Talk of the Future in Chemoprevention of Cancer

Bio chemical and Bio-physical basis of Cancer Preventive Agro –forestry

Author: Dr. Manoj Sharma M.D., FICR



In a country like ours with a very large population, the cancer chemoprevention studies are almost impossibility. However the cancer chemo prevention has to start some day or the other, in some form or the other due to many reasons, namely:

  1. The rapidly changing dietary habits due to western invasion of our food culture.
  2. Increasing use of toxic chemicals in agriculture and food preservation in order to boost food production or to save post harvest yields.
  3. Declaration of bio-chemical/economic warfare by developed countries (the Argimone Mexicana Drama)
  4. Increasing environmental pollution: air, soil and rivers.
  5. Abundance of land and water and varieties of climatic conditions available to grow and harvest all those agricultural products which help in the chemo- prevention of cancer.
  6. Replacement of existing tobacco fields by more profit giving crops such as Olive, Mango, Barley, oranges and citrus fruits etc. therefore reducing the availability of tobacco for general public.

This paper out lines the biophysical basis of cancer chemoprevention and suggests methods to the practising oncologist to initiate this important movement of Cancer Preventive Agro Forestry. The larger production and thus abundant availability of the chemo preventive agricultural food products is bound to mould and improve dietary habits of Indian populace. This will also give an impetus to indigenous research on genetic engineering of high betacaroteen and Lycopen content fruits and vegetables. The results unmistakably will be obvious; lesser cancer incidence (as that of southern Europe).

In Cancer preventive agro-forestry the emphasis has to be on all those plants, trees and vegetables which help in cancer prevention in some way or the other by their virtue of physical or chemical properties. These crops should help replace the tobacco crops just to have a two-prong effect. For this we have to understand the concept of chemoprevention of cancer. That is the prevention of cancer by consumption of those substances whose chemical structure and natural or artificial source is understood.

We shall classify the anticancer agro forestry in three major sub groups

  1. The dietary food items that contain anticancer agents in their natural forms and encouragement of their usage will help cancer prevention.
  2. The Traditional Indian System of Medicine .i.e. Ayurveda which has the descriptions of those several herbs and fruits which in some form or the other stimulate the human immune defence system or by virtue they are anti malignancy
  3. The Herbs and trees of those plants from which valuable modern anticancer agents are extracted out and the forestry of which will help cost reduction of anticancer agents and will give valuable foreign exchange.



The Agricultural Products which are the part of food habits in different part of World

1.Reduce endogenous synthesis of cancer causing agents e.g. Ascorbic acid found in citrus fruits, Amla, Beal (Vilvam), Dhania {coriander and Cummins} parsley etc.

2.Alpha Tocopherol (vit .E) found in sprouted gram, lentils (moong), almonds etc.

3.Reduce the rate and amount of carcinogenic chemicals absorption viz. dietary fibres. Substances that bind fatty and bile acids such as vegetables, bran etc. found in barley, maize, unpolished and hand pound rice etc. Isabgol husk, edible camphor found in bark of cinnamon commonly used in Indian cooking.

4.Substances which alter the generation of cancer causing agents or generation of free radicals and activated forms of free oxygen e.g. Isothiocynates cruciferous vegetables (peas, lentils, beans, Arhar dal etc. the ones which grow in pods) retinoid and caratinoids such as found in carrots, yellow pumpkin, papaya yellow water melon, mango, beal etc.

5.Substances which inhibit the binding of cancer causing agents to DNA e.g. flavanoids present in several vegetables and fruits.

6. Inhibit tumour formation by unknown mechanism e.g. organosulphurs found in garlic and onions, various protease inhibitors and poly phenols found in green tea.

7. Inhibit tumour promotion and cell proliferation e.g. Retinamides in carrots.

8.To create abnormality in pre-cancer stage of the cell and hence normalisation of the cell e.g. retinoids in carrot green and yellow vegetables.

9.Other agents such as oleic acid and oleoresins found in olive oil, which is anti cancer.

10.Camphor from cinnamon modulates the whole chemical process of cancer occurrence. It also helps in regeneration of liver cells and better oxygen exchange through alveoli due to its broncho dilator effect.

The Ayurvedic Herbs and Shrubs which are anticancer by virtue of their immunostimulant effects

Or carcinocidal effect

  1. Hareetaki
  2. Amliki
  3. Amrit Bhallatak Pino Carpu Anacardium
  4. Amla
  5. Sadabahar(Vinka Rosa)
  6. Guruchi / Giloy

The Agroforrestry Products which are contributory to anticancer or cancer preventive drugs.

  1. Plant giving Taxol
  2. Vinca Rosa
  3. Genetically engineered high lycopen tomato.
  4. Bacterial cultures giving anticancer antibiotics (!)
  5. Campotheca Accuminata(Topotican)
  6. Nothapodytes foetida (Topotican)


With the above known facts one can very well understand the meaning of cancer prevention through agro-forestry. A systematically designed agriculture programme to develop, breed and promote such vegetation and plantations which play a great role in cancer prevention by virtue of their consumption in some form by the human beings. Development programme to generate enough of public awareness regarding the consumption of such agricultural products is required. The replacement of tobacco fields by such plantations especially those of olive, almonds, mango, beal and citrus fruits and barley, maize farming will be rewarding and shall be compensating for the loss generated by tobacco in terms of loss of man hours due to disease and loss or revenue on tobacco. Olive, Almonds and mangoes alone will be sufficient to compensate.

There has to be a greater emphasis on agriculture of yellow and green vegetables such as carrots, yellow pumpkin, tomato, yellow melon, beans and pod vegetables such as peas, spinach salad parsley, cumin and coriander, turmeric etc.

When Hypha city was being bombed the Israeli scientist have isolated "lycopen" from tomato and now they have developed genetically engineered high "lycopen" content tomatoes and high beta-carotene content carrots. What is more important is the method of eating the tomato to get maximum "lycopen" out of it, is to fry it in oil so that "lycopen" get dissolved in oil which otherwise it is not.

Higher yield of MANGO, PAPAYA, YELLOW ORANGES AND MALTA, yellow melon kharbooza and tarbooz through large-scale plantation has to be the need of the day.

Somehow the Indian agriculturists have not tamed the idea of going for a large scale agroforestry of olive which is not only anticancer but is very low in its cholesterol and saturated fatty acid contents. The golden fruit Olive can grow very well in India. The high yielding species from Libya, Algeria and Tunisia and southern Italy are the one that can grow well in Indian plains and terrrai areas however the hilly varieties of Olive can be acquired from Northern Europe and Russia. There is a little known Govt. Nursery in Haldwani and in Shrinagar (J&K) where these varieties are available. Large scale promotion of olive farming/forestry will save a great amount of foreign exchange too for the olive oil which is imported in large quantities at the cost of foreign exchange so is the popular fast food constituent olive fruit used in Pizza and salads.

Almonds are another plantation, which is quite possible in India, but no attention has been paid to its larger plantation.

The Green tea and variety of Ayurvedic teas containing herbs are anticancer there fore one must investigate and promote the farming of all those medicinal plants in larger scale. Immuno stimulants Hareetaki and Amliki, Guruchi (giloy) and Bhillawan are the common anticancer herbs commonly used in some parts of country as a regular diet. A great deal has to be understood from the famous book on Indian herbal medicine called VANAUSHADHI CHANDRODAYA (The rising cool moon of the medicinal forest plants)

The Beal is one fruit, which has got great medicinal value in terms of preventing constipation and with its high beta-carotene content. The promotion of forestry of such fast diminishing fruits is important for the cancer prevention point of view.

Amala is well known and well-advertised fruit, which has a great value in cancer prevention, but in reality its forestry is too poor.

There is sufficient scientific proof available that the edible camphor commonly used in south Indian cooking especially in sweets has a great preventive role in the liver cancer and in the detoxification of the cancer causing agents. Still in many part of Southern India there are special food items which are consumed in particular bad months of a year (ARI Masam: Hot humid July and August) this includes chutni of neem and many other bitter (Vaitthal) and pungent (Mahangini) fruits and roots.

Indeed the way highly evolved in our food habits and heritage we are it needs only a revision on the Ayurvedic basis of our cooking which is still seen in Southern India in some form or the other. The concept of Pathway (Ideally edible), Supathya (superiorly edible) and Kupathya (wrongfully edible) was well understood till the invasion took place from the west where the emphasis was on lust and passion stimulating foods and now on fast foods. The major thrust on cancer research now should be to understand if the western invasion leading to change in food habits can alter the cancer patterns in India as it happened 400 years back when another western invasion brought tobacco to India along with Vasco–Da–Gama and generated 80% of cancers found in India to baffle us.