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Cancer Prevention Essay

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The Effect of Fruits and Vegetables on Cancer

The following paper will examine the effects of fruits and vegetables on cancer in young and middle-aged adults. Particular importance will be placed on examining antioxidants which are only found in fruits and vegetables and the effects they have on cancer prevention.

Cancers may be caused in one of three ways, namely incorrect diet, genetic predisposition, and via the environment (Reddy et al., 2003). At least 35% of all cancers worldwide are caused by an incorrect diet, and in the case of colon cancer, diet accounts for 80% of the cases (Reddy et al., 2003). Cancer is a disease in which disorder occurs in the normal processes of cell division, which are controlled by the genetic material (DNA) of the cell (Reddy et al., 2003). One of the most important mechanisms contributing to cancer is considered to be oxidative damage to the DNA (Reddy et al., 2003). Oxidative damage occurs as a result of oxidative stress. Burning fuel, like when you drive a car or burn wood, produces toxins. The word “burning” itself means reaction with oxygen. In your cells there are little “engines” called mitochondria, which burn food for energy. In the process, free radicals are created. Free radicals react quickly with other compounds, trying to capture the electrons needed to gain stability (Kaur and Kapoor, 2001). When the molecule that has been attacked loses its electron it becomes a free radical itself, beginning a chain reaction which cascades resulting in destabilization and disintegration of the cell membranes or oxidation of other cellular components like proteins and DNA, finally resulting in the disruption of cells (Halliwell et al, 1995 as cited in Kaur and Kapoor, 2001). This process is known as oxidative stress which causes reduced capabilities to combat ageing and serious illness, including cancer (Ames, 1983 as cited in Kaur and Kapoor, 2001). The only way to combat free radicals or oxidative stress is through the consumption of antioxidants. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals by donating one of their own electrons, ending the electron-stealing reaction and do not themselves become free radicals because they are stable in either form (Kaur and Kapoor, 2001). Antioxidants are found in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, plant extracts, tea, and herbs and spices (Reddy et al, 2003). Fruits and vegetables contain significant levels of biologically active components that impart health benefits beyond basic nutrition (Oomah and Mazza, 2000 as cited in Kaur and Kapoor, 2001). Consumption of fruits and vegetables has thus been associated with lower incidence and lower mortality rates caused by cancer in several human cohort and cas...

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