Researchers at Seoul National University (South Korea) have just published the results of a new study in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine (produced by the American Thoracic Society). Their work demonstrates that when mice are fed a diet that includes additives based on inorganic phosphates -- at levels comparable to a human diet that is rich in processed foods – this stimulates the growth and spread of small-cell lung cancers.

“Non-small-cell” lung cancer is the most common form of cancer, and it’s one of the most difficult to cure. (The survival rate after five years remains stagnant, at 14 percent). More than 90 percent of these cancers are associated with the activation of a signaling pathway that is strongly reinforced by the presence of inorganic phosphates in the diet (at least, this appears to be true in mice). Dr John Heffner, the former president of the American Thoracic Society, emphasizes that this type of research addresses the complex interactions between genetic predisposition and environmental factors which together cause cancer in man. The analysis of these results by Dr. Cho, a professor of veterinary medicine and co-author of the study, reinforces what I wrote in Anticancer: A New Way of Life. “Lung cancer is a disease of uncontrolled cell proliferation in lung tissue, and disruption of signaling pathways in those tissues can confer a normal cell with malignant properties,” he explains. “Cancer growth can be stimulated by altering even a small portion of these signaling pathways, which are regulated by the availability of certain food-products that act directly on the proliferation and growth of cells.”

Dr. Cho continues, “In the 1940s, phosphate-based food additives contributed about 470 mg per day to the average adult diet. But today, phosphates are increasingly added to processed foods. As a result, depending on the individual’s nutritional choices, the quantity of phosphates that we ingest has increased, and can be to 1000 mg a day.”

More detailed studies are underway. However, in the meantime, it is my personal opinion that everyone who’s undergoing treatment for non-small-cell cancer should be made aware of this important research. They need to decide for themselves whether their attraction to processed foods containing inorganic phosphates counts more to them than the possible risk that they may stimulate the cancerous process, which this study reveals. Processed foods containing the highest levels of inorganic phosphates: Inorganic phosphates are used by the food-processing industry because they retain water and improve food texture. They are especially present in processed meats and sausage products; certain processed cheeses (especially cheese spreads); processed pastries (the ones you can buy at the supermarket, not the ones at the neighborhood bakery); almost all processed sodas (fizzy and sugared drinks, including Coca-Cola); drinks based on fruit syrups; and food-products prepared with evaporated milk (including industrial ice-cream). Other food products whose ingredients include preservatives based on phosphates, such as Calcium phosphate, Disodium phosphate, phosphoric acid, sodium triphosphate, tricalcium phosphate, etc should also be avoided.

1. Jin H, Xu C-X, Lim H-T, et al. High Dietary Inorganic Phosphate Increases Lung Tumorigenesis and Alters Akt Signaling. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2009;179:59-68.