I’m taking a fascinating class this week about cancer and emerging therapies. Today we had a lecture on COX1 and COX2 inhibitors (enzymes which are blocked by aspirin, ibuprofen, and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs – NSAIDs).
Brief summary: Inflammation in the body can promote cancerous growth. Conversely, decreasing inflammation is protective against cancer.
This does not mean we should simply take anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) as cancer prophylaxis, because these have side effects (as all medications do).
After the lecture, I asked the speaker how diet affects inflammation levels in the body. He said: 1) there is evidence that increasing omega 3 fatty acids decreases inflammation, 2) people in Japan and India (where there is lower meat intake) have lower rates of colon cancer (which then increases when they switch to a western diet), and 3) body fat acts as an inflammatory substance.
Then he said:
“But people want a pill. They don’t want to have to change their lifestyle.”
I’m wondering if that’s really true – do people really want a pill? It’s easy to use that as an excuse for expensive drug studies, but I also think that people (especially doctors) aren’t educated enough about the power of diet and lifestyle change.