Inflammation and Cancer: Is There a Connection?

There are two different kinds of inflammation: acute and chronic. Most of us are familiar with acute inflammation: we stub our toe on the corner of the cabinet and almost immediately see it swell up. This is the body’s healthy response to injury, one that kickstarts the healing process. But chronic inflammation is a different story. This isn’t a healthy immune response, and is one of the mechanisms that initiate the cascade of molecular events that both lead to cancer and promote the growth of existing tumors. In fact, research has demonstrated that chronic inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, bronchitis, fasciitis, colitis, and asthma can all increase our risk of cancer. However, it isn’t just the risk of cancer that is a concern when chronic inflammation is present. A study published in the May 2009 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology demonstrated that patients with high blood levels of two inflammatory markers, C-reactive protein (CRP) and serum amyloid A (SAA), were two to three times more likely to die prematurely or have their cancer return than patients with lower levels.

The converse is also true:  controlling inflammation can both reduce the risk of and decrease the aggressiveness of cancer. Most, if not all patients, are dealing with high levels of inflammatory biochemicals that are produced by malignancies, and increased by surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. At the Block Center, we measure and monitor the inflammation levels of all of our patients, and provide individually-tailored recommendations about lifestyle, nutraceutical and dietary interventions that can reduce their levels of inflammation.

The Role of Diet

Adjusting fat intake is the most important way to control inflammation through diet. A diet and individualized supplement plan that produces an optimal level of omega-3s – relative to omega-6s – is critical for undoing persistent inflammation and making your biochemical terrain cancer-fighting, instead of cancer-promoting (which is most common with cancer patients). Our dietary recommendations include a diet low in saturated fats and high in fiber, plant-based sources of protein, cold water fish rich in omega 3s, complex carbohydrates, fruits and berries, nuts, seeds and cruciferous vegetables. We suggest reducing or – better still – eliminating unnatural fats, called trans fat (found abundantly in margarine), hydrogenated oils, as well as many baked goods and convenience foods, reducing or eliminating simple carbohydrates such as sugar, honey, high fructose corn syrup, concentrated sweeteners, sugary beverages, cookies, cakes, pastries, white bread, crackers and white-flour baked goods. These are high glycemic foods that cause a sudden rise in blood sugar and ultimately increase inflammation.

We also recommend avoiding the following:


  • Excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Unhealthy high-flame or high-heat cooking methods like charcoal grilling and deep frying.
  • Indoor and outdoor pollution: use nontoxic cleaning agents and have plenty of air-filtering houseplants.
  • Sleep deficit: sleeping less than four hours a night for ten nights straight can make levels of C-reactive protein soar.
  • Extreme exercise. The aches and pains from “weekend warrior” syndrome are not natural or healthy and are indications of inflammation.
  • Smoking.

For additional information about how to optimize your diet and lifestyle in order to create a cancer-fighting biology, please call the Block Center at 1-877-412-5625.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *