PROMINENT FIGURES WHO HAVE SUCCUMBED TO PANCREATIC CANCER
- John Lewis. Congressman, civil rights legend. 2020.
- Alex Trebek. Host of the game show Jeopardy! 2020.
- Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Supreme Court justice. 2020.
- Aretha Franklin. Queen of Soul. 2018.
- Luciano Pavarotti. Opera star. 2007.
- Dizzy Gillespie. Jazz trumpet great. 1993.
- Sally Ride. Astronaut. 2012.
- Patrick Swayze. Actor. 2009.
- Michael Landon. TV star. 1991.
- Gene Upshaw. Football great. 2008.
- Karl Lagerfeld. Designer. 2019.
- Bob Gibson. Hall-of-Fame baseball great. 2020.
Pancreatic cancer is a nasty, stubborn killer. The pancreas is a small, carrot shaped organ, about six inches long and less than two inches wide. It is hidden between the ribs and the stomach. The number of cases and deaths are increasing year after year. In 2018, there were 458,00 new cases diagnoses and over 443,000 deaths due to pancreatic cancer globally. Pancreatic cancer is the 11th most-common cancer in the U.S. But, it is the third-leading cause of U.S. cancer deaths and expected to soon overtake colon cancer for the number-two spot, right behind lung cancer.
The over-all five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is only 10%. Survival depends on how early the cancer is caught and treated. When caught early, the survival rate can be close to 40%. Unfortunately, at the time of diagnosis, 80% of patients have locally advanced or metastatic disease. The five-year survival rate for these patients is only 3%.
Oncologist Robert A. Wolff has been treating pancreatic cancer at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center for 20 years. “Since I’ve been practicing, I’ve seen a shift from smoking to obesity as the driver,” he says. “An average patient of mine has a body mass index between 30 and 35 [obesity is defined as 30 or more], has diabetes or prediabetes, is hypertensive and takes a lipid-lowering agent. ”Toss in a history of smoking, and such patients, he says, “are just time bombs for pancreatic cancer.”
There are three main reasons why this form of cancer is so deadly:
- Early pancreatic cancers often do not cause symptoms. That means the tumor can continue to grow unnoticed for a long time.
- Pancreatic cancers are aggressive. They grow rapidly and quickly invade nearby tissues. They also metastasize (spread through the bloodstream or lymphatic system) to distant organs or tissue quite easily.
- Pancreatic cancer is difficult to treat. Only the earliest, localized tumors can be treated with surgery. In advanced stages, pancreatic cancer tends to be long-term resistant to chemotherapy drugs and radiation.
Often people are active and in otherwise good health before symptoms develop.
- Your Back or Stomach Hurts – Pain in the abdomen or mid-back may be caused by a tumor. Depending on its location, the tumor may be pushing against nerves or organs near the pancreas or blocking the digestive tract.
- You’re Bloated – Pancreatic cancer can cause digestive problems, which may cause gas and bloating. Pancreatic cancer can also cause ascites, the build-up of extra fluid in the abdomen. This causes the belly to swell and stretch out.
- You’re Having Trouble Digesting Food – Loss of appetite, indigestion and nausea are common in people with pancreatic cancer. These symptoms often happen when the disease affects a person’s ability to digest food and absorb nutrients. They may also occur when a tumor blocks or slows the regular digestive processes.
- You’re Losing Weight and You Don’t Know Why – Weight loss can be caused by incomplete digestion due to the cancer or by the cancer itself. Cancer-induced weight loss is a problem that affects the way the body uses calories and protein. It can cause the body to burn more calories than usual, break down muscle and decrease appetite.
- Your Skin and Eyes Look Yellow – Jaundice is a yellowing of the skin and eyes caused by the buildup of bilirubin, a component of bile. This buildup can happen if the tumor blocks the bile flowing from the gallbladder into the small intestine. People with jaundice may also have itchy skin, dark urine and light or clay-colored stools.
- Your Stools Are Changing – Many pancreatic cancer patients have diarrhea, constipation or both. Diarrhea consisting of loose, watery, oily or foul-smelling stools can be caused by insufficient amounts of pancreatic enzymes in the intestines. Constipation is also a common problem. If the digestive system works too slowly, it can cause stools to become dry, hard and difficult to pass.
- You Were Recently Diagnosed with Diabetes, or Your Well-Controlled Diabetes Is Changing – Research suggests that a sudden onset of type 2 diabetes in people age 50 or older may be an early symptom of pancreatic cancer, especially in those who have a low body mass index, experience continuous weight loss or do not have a family history of diabetes. A sudden change in blood sugar levels in diabetics who previously had well-controlled diabetes may also be a sign of pancreatic cancer.
A study from 2005 of 2,122 residents of Rochester, MN, by Suresh T. Chari, now a gastroenterologist at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, found that within three years of receiving a diagnosis of diabetes, people were six to eight times more likely than the general public to have pancreatic cancer. He with colleagues at the Mayo Clinic identified a gene called UCP-1 that may predict the development of this cancer in people with diabetes.
There are some known ways to lower the risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Poor diet, excessive alcohol intake, smoking, obesity, diabetes, and certain nutrient deficiencies commonly found in fruits and vegetables have been identified as factors that increase the risk for cancers.
Several nutrients and vitamins have protective properties against pancreatic cancer. These are often lacking in the standard American diet.
- CAROTENOIDS – are a group of nutrients found in fruits and vegetables. Cell studies show that they can reduce pro-inflammatory signaling in cancers and induce cell death by apoptosis (Programmed cell death that occurs naturally.) Lycopene – tomatoes; beta-carotene – yellow, orange fruits and veggies, and leafy greens; zeaxanthin – spinach, collard greens.
- CURCUMIN – is the active compound found in the spice turmeric. Curcumin works by stopping the tumor from growing new blood vessels, which starves the tumor. It also has a toxic effect on cancer cells, killing them while being healthy for normal cells. Curcumin blocks the ability of cancer cells to migrate and spread, preventing metastases to other organs. Gemcitabine is a cheap drug that often becomes useless after a short time because the tumor stops responding to it. Curcumin turns off this resistance.
- VITAMIN D – deficiencies are extremely common, especially in older adults. Exposure to sunlight which helps the body produce vitamin D is associate with a reduced risk of pancreatic cancer.
- GREEN TEA CATECHINS – these extracts lower the risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Green tea has direct effects on pancreatic cells. In preclinical studies, it has been shown to reduce tumor cell growth, invasion, and migration, and causes cancer cells to die off. Catechins increase the impact of chemo drugs. EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) is the most common catechin in green tea. It has been shown to reduce pancreatic cancer growth by 40% on its own. The chemo drug gemcitabine reduced cancer growth by 52%. Together, the two compounds reduced cancer growth by 67%
- OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS – suppresses the abnormal activation of two key signaling proteins that contribute to the survival and growth of pancreatic cancer cells. Brussel sprouts, walnuts, chia seeds, algae, flax, spinach.
- MAGNESIUM – suboptimal intake contributes to the development of cancers. Magnesium is a required cofactor (helper molecule) for proteins involved in DNA repair. Poor DNA repair leads to more rapid accumulation of genetic mutations, which contribute to the development of cancer. Seeds, amaranth, quinoa, oats, spinach Swiss chard.
Umeboshi plums, sometimes called sour plums, are more closely related to the apricot than the plum. Round, wrinkled, and sour-tasting, umeboshi are intensely flavorful, so they’re often used to flavor white rice. The fruit is harvested by the end of June when they reach their peak acidity. Umiboshi plums have an umami flavor.
Umeboshi is made by pickling Japanese plums in barrels outdoors with shiso leaves and sea salt. The plums are pressed occasionally with a weight. The pickling process takes around six months, which is when the plums develop enzymes, natural bacteria and organic acids.
100 grams (or about 10 pieces) of umeboshi contains approximately:
- 33 calories
- 1 gram protein
- 0 grams fat
- 3.4 grams dietary fiber
- 10 grams carbohydrate
- 440 milligrams potassium (9 percent DV)
- 0.2 milligrams manganese (9 percent DV)
- 0.02 milligrams thiamin (2 percent DV)
- 7 micrograms vitamin A (1 percent DV)
- 0.01 milligrams riboflavin (1 percent DV)
Umeboshi contains powerful compounds that are beneficial in the prevention and natural treatment of cancer. A 2007 study treated liver cancer cells with an extract from ume fruit and found that it managed to stop the growth of cancer cells.
Another study published in Tumori treated pancreatic cancer cells with an extract from ume fruit and found it successfully stopped cancer growth. The ume fruit extract kills off cancer cells while sparing the normal, healthy cells. Ume fruit extract has also been shown to be beneficial in treating both breast cancer and skin cancer.
Free radicals are highly unstable molecules that cause oxidative damage that can contribute to the development of chronic disease. Antioxidants are substances that neutralize dangerous free radicals to help prevent damage to cells. Umeboshi plums are high in antioxidants and will reduce and stabilize free radicals.
Rich in polyphenols, umeboshi plums offer support for bone health. Polyphenols provide antioxidant protection against the development of conditions such as osteoporosis. A study published in Food Chemistry discovered that the specific polyphenols found in ume fruit had anti-osteoporosis activities. Osteoporosis is a condition that leads to bone loss, causing the bones to become weak and brittle while increasing the risk of breaks and fractures. The polyphenols in ume fruit were able to increase the production of collagen, the protein that forms the structure of bones, while also enhancing the function of osteoblasts, the cells that are responsible for bone synthesis.
Some research has found that ume fruit possesses natural anti-bacterial properties and could help block the growth of harmful bacteria that cause disease and prevent the formation of cavities. A 2011 study found that ume fruit extract was able to inhibit the growth of several strains of bacteria known to contribute to oral diseases, such as gingivitis.
Umeboshi fruit can be beneficial for blood sugar stabilization. A 2013 study found that ume fruit affects a specific receptor responsible for increasing the uptake of glucose in the body. With more glucose able to be transported and used by your cells, blood sugar levels can normalize and remain steady. Umeboshi plums are packed with fiber, which can help slow the absorption of glucose, preventing spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels.
Umeboshi has some potent properties that could help protect the liver. The liver plays a vital role in detoxification, fat metabolism and the production of important proteins used for blood clotting. Liver damage can be caused by a multitude of factors like infection, excessive alcohol consumption and even obesity. A 2012 study in the World Journal of Gastroenterology followed 58 patients with liver disease and found that supplementing with ume fruit extract actually decreased liver damage that affects millions of individuals worldwide with cirrhosis, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and hepatitis.
Because umeboshi plums are a high-fiber food, they can help support digestion and the gastrointestinal tract. This is because the dietary fiber found in umeboshi moves through the body undigested, adding bulk to stool and promoting regularity. The plums have a natural laxative effect. A 2013 animal study found that giving rats ume fruit improved gastric motility, or the movement of food through the digestive tract, and helped treat constipation.
Umeboshi may also help alleviate symptoms caused by gastrointestinal problems. A study in 2015 comprised of 392 participants showed that eating umeboshi daily improved gastric motility and significantly reduced the symptoms of acid reflux.
How to Buy
You can buy umeboshi pickled plums at natural health food stores, local Japanese grocery stores and online. You can find it in its full preserved plum form and as a paste or vinegar.
How to Store
Umeboshi Plums and Umeboshi Paste are shelf-stable because they are thoroughly pickled. They do need protection from drying-out but can be rehydrated. Refrigerated storage is best.
How to Cook
Umeboshi is super salty, sour and astringent so you only need a small amount to flavor a dish
When combined with miso paste, it gives dishes a cheesy flavor. Do a one-to-one ratio of umeboshi paste and white miso paste and add that to pesto in place of Parmesan, to “cheesy” broccoli soup and to tomato sauce for a dairy-free pasta dish. Remember that you’ll want to adjust the salt level in whatever you’re cooking, since both umeboshi and miso will add a significant amount of salt.
The brininess of umeboshi vinegar is also a great stand-in for anchovies – great for making vegan or vegetarian Caesar dressing. Mix it in with vegan or mayonnaise, garlic, capers and olive oil, or try it with avocado-based dressings as well.
Use umeboshi vinegar to make quick pickles. The vinegar will impart flavor but also lend its vibrant pink color to whatever you’re pickling.
Add a few dashes of umeboshi vinegar to sautéed vegetables, stir-fried dishes and curries. The umeboshi is a good stand-in for fish sauce.
Experiment with adding umeboshi paste or vinegar to marinades. It’s particularly good when mixed with ginger, garlic, tamari, and lime.
Vegan Cesar Dressing
Very Vegan Val
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 tbsp unsweetened, unflavored vegan yogurt
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp umeboshi paste
- 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
- ½ lemon, juice only
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tsp mustard
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- ¼ tsp salt
Place all the ingredients in a container, and blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Store in the fridge, and shake before using.