Orange juice, America’s favorite breakfast drink, has been linked to the deadliest form of skin cancer. This post from Cancer Defeated newsletter throws light on how orange juice, and other packaged fruit juices, increase the risk of cancer.
I don’t know how many Americans reach for a glass of orange juice first thing every morning — the number probably exceeds a hundred million and may be close to 200 million. But there’s a newly discovered cancer risk you probably HAVEN’T heard of that’s linked to this iconic breakfast drink…
One glass per day of OJ increases your risk of melanoma — the deadliest form of skin cancer — by 25 percent, according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. This was true even when several other factors were taken into account – including people’s overall sun exposure and history of bad sunburns.
We now have a clear link between orange juice and cancer based on a 25-year study of more than 100,000 American adults.
What’s even more shocking is that the mainstream media is blaming this on (drumroll please)… the sun!
And they’re telling people to keep drinking orange juice – and avoid the sun.
Dr. Abrar Qureshi, chair of dermatology at Brown University, told HealthDay news service, “The citrus can’t hurt you without the excessive sun exposure.”
Maybe he has reading comprehension problems. He’s saying this even though sun exposure had already been ruled out as a factor in this study. I may as well add that I don’t believe there’s any connection at all between sun exposure and melanoma. But that’s another story. . .let’s stick to orange juice.
The REAL reason for this mysterious link
The real reason for this link is that orange juice contains about as much sugar as soda. Millions of Americans have already cottoned on to this, and orange juice consumption has fallen sharply in the last 20 years. (It’s also fallen because OJ has become so expensive.)
Long-time readers of this newsletter know that all cancers thrive on sugar, but melanoma is nearly in a class by itself when it comes to the sweet stuff. In fact, 40 percent of all melanomas actually depend on sugar.
So if you’re faithfully drinking orange juice every morning, you’re giving melanoma exactly what it needs to grow.
The same is true of grapefruit – another sugary citrus fruit that increases your risk of skin cancer, according to the study.
Apple juice and grape juice are also sugary – without the redeeming fiber you’d get if you ate the whole fruit. And if they’ve been pasteurized (as nearly all packaged juices have) then they’ve been robbed of valuable nutrients. Drinking fruit juice is not as healthy as it may seem.
Melanoma’s glucose addiction
Melanoma is the most deadly skin cancer (the other types, mainly basal cell carcinomas, are nearly harmless). Melanoma is aggressive and highly prone to metastasize. Life expectancy is about eight months from the time of diagnosis.
Researchers know that melanomas are driven by mutations in the BRAF gene in about 40% of cases. And BRAF-driven melanoma relies on particularlyhigh levels of glucose to drive its explosive growth.
Scientists found that cells carrying this mutation are literally addicted to glucose. Some cells are so addicted they’ll kill themselves when their sugar supply is threatened. Others are able to survive.
Conventional drugs are able to turn off the glucose dependency of these genes. But here’s the catch… medication is typically a very short-term fix, before the cells become resistant – sometimes in as little as a few weeks.
As I mentioned, melanomas are not the only cancers that feed on sugar. It’s hard for any cancer cells to survive and mutate on a low-sugar diet.
So you probably won’t be surprised to learn there’s a strong link between cancer and diabetes. Given the fact that this is really a story about cancer and sugar rather than cancer and orange juice, it’s worth taking a closer look at this.
Confounding factors make it hard to accurately assess cancer risk in people with diabetes, but epidemiological studies show they have an increased risk of several types of cancer – including pancreatic, liver, breast, colorectal, urinary tract, and female reproductive cancers.
Most epidemiological studies show a two- to three-fold increase in liver cancers in patients with diabetes. Mortality is also higher. (For people who are healthy otherwise, liver cancer is pretty treatable, even by those bunglers in conventional medicine. For someone with diabetes, things are less rosy.)
Elderly patients who are newly diagnosed with diabetes are nearly eight times more likely to get pancreatic cancer than non-diabetic people of similar age and gender.
High insulin levels are probably linked to cancer growth in patients with diabetes because insulin has both metabolic and mitogenic (cell-division-triggering) effects.
And it’s not just the risk of getting cancer. Surviving it is important too.
While the studies on surviving cancer and diabetes together are inconclusive, there are plenty of studies that show increased mortality if you have both.
Big benefits to cutting down on sugar
Mounting research shows that a ketogenic diet – high fat, little to no sugar – can not only reduce your risk of cancer, it can even rescue your brain from Alzheimer’s. Sugar is also linked to cardiovascular disease.
One of the best things you can do for your health is to ditch ALL sugars as well as grains (because they metabolize into glucose i.e. blood sugar).
If eating this way is new to you and you’re concerned about melanoma, here are some tips on how to identify it – or at least how to make an initial observation and follow up with your doctor.
What melanoma looks like
The first sign of melanoma is usually a change in the size, shape, color, or feel of a mole. Most melanomas have a black or black-and-blue area. Melanomas may also appear as new moles that are black, abnormal, or “ugly.”
“ABCDE” can help you remember what to watch out for:
- Asymmetrical – the shape of one half doesn’t match the other half.
- Border – the edges are ragged, blurred, or irregular.
- Color – the color is uneven and can include shades of black, brown, and tan. Or a different color than your other moles.
- Diameter – a change in size, usually an increase.
- Evolving – the mole has changed over the past few weeks or months. This could include new bleeding.
If your skin has spots that fit this description, see a dermatologist as soon as you can. But there’s no need to panic. A changing spot might indicate a problem, or it might not. Many spots that seem to have one or more of the ABCDE’s are just ordinary moles, not melanomas. Not all melanomas have color, or are raised. So remain hopeful, but get it checked out.
Oddly enough, the more rapid and dramatic the change in a mole, the less serious it usually is.
If pain, swelling, or even bleeding begin rapidly, within a day or two, they’re likely caused by minor trauma (often small enough you wouldn’t even remember it), not melanoma.
But don’t try to diagnose yourself. A medical professional should evaluate a spot that’s changing or doesn’t look like your other spots.
The most common locations for melanoma lesions are on the legs for women, and on the back for men… most commonly between ages 30 and 50.
Factors that increase your risk of melanoma include:
- Caucasian (white) ancestry
- Fair skin, light hair, light-colored eyes
- Many (more than 100) moles
- Large, irregular, or “odd looking” moles
- Close blood relatives with melanoma. Having a first-degree family member with melanoma is a high risk factor, even though only 10% of cases run in families.
I surely hope you don’t have melanoma – or any other type of cancer – but if you do, the article we ran in the last issue is essential reading.