The uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells anywhere in a body is called cancer. Anything may be the cause of cancer if it causes abnormal development. Depending on the specific type and grade of cancer, the signs and symptoms may vary. On the basis of different cancer patients, there is variation in cancer treatment. A probable cause of cancer is free radicals.

What are free radicals and how they play a role in cancer development?

Highly reactive chemicals having the potential to harm cells are called free radicals. When an atom or a molecule (a chemical having two or more atoms) either gains or loses an electron, which is a small negatively charged particle found in atoms. In the body, free radicals are formed naturally and in many normal processes, they play an important role. However, for the body, free radicals at higher concentrations can be hazardous and all major components of cells which include DNA, proteins and cell membranes, are damaged by them. When cells, especially DNA get damaged by free radicals, this damage may play a role in cancer development. The best cancer doctor can confirm whether free radicals have any role in any particular case of cancer.
Exposure to ionizing radiation and other environmental ions may cause abnormally high concentrations of free radicals in the body. An electron may get lost when an atom or a molecule in a cell gets hit by ionizing radiation and this leads to the formation of a free radical. Ionizing radiation kills cells by the production of abnormally high levels of free radicals. Other than this, cigarette smoke, some metals, high-oxygen atmospheres and some other environmental toxins may contain large amounts of free radicals or may produce more free radicals by stimulating the body’s cells. The most common types of free radicals produced in living tissue are those free radicals that contain the element oxygen. “Reactive oxygen species” or “ROS” is another name for them.

What are Antioxidants?

The chemicals interacting with and neutralizing free radicals are known as antioxidants. Free radicals are prevented by antioxidants from making any damage. Antioxidants are also called “free radical scavengers”. Some of the antioxidants are produced by the body which it uses for neutralizing free radicals and they are called endogenous antioxidants. However, external (exogenous) sources, mainly the diet, are relied on by the body to obtain most of the antioxidants needed by it. By the name of dietary antioxidants, these exogenous oxidants are commonly known. Rich sources of dietary antioxidants are fruits, vegetables and grains. In the form of dietary supplements, some dietary antioxidants are also available. Beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene, selenium, vitamins A, C and E are some examples of dietary antioxidants.

Which Foods are Rich in Antioxidants?

In fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, some meats, poultry and fish, antioxidants are found in abundance. You can know about these foods from a cancer specialist. Some food sources of common antioxidants are described below:

  • Beta-carotene : In many orange coloured foods including sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, apricots, pumpkin and mangoes, beta-carotene is found. Spinach and some other green leafy vegetables are also a rich source of beta-carotene.

  • Lutein: For healthy eyes, lutein is very important. In green, leafy vegetables such as spinach, lutein is found in abundance.

  • Lycopene : A potent antioxidant which is found in tomatoes, watermelon, guava, papaya, apricots and some other foods, is known as lycopene.

  • Selenium : It is not an antioxidant nutrient but a mineral. However, it is a component of antioxidant enzymes. The major dietary sources of selenium in most countries are plant foods like rice and wheat. The amount of selenium in the foods grown in any particular soil depends on the amount of selenium in that soil. There are higher levels of selenium in the muscles of those animals that eat grains or plants grown in selenium-rich soil.

  • Vitamin A : In three main forms which are retinol (Vitamin A1), 3, 4- didehydroretinol (Vitamin A2) and 3-hydroxy-retinol (Vitamin A3), Vitamin A is found. Liver, sweet potatoes, carrots, milk, egg yolks and mozzarella cheese are some foods which are rich in Vitamin A.

  • Vitamin C : Ascorbic acid is another name for Vitamin C. In many fruits, vegetables, cereals, beef, poultry and fish, Vitamin C is found in abundance.

  • Vitamin E : By the name of alpha-tocopherol, Vitamin E is also known. In almonds, many oils which include wheat germ, safflower, corn and soybean oils, mangoes, nuts, broccoli and other foods, Vitamin E is found.