Kidney or renal cancer is a deadly disease with limited treatment options. While the effects of kidney cancer are devastating, a number of recent studies have shed light on how kidney cancer can be prevented. Diets that include fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants or other compounds known as phytates can prevent the development and metastasis of kidney cancer. Extracts of milk thistle also show promising protective and anti-tumor effects in the kidneys as well as the liver.
Fruits and Vegetables
A general rule of thumb in preventative health is that diets rich in fruits and vegetables are a good thing. Fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants are known to generally decrease the chance of developing cancer as they contain anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. A 2009 review of 13 independent studies led by Dr. Jung Eun Lee at Harvard Medical School confirms that this is also the case for renal cancers. According to these studies, fruits and vegetables rich in carotinoids (orange-colored fruits and vegetables such as carrots, tomatoes, apricots, ginger, squash) are particularly beneficial for preventing cancers of the kidney.
Foods Rich in Phytates
A class of compounds known as phytates can help prevent the formation of calcifications in the kidney, a key precursor step in the initiation and metastasis of renal cancer. Phytate-rich foods include whole grains and cereals, legumes, and nuts. A 2010 study in the “European Journal of Nutrition” shows that Mediterranean diets rich in these phytate-rich foods are more effective at preventing kidney and other cancers compared to Mediterranean diets not rich in high-phytate foods.
Berries and Other Antioxidant-rich Foods
Foods rich in antioxidants have effective anti-cancer effects. Such foods include blueberries, cherries, acai, kale, spinach, beets, nuts, legumes and some whole grains. Antioxidant-rich foods inhibit cellular damage and oxidation in general, preventing formation of micro-environments that promote tumor formation and metastasis. Berries and other anti-oxidant foods also act to limit inflammation in the kidneys. They also prevent the activation of blood platelets that promote angiogenesis to supply a tumor with blood in the development of renal tumors.
Milk Thistle Extracts
Extracts of milk thistle are rich in flavonolignan compounds known as silymarins. Such extracts are commonly available as herbal supplements and can be taken as alcohol tinctures or in teas. The anticancer effects of milk thistle and silymarins have been described by researchers in the journal “Integrative Cancer Therapies.” Silymarins have particularly rich anti-inflammatory effects in both the liver and the kidneys. They also have antioxidant properties to prevent conditions that promote tumor formation and metastasis. Silymarins have also been shown to inhibit the activation of many genes involved in renal and liver cancer formation.