Newsletter #144
Lee Euler, Editor
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Bet you never thought THIS
could give you cancer...

The next time you clink glasses for a toast… or tip up your cup at a football party… or celebrate TGIF a little too enthusiastically… you might want to give a little thought to how much you drink and how often.

A number of studies show a possible link between alcohol use and an increased risk of developing certain cancers. A lot hangs on that word "possible." Is this one more thing we need to worry about? Or is it a scientific guesstimate we can safely ignore? Let's take a look. . .

Continued below. . .


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Some researchers say there's little evidence to suggest that moderate alcohol consumption puts you at greater risk for developing the most common cancers.

But how about "moderate" use every day? Many of these investigators are uncertain about how much influence regular alcohol use has on cancer risk.

A variety of studies suggest the more alcohol you consume the greater your risk of developing these cancers:

  • Breast
  • Colon and rectum
  • Esophagus
  • Larynx
  • Liver
  • Lung
  • Mouth
  • Prostate
  • Throat

The reason for the uncertainty stems from conflicting study results. Let's take a look at breast cancer as an example…

Several studies used words like "modest1," "mild2," and "weak3" to describe the connection between alcohol use and breast cancer.

On the flip side, a study4 published in the November 2011 Journal of the American Medical Association said that even moderate alcohol use led to an increase in breast cancer risk!

Still other studies claimed to find no link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer.

Just to add to the confusion—one study5 even stated that moderate alcohol use could actually REDUCE breast cancer risk!

And if you think you'll get a clearer opinion from health organizations that research and provide cancer information, don't be surprised to learn that…

Even the cancer "experts" don't agree!

David J. Hanson, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the State University of New York, has researched and written on the subject of alcohol and drinking for over 30 years.

On his website Alcohol: Problems and Solutions6, Hanson noted the lack of consensus within the medical community about alcohol increasing risk for developing various cancers.

Hanson found that the National Cancer Institute, the National Library of Medicine, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center all say alcohol is not a risk factor for colorectal cancer.

But several other groups disagree, including the American Cancer Society, the Mayo Clinic, and the Colorectal Cancer Coalition. These groups all advise that heavy drinking may increase the odds of being diagnosed with the disease.

One finding is not in doubt: Alcohol and tobacco used together are especially lethal. Combining alcohol and tobacco greatly increases the risk of developing throat and mouth cancers. You can help reduce your risk for developing these cancers if you quit smoking.

If you're thinking there might be good reason for so many folks to sound a warning, you might also be wondering…

How do researchers think alcohol
raises your cancer risk?

Although the medical community can't say for sure exactly how alcohol affects cancer—they do have a few ideas…

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS)7, alcohol may raise cancer risk in any of four different ways:

  • Damages body tissues—some researchers think alcohol may irritate and damage mouth and throat cells. As the cells try to repair themselves, it may cause DNA changes that lead to cancer. What's more, alcohol changes bacteria in the colon and rectum into acetaldehyde. Studies show this chemical causes cancer in lab animals.
  • Decreases nutrient absorption—your body needs the B vitamin folate to help it produce and maintain new cells. Alcohol may reduce your ability to absorb folate in foods. And low folate levels can increase your risk of breast and colorectal cancers.
  • Sparks hormone changes—alcohol may raise your estrogen levels. Because this hormone regulates breast tissue growth, it may impact breast cancer risk.
  • Triggers harmful chemical reactions—ACS said alcohol may help toxic chemicals enter cells in your digestive tract. It may also slow your ability to break down and flush away these harmful chemicals.

The ACS said there may be other as yet unknown ways that alcohol may contribute to cancer. For this reason, the group recommends limitations of no more than 2 drinks per day for men, and 1 drink a day for women. Maybe I'm straitlaced, but to me that sounds like plenty of drinking.

In addition to this establishment take on alcohol and cancer, I'd also note that a shot of alcohol is a big shot of sugar. As regular readers of this newsletter know, sugar is just about the most pro-cancer food you can eat.

Aside from the fact that many alcoholic drinks are high in sugar, the alcohol itself is quickly metabolized into sugar in your body. This means any alcoholic drink sends your sugar levels soaring, even if it's a drink we don't normally consider sweet, such as scotch or beer.

I always marvel when I meet a diabetic who has enough will power to push away desserts, but drinks alcohol as if it's harmless. The alcohol has to go, too. Think of it as liquid sugar. As for people who have cancer, both alcohol and sugar are out of the question.

Even if the scientific studies produce a mixed bag of results… and you find that you're uncertain about what to believe…

…one thing for sure is that it certainly won't HARM you to limit your alcohol consumption.

And if you drink red wine because of its proven cardiovascular benefits—remember that you also achieve these results with a healthy diet and a regular exercise program.

Resveratrol is thought to be the component in red wine that's responsible for most of the health benefits. Take it as a supplement and avoid any possible downside associated with heavy drinking.

That's an 'ounce of prevention' you can feel good about adding to your glass!

Speaking of foods for which it's hard to figure out the cancer risk, we wrote about another one in the last issue. If you missed it, scroll down and take a look now.


Are "Frankenfoods" Really All that Scary?

Those who make and eat GM (genetically modified) foods say they're the answer to mass starvation and disease. Those who shun GM technology say it'll be the cause of mass starvation and disease. They call these foods "Frankenfoods," with a nod to Frankenstein, the monster humanoid created by runaway, out-of-control science.

GM food is a hot-button issue right now. The subject arouses intense emotions, often based on a minimum of information. Most important of all is the question of how GM foods might affect our long-term health. Let's first look at the facts.

Continued below. . .


Toxic chemical condemned 8 men to die of prostate cancer
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John S. watched helplessly as 7 of his Vietnam platoon buddies died of prostate cancer, one by one. They were exposed to chemicals during the war that caused them to get cancer when they reached middle age. Then, in 2002, John found out it was his turn. He got opinions from three different doctors and they all told him the same thing: he'd need a miracle to survive.

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When food meets technology

GM foods come from genetically modified organisms (GMOs). They consist of food organisms that were modified via molecular biology techniques that promote selective breeding.

GMOs undergo much more specific changes than what you get from standard, Luther-Burbank-style mutation breeding, which is time-consuming and not always accurate. The goal behind genetic food modification is to increase desired traits in food sources. For instance a plant such as corn might be modified to produce higher resistance to weed killers and better nutritional content.

The science involved is incredible, but scary. For example, a plant geneticist can take a highly drought-tolerant plant, identify the gene that's responsible for drought tolerance, and insert it into a plant that doesn't have it. The new plant then becomes drought-tolerant.

Not only can scientists transfer genes from plant to plant, they can also transfer genes between plants and non-plant organisms. The best example of this happened when plant geneticists created a strain of corn that produced its own pesticides against insects. They did it by taking Bacillus thuringiensis (B.t.), which is a natural bacterium that makes proteins lethal to insect larvae, and inserting the B.t. gene into corn.

The bulk of GM foods are staple foods like soybean, corn, rice, and canola. Some animal products have been developed, though none are on the market as of this writing.

GM foods first entered the market a mere 15 years ago in 1996. By 2010, 10% of the world's crop land was planted with GM crops, and most of those were in North America.

And yet it could save the world…

The world population is now at 7 billion, on track to double in 50 years. This means having enough food to go around is a big concern. GM advocates say genetically modified food is the answer.

For one, GM plantings increase the production of food per acre, which is important since the world is running out of farmland. Plus, GM plants have better pest and disease resistance and can tolerate herbicides.

For that matter, GM plants can be created to tolerate cold, drought, and salinity. This means we can grow food in places previously unfit for crops, like the desert, or areas with high salt content.

Benefits go beyond even that. Proponents say GM foods can improve nutrition in third world countries by injecting staple foods — like rice — with more vitamins and minerals. And right now, researchers are working to develop GM foods with edible vaccines. Since medicines and vaccines cost a lot to produce, store, and ship to the people who need them most (for instance, people in poor countries), it makes a lot of sense to embed those vaccines in something like a potato.

There's also a pro-environmental side. To date, plants like poplar trees have been genetically engineered to clean up heavy metal pollution from contaminated soil.

In this case, what we don't know might really hurt us

Of course, there's a downside. The biggest one is that we just don't know what the long-term effects of GM foods will be.

Already, there's evidence of unintentional harm. A study in Nature showed that pollen from B.t. corn caused high mortality rates in monarch butterfly caterpillars. Even though monarch caterpillars eat milkweed plants, not corn, the fear is that pollen from B.t. corn could contaminate milkweed plants on neighboring fields and destroy the caterpillars. (I should point out this topic is being debated heavily by both sides since the study wasn't conducted under natural field conditions.)

Regardless of the study's accuracy, it's not yet possible to make a B.t. toxin that only kills crop-damaging pests while sparing the good insects.

On top of that, there's a concern that insects will just become resistant to B.t. crops, or any other kind of crop genetically-modified to create its own pesticide.

There's also a concern about gene transfer to non-target species. People are worried the crops that are weed-resistant will crossbreed with weeds to create a "superweed" that withstands all weed killers.

But the biggest and scariest disadvantage to GM crops are the unknown human health risks.

Life-threatening allergies among children in the U.S. and Europe to things like peanuts and strawberries are a constant concern for millions of parents. The introduction of new genes into our food could create a new allergen.

Another potential hazard is the risk that bacteria in our guts could pick up antibiotic-resistant genes found in GM foods. (These are genes added to GM plants as "markers" to tell food geneticists which plants have exotic genes.) It's feasible that this type of transfer could prompt the spread of disease-causing bacteria that are immune to antibiotics.

GMOs are already leading food production

Regulation is also a problem. In the United States, three different government agencies preside over GM food issues: the EPA looks at environmental safety, the USDA decides whether GM foods are safe to grow, and the FDA decides whether GM foods are safe to eat. Not only does that add layers of bureaucracy to the issue, it also puts the safety of our health in the hands of politicians or, perhaps worse, unelected bureaucrats.

In March of 2011, an alliance of consumers, family farmers, and those against corporate agriculture protested what they call the consolidation of our nation's food system. They claim Monsanto, the main producer of GM seeds, effectively controls the U.S. commercial seed market. The alliance charges that the company has bought up independent seed companies, and that it continues to spike prices. They accuse Monsanto of market dominance and worry that seed diversity in this country will decline.

Note: Monsanto is the company behind some of the biggest herbicide-resistant GM plants, those grown from "Roundup Ready" seeds. Right now, this trait — resistance to weed-killers -- is embedded in the majority of all soybeans and corn grown in the U.S.

The idea is that a crop can be sprayed with Round-Up, killing the weeds but sparing the corn or soybeans. Unfortunately, the weeds are evolving and have developed resistance to Round-Up, much the way bacteria have developed resistance to antibiotics.

The top three GMO users, the U.S., Argentina, and Brazil, produce 81% of the world's total corn supplies and 89% of the soybean supplies. China and India are adopting the technology, though Indian citizens are campaigning against this change. Most of Europe is largely opposed to GMOs.

Is this the end of true, organic food?

I've seen reports that wildlife, such as migrating birds, will not touch GMO corn when grown right next to non-GMO corn. As a matter of fact, no animals appear to consume GM food by choice. What do these animals sense that we're missing?

So what I wonder is, when we eat foods genetically altered to produce chemicals designed to kill other forms of life, what type of effect will that have on us?

You're probably already eating GMOs, even if you don't realize it. The FDA doesn't require labels on GM foods. Unless you eat and drink organic foods exclusively, you're eating GMOs. If you eat anything pre-packaged and processed, or any foods with corn, soybeans, canola oil, or high fructose corn syrup, you're probably eating GMOs.

There's no sign this is going to change. Even Whole Foods agreed to sell GMO, herbicide-resistant alfalfa in January of 2011. Heads of other organic proponents like Organic Valley and Stonyfield Farm have also said they're not opposed to the mass commercialization of GM crops.

Will there be any true organic food left at all in another decade? I don't know, but I do know that the quality of the food we eat more or less governs our health. There are no long term studies to assure us, for certain, that GM foods are harmless. We don't know enough at this point. It strikes me as a gamble.

A friend of mine who's a biochemist tells me the gene for herbicide resistance "expresses" only in the leaves and stalk of the corn plant, not in the ear which produces the corn kernels we actually eat. It's analogous to a human brain cell being different from a human bone cell — different genes express in different parts of an organism while remaining dormant in the rest of the body.

This is the main support for the position that GM foods are safe. The herbicidal gene is present in the part of the corn plant we eat — all of an organism's genes are present in every cell of that organism -- but the gene isn't actually doing anything. This is some comfort, but it's well short of ironclad proof of safety.

Kindest regards,

Lee Euler,
Publisher


Footnotes from 1st article:

1Ellison, R.C., et al. Exploring the relation of alcohol consumption to risk of breast cancer. American Journal of Epidemiology, 2001, 154(8), 740-747; Ashley, M.J., et al. Moderate drinking and health: Implications of recent evidence. Canadian Family Physician, 1997, 43, 687-694.
2Morch, L.S., et al. Alcohol drinking, consumption patterns and breast cancer among Danish nurses: a cohort study. European Journal of Public Health, 2007, 17(6), 624-629.
3Sturgeon, S.R., et al. Geographic variation in mortality from breast cancer among white women in the United States. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 1995, 87, 1846-1853; UK Department of Health.advisorybodies.doh.gov.uk/pdfs/alcbrrev.pdf; Longnecker, M.P., et al, (1988) A meta-analysis of alcohol consumption in relation to risk of breast cancer. JAMA, 1988, 260, 652-656; Longnecker, M.P. Alcoholic beverage consumption in relation to risk of breast cancer: some observations on published case control studies. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 1994, 207-216
4Chen, W. et al. Alcohol and Risk of Breast Cancer. JAMA. 2011;306(17):1920-1921. doi: 10.1001/jama.2011.1589. Retrieved from http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/306/17/1920.extract
5Baumgartner, K.B., et al. Is alcohol intake associated with breast cancer in Hispanic women? Ethnic Disease, 2002, 12, 460-469; Ranstam, J. and Olsson, H. Alcohol cigarette smoking, and the risk of breast cancer. Cancer Detection and Prevention, 1995, 19, 487-493; Kropp S, et al. Low-to-moderate alcohol consumption and breast cancer risk by age 50 years among women in Germany. American Journal of Epidemiology, 2001,154, 624-634.
6Hanson, D.J. Alcohol: Problems and Solutions website. Retrieved from http://www2.potsdam.edu/hansondj/HealthIssues/1109728149.html
7American Cancer Society, Inc. 2007. Alcohol Use and Cancer. Retrieved from http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/CancerCauses/DietandPhysicalActivity/alcohol-use-and-cancer

References from 2nd article:

"Consciousness: What You Don't Know Might Kill You," by Vaishali. Huff Post.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/vaishali/gmo-seeds-food_b_1031515.html

"Detection of genetically modified organisms in foods." Ahmed, Farid E. Trends in Biotechnology.
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167779901019205

Farm groups call on U.S. to "bust up big ag," by Carey Gillam, Reuters.
http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/03/12/us-seeds-antitrust-idUSTRE62B0A720100312

"Feed the Future …with GMOs?" by Omer Redi, Ghana Business News.
http://www.ghanabusinessnews.com/2011/11/28/feed-the-future-with-gmos/

Genetically modified food.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetically_modified_food

"Genetically Modified Foods: Harmful or Helpful?" (Released April 2000) by Deborah B. Whitman.
http://www.csa.com/discoveryguides/gmfood/overview.php

"Guide to U.S. Regulation of Genetically Modified Food and Agricultural Biotechnology Products." Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology.
http://www.pewtrusts.org/uploadedFiles/wwwpewtrustsorg/Reports/Food_and_Biotechnology/hhs_biotech_0901.pdf

"It's Only Natural." CancerActive.
http://www.canceractive.com/cancer-active-page-link.aspx?n=200

"Organic Elite Surrenders to Monsanto: Whole Foods Market okays GMO coexistence," by Ronnie Cummins. Food Freedom.
http://foodfreedom.wordpress.com/2011/01/27/organic-elite-surrenders-to-monsanto/

"Seedy tactics in Iowa and Norway in the news this week," by Bonnie Azab Powell. Grist.
http://www.grist.org/article/seedy-tactics-in-iowa-and-norway

"Should We Grow GM Crops?" Harvest of Fear, PBS.org.
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/harvest/exist/arguments.html

Transgenic pollen harms monarch larvae (Nature, Vol 399, No 6733, p 214, May 1999)


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Editor in Chief: Lee Euler Contributing Editors: Mindy Tyson McHorse, Carol Parks, Roz Roscoe Marketing: Shane Holley Information Technology Advisor: Michelle Mato Webmaster: Steve MacLellan Fulfillment & Customer Service: Joe Ackerson and Cami Lemr


Health Disclaimer: The information provided above is not intended as personal medical advice or instructions. You should not take any action affecting your health without consulting a qualified health professional. The authors and publishers of the information above are not doctors or health-caregivers. The authors and publishers believe the information to be accurate but its accuracy cannot be guaranteed. There is some risk associated with ANY cancer treatment, and the reader should not act on the information above unless he or she is willing to assume the full risk.

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