Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Cancer Answer? by Jerry Brainum

A Cancer Answer?

Jerry Brainum

DIM-ing the danger with diet
    Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer, accounting for 29 percent of newly diagnosed cases. It’s also the second leading cause of death in men. Prostate cancer has particular relevance to bodybuilders because of its association with several hormones, including testosterone, estrogen and insulinlike growth factor 1 (IGF-1).
     Androgens are known to speed the initial growth of prostate tumors, although recent evidence shows that the androgen involved isn’t testosterone but rather a metabolite called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is also associated with male pattern baldness and acne, two common side effects of anabolic steroid use. Many anabolic steroids are built on a DHT structure and are favored because they can’t be converted into estrogen. DHT, however, also causes prostate gland enlargement. On the other hand, more recent evidence shows that, similarly to testosterone, the prostate gland only accepts a finite amount of DHT, which would indicate that larger amounts of DHT circulating in the blood have no relationship to the onset of prostate cancer, although it's still implicated in benign prostate enlargement.
    Estrogen may be a more potent promoter of prostate cancer than testosterone or DHT. Most of the estrogen synthesized in men is a result of conversion of free testosterone by way of the enzyme aromatase, found in muscle, fat and brain tissue and at numerous other sites. Estrogen is the bane of bodybuilders’ existence, since it’s associated with increased subcutaneous fat, water retention and gynecomastia, or excess male breast tissue.
     Increased levels of IGF-1 often appear in conjunction with both breast and prostate cancers. While most bodybuilders are familiar with the anabolic properties of IGF-1, few realize that it’s also a potent stimulus to cell division; any type of cancer is essentially rampant cell division. Adding IGF-1 would be tantamount to adding oil to a fire. The ongoing debate in medicine is whether IGF-1 is a marker or stimulus of tumor formation. IGF-1 may be produced locally by tumors as a means of increasing metastasis, or spreading throughout the body. That makes sense, as IGF-1 is known to be produced in local tissues, such as muscle.IGF-1 also seems to block a process called apoptosis, which involves cell self-destruction. In the case of preserving heart and brain cells, the blocking of apoptosis by IGF-1 is a good thing; not so good with tumor cells!
     Prostate cancer has been linked to race (black men have higher rates), age (older men have increased rates) and family history (if you have an immediate male relative who had the disease, you likely inherited an increased tendency to get it). The good news is that research points to several potent nutritional preventives.
Many of those nutrients are found in fruits and vegetables. That’s ironic since many bodybuilders avoid eating fruits and vegetables because of the perception that they’re high in carbohydrates, particularly fructose But even staunch low-carb advocates, such as the late Dr. Robert Atkins, have wisely revised their former guidelines to allow limited portions of the more protective fruits and veggies.
     Cruciferous vegetables, which include brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, kale and cauliflower, are particularly protective against cancer. They contain a host of chemicals known to induce enzymes that detoxify and destroy carcinogens, including glucobrassicin, which is converted upon being cooked or crushed into another substance, indole-3-carbinol (I3C). Once you ingest it, I3C is exposed to the acid environment of the gut and transformed into several products, among the most active being 3,3’–diindolylmethane (DIM).
      I3C and DIM may be familiar to some bodybuilders. Both substances have appeared in commercial food supplements touted to help break down excess estrogen. Of the two, DIM is far more stable and potent. It’s known to convert active estrogens into relatively inactive forms, which offers benefits for the prevention of estrogen-related cancers.
     Recent studies show that DIM may be even more potent against prostate cancer than was initially realized. In one recent study in which three types of prostate-cancer cell lines were exposed to DIM, all three committed immediate suicide, or apoptosis.1 The same study showed that when normal skin cells were exposed to DIM, no harm or damage ensued, thereby indicating that DIM attacks only cancerous cells. The effect also occurred in a previous study when breast cancer cells were similarly exposed to DIM.
      Another study found another mechanism whereby DIM destroyed prostate cancer cells.2 In that case DIM blocked the effects of DHT. Most prostate cancers are initially sensitive to the presence of DHT, and when its activity is blocked, the tumor shrinks and disappears.
     This second study also raises the question of whether DIM may help rid the body of both excess estrogen and DHT, each of which bodybuilders consider troublesome. DIM doesn’t inhibit the formation of DHT, as does the drug finesteride (Proscar), but rather blocks it at the cell-receptor level, making its activity more akin to the way the drug Nolvadex blocks estrogen cell receptors without actually inhibiting estrogen synthesis. Whether DIM works systemically or only at the level of the prostate gland is a question that awaits an answer.
1 Nachshon-Kedmi, M., et al. (2003). Indole-3-carbinol and 3,3’–diindolylmethane induce apoptosis in human prostate cancer cells. Food Chem Toxicol. 41:745-52.
2 Hien, T., et al. (2003). Plant-derived 3,3’–diindolylmethane is a strong androgen antagonist in human prostate cancer cells. J Biol Chem. 278:21136-21145.