Your body has a natural way to fight cancer that too many of us undermine (and, no, I’m not talking about our bad eating habits).
The natural tool I’m referring to is so effective, researchers are now calling it a “tumor suppressor.”
It’s simple to put this basic bodily function to work on your behalf. You don’t have to buy fancy medical equipment, purchase expensive drugs, or take supplements. In fact, you don’t have to do much of anything.
Keep reading and I’ll let you in on the secret. . .
It’s all a matter of getting in sync with your “circadian” rhythm. You’ve probably heard the term. But chances are you don’t know how important
Research into circadian rhythms shows you may actually be able to sleep cancer away, because one of the most important aspects of this rhythm is getting enough sleep at night in a dark, cool room.
The body’s internal clock
The fact that the sun rises and sets every day keeps the body’s internal cellular clock functioning right as long as we don’t interfere with it too much. When we sync our circadian rhythm with the sun, our internal clock automatically shifts the metabolism of every organ to a different phase that’s appropriate to the time of day.
And those shifts help the body evade cancer.
According to researchers at the Charité-Medical University of Berlin, Germany, the daily circadian rhythms of the molecular processes that take place in each cell affect how and when a cell produces energy, repairs its DNA and divides to form new cells. The rhythm can suppress and prevent tumors when these processes are in proper synchronization.
Of course, modern life seems designed to disrupt these rhythms. Some people have to work night shifts, when the body’s circadian rhythm normally demands sleep. It’s well established that night shift workers have a higher risk of cancer. Other folks stay up late staring at a TV screen, computer or cellphone. And eating at night also causes disruption.
Problem is, when you’re too active at night, you are mimicking the hyperactivity of a cancer cell.
As the German scientists have found, cancer cells utilize specific methods to bypass the growth restrictions imposed by the circadian rhythm and, once free of those restrictions, form fast-growing tumors.1
“Based on our results, it seems to us that the (circadian) clock is likely to act as a tumor suppressor, and that it is of advantage for cancer cells to circumvent circadian control,” says a member of the research team. “One cannot stop wondering whether disrupted circadian timing should be included as a next potential hallmark of cancer.”
Messed up rhythms equal more cancer cells
Details about how cancer cells use disrupted circadian rhythms to boost their growth have been discovered at the Medical University of South Carolina.
This study looked closely at how multiplying cancer cells, in their haste to spread, create an overload of certain proteins that are “misfolded” or manufactured incorrectly. Because the cancer cells grow so fast, these deformed proteins accumulate in amounts that would be toxic to a normal cell that is following a regular circadian rhythm.2
But cancer cells evade death by holding down the levels of a protein called Bmal1, which is linked to allowing the deformed proteins to reach poisonous levels and kill off malfunctioning cells. Bmal1 levels usually fall during the day and rise during the night. Consequently, it’s believed that this circadian rhythm – getting enough sleep at night in the dark – is linked to a higher Bmal1 level that would tend to restrict cancer growth.
In their rush to grow tumors, however, cancer cells utilize a protein called UPR (unfolded protein response) that reduces the secretion of Bmal1. That allows them to mend their misfolded proteins and reduce their toxicity without dying off. So far, the researchers aren’t sure how much a person’s lifestyle – staying up late and being exposed to light – contributes to the low levels of Bmal1 and how much of the cancer cells’ effort to restrict Bmal1 is responsible for tumor growth.
But they have found that people with certain types of stomach and lung cancer survive longer when they have higher levels of Bmal1.
And researchers at Texas A&M have found that when genes in breast tissue that are supposed to control circadian rhythms go out of sync, it opens the door to cancer. The gene and the mechanism for breast cells to stay in the proper rhythm is called Period 2 (Per2).3
In their lab tests, the Texas scientists discovered that Per2 responds to the increase in light you see in the morning and the decrease in illumination that takes place at night. Entwined with this interaction, Per2 helps to regulate levels of Bmal1 – causing levels of this protein to rise at night and fall in the morning and during daylight hours.
Researcher Weston Porter notes that this study, along with other investigations, show that when it functions properly, Per2 is a “tumor suppressor gene associated with cell identity.”
But when it stops enforcing the correct circadian rhythm, cells run a high risk of forming highly invasive, dangerous tumors.
Nighttime is supposed to be dark
In the days before electricity, people pretty much went to bed when it was dark. Candles and oil lamps did not provide much light and were also too expensive for many people. These days, even if you’re devoted to maintaining a healthy circadian rhythm, you can’t totally avoid the electric lights we use after the sun goes down. I’m pretty confident that few people go to bed that early.
But one measure you should take to help your anti-cancer circadian rhythm in the evening is to avoid blue light. Research indicates that blue light at night is particularly disruptive to the body’s natural cycles.
For instance, research at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health shows a clear link between blue light exposure at night and a heightened risk of developing prostate and breast cancer.4
And the scientists emphasize that means we should avoid most white LED lights at night (which emit extra amounts of blue light) as well as computer and cellphone screens.
The researchers note that blue light at night hinders the body’s production of the hormone melatonin, a natural chemical that helps us sleep and which has also been linked to a lower risk of cancer.
In their study of about 4,000 people in Spain, the researchers found that extra amounts of late night blue light doubles the risk of prostate cancer in men and multiplies the breast cancer risk in women by 1.5 times.
I think around seven or so you want to put the smartphone down and put the laptop away.
Food for thought
I also have one other tip for using your circadian rhythm to fight cancer – don’t eat late at night. Late night digestion disrupts the body’s 24-hour cycles and may lead to faster aging as well as cancer.
A study at the University of California at Irvine shows that when you eat at an “abnormal” time, you interfere with the skin’s biological clock and lower the effectiveness of an enzyme in skin cells that defends against cancer-provoking effects of the sun’s ultraviolet light.5
It’s a result that took researcher JosephTakahashi by surprise. “I didn’t know the skin was paying attention to when we are eating,” he says.
In fact, your entire body right down to skin cells is paying attention. So if you can avoid burning the midnight oil or raiding the refrigerator in the wee hours, you have a better chance of staying cancer-free.