The Link Between Free Radicals and Cancer

Cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide. While doctors and scientists are uncovering new information about this serious disease daily, the links between free radicals and the development of cancer are becoming clearer.

Free radicals, and the oxidative stress they can produce, is believed to contribute to the development of cancer. Read on to discover how neutralizing free radicals and preventing oxidative stress can boost your body’s defense against cancer.

What are free radicals and oxidative stress?

Free radicals are unstable electrons that move throughout the body searching for healthy molecules to bond to. When they bond with these healthy molecules, they cause damage to the cells, which causes a host of problems from cell corruption to premature cellular death.

It’s normal and healthy for some free radicals to exist within us at any given time. You simply can’t avoid free radical production: your body naturally makes free radicals due to factors like diet and exercise and exposure to external issues like UV light and air pollution. An overabundance of free radicals, however, is what causes oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress is a serious health concern. It damages fatty tissue, DNA and proteins that the body needs to support essential, everyday processes. As the damage compounds, it can negatively impact your immune system. Scientists believe it can event contribute to the development of serious diseases including diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Free radicals, oxidative stress and cancer

As free radicals build up and create progressively more oxidative stress, they do major damage to genes in our DNA. Over time, the damage can cause DNA to produce ineffective proteins, which affects DNA integrity. When DNA suffers, mutations occur.

The most common form of mutation occurs in genes known as tumor suppressor genes: the genes that function to repair cell damage and prevent cellular death. A series of these mutations in the tumor suppressor genes and other genes are usually responsible for the formation of cancer cells. These are the cells that multiply into a malignant tumor.

How do antioxidants protect the body?

Many of the foods we eat contain phytochemicals (plant chemicals) that function as antioxidants. These antioxidants play a crucial role in inhibiting free radical production, which is why diets rich in fruits and vegetables are linked with better health and a reduced risk of many diseases, including cancer.

One of the most important antioxidants is Vitamin E. Research shows that Vitamin E neutralizes free radicals, which can reduce their ability to cause cellular damage. Not only does Vitamin E strengthen the immune system, it also prohibits the development of oxidative stress that’s linked to diseases, including cancer.

Vitamin E and other antioxidants work by donating electrons to unstable free radical molecules, to stabilize them. Your body stores Vitamin E in fat cells and releases it whenever it detects an abundance of free radicals, to prevent the oxidative stress that follows an accumulation of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) and other reactive molecules.

How to boost antioxidant levels

Want to improve your body’s antioxidant defenses? Eat a diet rich in whole foods like fruits and vegetables. If you’re looking to improve your Vitamin E intake, eat foods like:

  • Pressed oils. Wheat germ, hazelnut, almond, sunflower and safflower oils are rich sources of Vitamin E, but they’re also rich sources of fat. While a single serving of these oils contains high amounts of Vitamin E, you’ll also increase your fat intake.
  • Leafy greens. Turnip greens, Swiss chard and beet greens contain low levels of Vitamin E, offering a low-calorie way to boost Vitamin E intake.
  • Nuts. A simple snack like almonds, hazelnuts or roasted peanuts can boost your daily Vitamin E intake.

Cancer research Is ongoing

While cancer research is ongoing, scientists believe there’s an inextricable link between free radical production, oxidative stress and the development of cancer. While you can make lifestyle changes to reduce your risk for developing cancer—like not smoking, avoiding processed foods and avoiding contact with certain chemicals—boosting your antioxidant defenses is never a bad idea. Supplementing with Vitamin E may be the solution.

Healthy adults need 15mg of Vitamin E per day to support normal bodily processes, but most people don’t hit that number through diet alone. It’s often safe and effective to supplement with Vitamin E if you get a doctor’s approval.

Vitamin E can be a fighting force against free radicals and even the development of cancer. Choose a high-quality, all-natural Vitamin E supplement to give your body a fighting chance against cancer and other harmful diseases linked to free radical production.


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