to closely mimic human liver cancer by encouraging tumor development as a natural consequence of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH).
If you haven’t heard of it, NASH is a chronic metabolic disorder that causes liver damage, fibrosis, and multiple cell mutations. And, since NASH is associated with obesity (an epidemic that’s increasing exponentially), it’s expected to become the leading cause of liver cancer in the United States.
Here’s how it works…
Normally NASH-associated mutations provoke the immune system, including cytotoxic T cells, to recognize and attack the newly emerging cancer cells. So, if you develop NASH and cancer cells start to take over, your immune system kicks in, kills them off, and you go on to live your life.
However, the team found that if you’re also living with chronic liver inflammation that process and your odds of staying cancer-free are in serious jeopardy.
That’s because, in both mice and humans, inflammation led to the accumulation of immunosuppressive lymphocytes. In other words, inflammation causes your body to produce cells that stop your immune system from fighting off that cancer — basically putting the brakes on your defenses and allowing cancer to grow unchecked.
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Fighting inflammation is key to fighting cancer
This means that long-term, chronic inflammation could end up being one of the main drivers behind liver cancer. And, it could mean that reducing inflammation is the key to fighting off cancer.
So, how do you accomplish that goal and lower your inflammation levels?
Well, here are some tips to start:
- Get your sleep – Sleep deprivation has been shown to play a role in inflammation development so be sure to get good quality rest each night.
- Have your vitamin D levels checked – According to information at the National Institutes of Health, “vitamin D exerts important regulatory effects on some of the key molecular pathways involved in inflammation, and recent epidemiological and clinical studies strongly support that vitamin D supplementation is associated with reduced cancer risk and a favorable prognosis. Experimental results suggest that vitamin D not only suppresses cancer cells but also regulates tumor microenvironment to facilitate tumor repression.” Vitamin D deficiency is prevalent among Americans. 3,000 to 5,000 IU daily can help get levels if they are low.
- Try acupuncture – According to Dr. Isaac Eliaz, a renowned integrative medical doctor, “Acupuncture is an effective therapy that can help reduce chronic inflammation by rebalancing the body’s energetic and organ systems while moderating inflammatory responses.”
- Look at your lifestyle – Lifestyle factors that contribute to obesity also contribute to inflammation so make changes now to drop any extra weight, such as altering your diet and getting more exercise.
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- How chronic inflammation tips the balance of immune cells to promote liver cancer — EurekAlert
- Controlling chronic inflammation — Easy Health Options
- The Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Vitamin D in Tumorigenesis — International Journal of Molecular Sciences
- Repurposing vitamin D for treatment of human malignancies via targeting tumor microenvironment — Acta Pharmaceutica Sinica B