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Cancer as a Ferrotoxic Disease

ferrotoxic disease cancer prevention

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#1 Dorian Grey

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Posted 07 January 2020 - 03:43 AM

With a disease as complex as cancer, it’s human nature to believe there couldn’t possibly be a simple & easy prophylactic to help avoid this modern plague on one’s own.  Don’t smoke? A Spartan/Vegetarian diet? Yep, that’s a good start. Still, it’s been said that if one lives long enough, cancer is nearly inevitable. Errors in cell division are certainly common enough, & cancerous mutations likely occur quite often.  A healthy immune system recognises rogue cells, and kills them off before they can multiply into an unmanageable mass. Alass, the immune systems is known to grow weak & weary with age, and apparently this is how cancers become increasingly likely as we age.  


The iron angle of carcinogenesis has been of interest to me for some time.  Not only is 60%- 70% of cellular DNA damage caused by hydroxyl radicals generated primarily by free/labile iron, but virtually all cancers must extract iron from sources within our bodies to survive & grow.  I had to chuckle when I came across a paper using the term “Iron Addiction” to describe this. As I read the paper, an interesting connection to another paper on cancer as a ferrotoxic disease came to mind.  


In a study: “Decreased Cancer Risk After Iron Reduction in Patients With Peripheral Arterial Disease: Results From a Randomized Trial”,  they inadvertently discovered, not only were their phlebotomy patients getting far fewer cancers, but when the phlebotomy patients did get cancer, they were more likely to respond to treatment & survive than the high iron control group.  When this astonishing phenomenon was documented, a peer review (Cancer as a Ferrotoxic Disease: Are We Getting Hard Stainless Evidence?) was quick to point out that while there was nothing particularly wrong with the study, the drop in cancer rates seemed to occur remarkably early, well before iron had been substantially lowered.  If iron was what caused the cancers, why did carcinogenesis largely cease long before phlebotomies had substantially lowered total iron load/stores?  


Enter “HEPCIDIN”, the bodies master hormone for iron absorption and transport.  Hepcidin has an inverse effect on iron, where high levels of hepcidin restrict transfer of iron within the body & inhibit absorption of dietary iron by disabling the ferroportin iron transporter.  Low hepcidin inversely increases absorption of dietary iron and allows increased transfer of iron within the body by allowing ferroportin to function. Hepcidin levels rise when the body is replete with iron.  Blood loss on the other hand will cause hepcidin levels to plummet very quickly, & this is what occurred in the phlebotomy group where the cancer rate plummeted immediately after starting the phlebotomies.  

The key appears to be the method cancer uses to extract iron from surrounding tissue, detailed here: Iron and cancer: recent insights.  


Hepcidin–ferroportin axis in cancer

“Hepcidin, the negative regulator of FPN-1, is also deregulated in neoplastic disease”. 


“High plasma hepcidin blocks the mobilization of iron into the circulation from enterocytes and macrophages (contributing to the anemia seen in cancer) and can also cause the accumulation of iron in tumor cells by degrading FPN-1, resulting in the activation of signaling pathways such as Wnt and NF-κB which contribute to tumor progression”


“Accumulating evidence suggests that the pro-oncogenic nature of hepcidin may be due to its ability to increase intracellular iron content in tumor cells by initiating internalization and degradation of FPN-1”


Apparently, hepcidin & ferroportin are so important to cancer’s “iron addiction”, established tumors sometimes generate their own hepcidin.  


“In addition to systemic hepcidin, cancer cells also synthesize hepcidin”


From what we saw in the initial study, during the earliest stages of cancer development, the cells most likely rely primarily on systemic hepcidin (or the phlebotomy patients wouldn’t have seen the immediate effect).  It's interesting that elevated hepcidin, which is designed to place iron in "lock-down" mode to withhold iron from pathogens has been utilized by cancer to provide iron to tumor growth.  You would think the opposite would be true, but apparently cancer has developed a work-around that actually uses this to its advantage.  


OK, so age related iron accumulation results in lots of stored iron floating around and elevation of hepcidin, creating an ideal culture for cancer to become established.  This occurring as our immune system increasingly becomes more sluggish at responding to new growths of rogue cells as we age.  

This takes us full circle, back to the original study, which now appears to have been validated!  Lowering hepcidin through phlebotomy (whole blood donation), really does appear to substantially inhibit cancer initiation with remarkable swiftness, by sabotaging cancer's primary method of iron acquisition.  As a bonus, should you happen to develop an established cancer, the lower stored/excess iron will increase the likelihood your cancer will respond to treatment.  A win-win, do-it-yourself cancer prevention protocol, with little to no lifestyle modification. Longevity made easy!  


Edited by Dorian Grey, 07 January 2020 - 04:35 AM.

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#2 Strelok

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Posted 10 January 2020 - 05:56 AM

Great post, well researched.  I plan on donating whole blood every 2 months for the next year, then a maintenance schedule of 3-4x/year thereafter. 

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#3 Dorian Grey

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Posted 10 January 2020 - 06:32 AM

Thanks Strelok; I've donated 7 gallons of whole blood over the last 30 years & believe it's been a fountain of youth for me.  At 64 years old, I have no chronic disease, this despite a rather dreadful bohemian/bachelor life of wine, women & song.  


The secret to a happy donation experience is to go in well hydrated, preferably in the afternoon about 2 hours after a good meal.  Blood donation can seem pretty bizarre if you've never done it before, but millions around the world do this every year; most of them frequent flyers.  Watch a youtube of blood donation if you want to see what it's like.  


Keep ferritin well under 100 and stay young and beautiful!  

Edited by Dorian Grey, 10 January 2020 - 06:33 AM.

#4 pamojja

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Posted 10 January 2020 - 10:32 AM

Thanks Strelok; I've donated 7 gallons of whole blood over the last 30 years & believe it's been a fountain of youth for me.  At 64 years old, I have no chronic disease, this despite a rather dreadful bohemian/bachelor life of wine, women & song. 


For some of us it just isn't that easy. First, I'm not even allowed to donate. Secondly, I'm struggling since many years rather with too low iron panel levels, despite a whole litany of chronic disease (PAD, COPD, T2D, ME/CFS, though by now all in remission). And despite no bohemian lifestyle.


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#5 Dorian Grey

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Posted 10 January 2020 - 04:30 PM

It's unfortunate the anemia of chronic disease (aka anemia of inflammation) can chronically disrupt iron homeostasis.  When inflammation is high or infection is present, the body puts iron in lock-down mode in a desperate attempt to keep iron from contributing to inflammation or feeding infectious pathogens.  Dietary iron is no longer absorbed, and iron transport within the body is also disrupted.  This is supposed to be a temporary phenomenon, but when inflammation or infection is chronic, the lack of iron absorption and/or transport can cause chronic anemia.  


Even high dose iron supplementation is often ineffective, and IV iron infusions are sometimes required.  The iron infusions typically relieve the anemia only briefly, and there is debate about the relative risk vs reward of IV iron in these populations due to the danger of introducing large amounts of iron in those who already have chronic inflammation or infection.  It's one of the most difficult syndromes to treat in modern medicine, and unfortunately, quite common.  I don't know of any work-around for this issue, and yes, bloodletting is contraindicated in these populations.  


For the rest of us, bloodletting/donation is remarkably safe.  Just ask "Granny Bea", Canada's oldest blood donor, still donating whole blood 4 times/year at age 95:




Wonder if she would have lived this long if she hadn't been a lifelong bloodletter?  

Edited by Dorian Grey, 10 January 2020 - 04:51 PM.

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