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The mineral deficiency ‘found in many cancer patients’ – are you deficient in the mineral?

Cancer symptoms: Top 14 early signs to look out for

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Cancer remains a ferocious force, killing millions of people every year. The dismal figures are a reflection of the sophisticated nature of cancerous cells, which often spread and evade detection. Although the link between lifestyle and the growth of cancerous cells is complex, a specific mineral deficiency may foster the development of cancer.

That’s the inference of a study published in The FASEB Journal.

The mineral in question is zinc, which is found in meat, shellfish and dairy foods – such as cheese.

“Zinc deficiency has been found in many cancer patients,” said Zui Pan, an associate professor of nursing at UTA’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation and a noted oesophageal cancer researcher, whose study was funded in part by a research grant from the National Institutes of Health — National Cancer Institute.

“Both clinical data and animal studies have shown that this mineral is very important for overall body health and for cancer prevention.”

Previous studies had shown that zinc is essential for maintaining human health and protects the oesophagus from cancer.

Oesophageal cancer is a cancer that’s found anywhere in the oesophagus, sometimes called the gullet or food pipe.

In the study, a team led by Professor Pan discovered that zinc selectively halts the growth of cancer cells.

Prof Pan said this study could provide a pathway for better oesophageal cancer prevention and treatment.

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Zinc is an important element in many proteins and many enzymes and the absence of zinc makes it impossible for cells to function, she added.

“But previously we didn’t know why the same physiological concentrations of zinc inhibit cancer cell growth but not normal cells. Our study, for the first time to our knowledge, reveals that zinc impedes overactive calcium signals in cancer cells, which is absent in normal cells, and thus zinc selectively inhibits cancer cell growth,” said the professor.

“It now appears that zinc and calcium can have a cross talk, meaning that they can be linked.”

An insufficient amount of zinc can lead to the development of cancers and other diseases, Prof Pan said.

“That’s why it is important to have a good diet,” she said.

Good sources of zinc include:

  • Meat
  • Shellfish
  • Dairy foods – such as cheese
  • Bread
  • Cereal products – such as wheatgerm.

You should be able to get all the zinc you need by eating a varied and balanced diet.

“If you take zinc supplements, do not take too much as this could be harmful,” warns the Department of Health and Social Care.

Cancer – main symptoms to spot

The main warning signs of cancer include changes in bowel habits, bloating and bleeding.

“Although it’s unlikely to be cancer, it’s important to speak to a GP so they can investigate,” advises the NHS.

As the health body points out, finding cancer early means it’s easier to treat.

“If your GP suspects cancer, they’ll refer you to a specialist – usually within two weeks.”

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