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How Oxidative Stress is Linked to Cancer



Oxidative stress is a condition that results when an imbalance is created between free radicals, reactive metabolites, oxidants, and antioxidants. Free radicals are molecules that contain an uneven number of electrons. They travel through the body, detaching electrons from other molecules, destabilizing these molecules, and creating more free radicals in the process.

This is a natural part of the metabolic process and free radicals are usually kept in check by antioxidants that are produced in the human body such as the enzyme superoxide dismutase. This enzyme and other antioxidants break down excess oxygen molecules in the cells, allowing the cells to repair or prevent the damage caused by these free radicals. It is the body’s most significant natural defense and causes a metabolic change that is proven to reverse excessive oxidation and reduce the inflammation that is the underlying cause of chronic pain and disease.

Stress Oxidation, Inflammation, and Cancer

When the cells are in distress, other cells are called into action through a process of cell signaling. This is a normal part of the healing process and causes acute inflammation within the body as the immune system activates. Prolonged inflammation signals more inflammatory cells to the site, leading to a condition of chronic inflammation.

Unchecked or exacerbated by environmental or genetic factors, this condition feeds on itself, leading to an imbalance in oxidants, also known as the reactive oxygen species or ROS. The longer the stressed condition remains, the greater the number of reactive oxygen species produced. This results in damage to the structure and function of neighboring cells.

Life science technology studies have linked the onset and development of cancer to excessive stress oxidation by showing a correlation between ROS generation and proliferation to an increase in DNA mutations, DNA damage, and cellular instability. This condition is found to activate a variety of genetic factors that regulate such diverse functions as cell growth, cytokines, chemokines, anti-inflammatory molecules, and the molecules that regulate cell cycles.

Science is just beginning to discover how this process activates the inflammation pathways between normal cells and cancer cells. However, anecdotal evidence reinforces this theory by demonstrating that anti-inflammatory therapies reduce the risk of cancer and prevent the progression and spread of the disease.

Further support for the connection between stress oxidation, chronic inflammation, and the development of cancer is the proven link between inflammatory bowel diseases and colon cancer, or the correlation between chronic pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer.