Ohana Health - Prevention and Renewal

Inflammation and Cancer

The concept that inflammation causes cancer has been around for more than a century. The scientist Julius Vogel (1814-1880) and Rudolph Virchow put forth the theory that cancer was due to irritation that caused inflammation and excessive cellular growth. Recently, some British scientists have concluded that the long-term over-activation of the immune system (such as through infection and inflammation) may be an important causal factor in cancer cases. They call any inflamed tissue “a melting pot of cancer-causing molecules.” “The long-standing over-activation of the immune system is the key event in the genesis of many forms of the disease,” says Dr. Angus Dalgleish of the Department of Oncology, University of Leicester. “My research shows that there is an elevation of C-Reactive Protein in most cancers: breast, lung, colorectal, prostate, and pancreatic cancer.” (1)

Other researchers have also identified inflammation as a significant factor in the development of solid tumour malignancies. There are chronic inflammatory conditions that do not have an established cause, infections being ruled out. This strongly suggests that the process of inflammation provides the prerequisite environment for the development of malignancy. (2)

“Tumours, when they’re developing, are just proliferating cells. The theory is that it looks much like a wound to the host. So inflammatory cells come in and do their job. They urge the growth onward,” said Dr. Lisa Coussens, from the Department of Pathology and Cancer Research Institute at the University of California at San Francisco. (3)

Chronic pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas. It is associated with an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Chromosomal damage and cellular proliferation, both of which relate to inflammation, can change pancreatic cells in malignancies. Cytokines and free radicals can increase the number of cells, and impede the body’s natural tumour defences. Researchers at the Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center have also found that the earliest stages of prostate cancer may develop from lesions generally associated with chronic inflammation. Dr. Emilio Williams, head researchers in the study, believes that these irritations progress to pre-cancerous lesions, and are strongly linked to cancer. This same inflammatory parallel can be drawn across the board including the link between smoking and lung cancer, spicy foods and stomach cancer, and so on.

Initiation of Inflammation

A person can develop lesions that lead to inflammation and eventually to cancer. The initiating factors for lesions can come from:

  • Chronic infection including those of the liver (hepatitis B virus), cervix (human papilloma virus), stomach (helicobacter pylori), and bladder (schistosomiasis) (4)
  • Oxidative stress attacks many cellular targets including membranes, proteins, and nucleic acids, and cause structural damage to DNA. (5,6) Free radical markers including malondialdehyde, erthyrocyte antioxidant defense enzymes, superoxide dismutase and catalase, which are related to inflammation, were significantly higher in patients with early and advanced cancers in comparison to the healthy volunteers.(7)
  • Advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs) play a role in pancreatic and gastric cancers. (8,9)
  • Food allergies had a “highly significant positive association…and development of cancer” according to Dr. William McWhorter. (10) Also, three separate studies reviewed by Dr. Shils found a very high incidence of intestinal lymphomas in celiac patients. Males over 40 years of age with long-standing celiac disease who are not eating a gluten-free diet are a major risk group. (11) Another study showed a relationship between non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and food allergy where overproduction of cells leading to cancer is prompted when certain components of the immune system are inactivated. (12) Other factors that put people at risk for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma are a history of splenectomy, gonorrhea, and polio in men and endocrine gland disorders in women. Obesity was also seen as a risk factor. (13)

Since it is known that other foreign invaders, free radicals, AGEs, or food allergies suppress the immune system and cause inflammation, it would be wise for cancer patients and those at risk for developing cancer to minimize all forms of antigens by eating only whole foods. Also since cancer feeds on sugar it is important to remove all forms of sugar from your diet.(14,15) The immune system needs to be as healthy as possible to deal with the cancer. Use antioxidants, immune stimulants, proteolytic enzymes, mineral salts, and fish oils to control the factors of inflammation.


  1. O’Byrne, KJ and Dalgleish, AG. “Chronic Immune Activation and Inflammation as the Cause of Malignancy.” Br J Cancer, 2001, 85(4):473-483.
  2. IBID
  3. Stein, R. “Inflammation May Spur Diseases: Cancer, Even Alzheimer’s, May Begin with Body’s First Defense.” Washington Post. www.msnbe.com/news/873592.asp?0cv=CB20.
  4. Ohshima, H. “Endogenous Cancer Risk Factors.” www.iarc.fr/pageroot/UNITS/ECR.HTM.
  5. Hietanen, E, et al. “Diet and Oxidative Stress in Breast, Colon, and Prostate Cancer Patients: A Case-Control Study.” Eur J Clin Nutr, 48(8):575-586.
  6. Cerutti, P, et al. “The Role of the Cellular Antioxidant Defense in Oxidant Carcinogenesis.” Environmental Health Perspectives, 1994, 102(10):123-130.
  7. Hristozov, D, et al. “Evaluation of Oxidative Stress in Patients with Cancer.” Archives of Physiology and Biochemistry, 2001, 109(4):331-336.
  8. Yamamoto, Y, et al. “Advanced Glycation Endproducts-Receptor Interactions Stimulate the Growth of Human Pancreatic Cancer Cells through the Induction of Platelet-Derived Growth Factor-B.” Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, 1996, 22(3):700-705.
  9. Hiroki, H, et al. “Expression of Receptors for Advanced Glycation Endproducts is Closely Associated with the Invasive and Metastatic Activity of Gastric Cancer.” Journal of Pathology, 2002, 192(2):163-170.
  10. McWhorter, WP. “Allergy and Risk of Cancer: A Prospective Study Using NHANESI (First National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) Followup Data.” Cancer, 1988, 62:451.
  11. Shils, ME and Goodhart, RS. “Nutrition and Neoplasia.” Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease, Philadelphia: Lea & Fegiger, 1980, 1177.
  12. Catassi, C, et al. “Risk of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in Celiac Disease.” JAMA, 2002, 287:1413-1419.
  13. Mercola, J. “Allergies and Weight May Play Role in Lymphoma.” www.mercola.com/1999/aug/15/allergies_and_weight_in_lymphoma.htm.
  14. Bostick, RM, et al. “Sugar, Meat, and Fat Intake and Non-dietary Risk Factors for Colon Cancer Incidence in Iowa Women.” Cancer Causes and Control, 1994, 5:38-53.
  15. Potischman, N, et al. “Increased Risk of Early-Stage Breast Cancer Related to Consumption of Sweet Foods Among Women Less Than Age 45 in the United States."



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