Natural Cancer Prevention

Cutting-edge herb research, common-sense prevention

| May/June 1998

Every fourth Saturday afternoon, Ben and Joan Page set aside an hour for just the two of them.

The hour isn’t spent on a planned romantic encounter, nor is it a scheduled time to talk. Rather, they spend the hour helping each other check for signs of skin cancer.

Sound far-fetched? It shouldn’t, considering that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer and one of the most curable, if detected early enough. According to the American Cancer Society, about 800,000 people had some form of skin cancer last year, and nearly 10,000 people died from it.

The monthly routine of Ben and Joan Page (not their real names)—to check for signs of skin cancer—is one of the best ways to keep the disease from spreading out of control, according to the cancer society. But in addition to keeping an eye on things, you can do even more by taking some preventive steps.

To date, the only unequivocal way to decrease the risk of skin cancer is to avoid overexposure to the sun and to avoid industrial chemicals such as arsenic. Further, researchers are exploring promising phytochemicals found in herbs, vegetables, and fruits that may help prevent and/or slow the disease. Most of the phyto­medicines described here are contained in foods that can be safely added to your diet now, if you don’t already include them in your favorite recipes or take them in supplement form. But because the research on these phytochemicals is in the early stages, and because individuals have their own sets of sensitivities and health concerns, it’s best to query your health-care provider to see whether adding any of these natural medicines to your diet is right for you.

Turmeric, a common spice used in making curries, contains the yellow pigment curcumin, which is both an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory. (For more information, see “Turmeric: The favorite of ancients wins scientific acclaim” on page 39 of the November/December 1996 issue of Herbs for Health.) Animal studies suggest that curcumin may also be effective in preventing skin cancer.

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