Our body is a very beautiful creation of god with bones arranged as a skeleton, muscles over it to make them move, fat surrounding it to protect it from frictional wounds and then the skin over this package inside to pack all of it as one complete material.
When our bones and muscles are weak we are told by the physician to take calcium supplements for the bones to become strong and healthy and the muscles to contract.
But when our skin is damaged, what do we do? Women, the “beauty conscious” counterparts of the population are the most concerned when such a thing happens.
They will try all the chemical cosmetics (especially Indians who don’t consult a doctor so easily and have “self-medication” as their interest) over their skin at first.
When they don’t work, in fact, when these cosmetics damage their skin more than before, they consult a dermatologist finally.
Well, then for those “clinic-hating, doctor-allergic” Indians, I must say that you have wonder at your home, inside your kitchen which can help you in curing almost all your problems.
What is Melanoma?
In olden days, there was a myth that moles are good signs.
If anyone is having a mole on their face, it’s a sign of good luck and all those superstitious non-scientific talks every person must have heard of.
It may be a good sign but having more than 100 moles on your body is definitely not a good sign.
Instead, it is a time when you need to switch on the “alert” button in your brain and consult a physician.
Melanoma is the rapid and unwanted growth of new cells called the melanocytes (pigment-producing cells).
It may be a localized lesion or a lesion that may spread to other areas too damaging other vital organs in the body like the liver.
These melanocytes are not only present on the skin but also in eyes and the intestine.
It may begin in the eye or intestine (rare) or maybe a tumor that has traveled through the skin (affected with melanoma).
It is said that it is a result of alteration (mutation) in specific genes which triggers the process.
It appears as the presence of many moles on the body to the naked eye. Some even originate and develop from the moles.
They are usually black or brown. But in case of the unusual scenario; they can be of any color like blue, purple, pink, red, tan, skin color and white too.
Moles are of two types – normal moles and atypical ‘funny looking’ moles which is also called ‘dysplastic nevi’.
These funny looking moles are the new growing melanomas. The risk of melanoma is higher in people with fair skin, light hair color (blonde) or light eye color (blue eyes).
The statistics of American cancer society state that there would be at least 76,100 new cases of melanoma and about 9,710 number of expected deaths in the United States this year.
Melanoma is just 2% of the skin cancers yet the deadliest form of skin cancer causing the most number of skin cancer deaths.
Researchers say that a marked rise in the rates of melanoma has been seen in the past 30 years which is 20 times more common in whites than amongst the African- Americans.
It is usually caused by exposure to intense sunlight with harmful UV rays (causing ‘sunburns’) which possibly can explain the reason of higher incidence of skin cancer in places like Hawaii, Australia, and Florida.
UV rays are of two kinds- UVA and UVB, both of them are equally dangerous and cancer-inducing including melanoma; the cancer of the pigment-producing cells called the melanocytes.
Sunburns during childhood may cause blisters and also increase the risk of melanoma.
Also, the increasing trend of getting a bronze glow and tanned skin among the people who are fair has given a boost to the “tanning industries” but a challenge to oncologists.
Moreover, there is a myth among the consumers spread by the tanning industries that vitamin D is essential and that is provided by the sunlight.
Though vitamin D is essential but sufficient vitamin D can be obtained from our daily diet or vitamin supplementation.
It is not really required to get into a tanning salon to obtain “vitamin D”.
The risk of melanoma increases when the person uses these tanning salons often (especially when he is under or of the age of 35, the risk increases by 75%).
Tanning is not useful but dangerous, so dangerous that in Brazil, tanning has been made illegal and has been banned.
Another unknown fact about tanning is that it is addictive especially people affected with skin cancer like melanoma.
The UV rays striking the skin increase the release of some chemicals called the endorphins which give the feeling of well-being to the person and the person tends to get addicted to the same when he feels relieved of stress and pain.
Reports suggest that people with melanoma use tanning beds very often even after knowing their diagnosis.
Melanoma may also occur when you have a familial history of the same. When your mother, father, siblings or your daughter (called as the first-degree relative) is having melanoma, your chance of having the same is very high; up to 50% greater chance.
So heredity plays a crucial role in melanoma.
It is also called as FAMMM or Familial Atypical Multiple Mole Melanoma. In this case, the patient’s body is examined for any changes in the skin, eyes, etc.
In familial melanoma, there is a sudden mutation in certain genes that triggers the proliferation and thus the cancer.
Mutation may be seen in the p53 gene, BRAF gene, CDKN2A gene etc. The p53 gene usually helps in the repair of the damaged cells by providing them with sufficient time to heal.
When this gene gets affected, it fails to perform its normal function and thus causes cancer. BRAF gene is a recently discovered mutated switch gene which may cause melanoma.
A study says that this mutated gene was present in 2/3rd of the melanoma affected cells when analyzed.
It is called a switch gene because it allows the tumor cells to grow and divide. It actually turns on to help them grow and divide.
Usually, patients with a history of melanoma in their family should always keep a check on their skin for atypical funny looking moles, increased number of moles or any change in the existing ones, etc.
It is said that there is a stage in which the moles become active in patients with melanoma. They begin to show some changes.
Though the exact reason is idiopathic it is suspected to be a hormonal component responsible for it.
The moles become active during puberty, adolescence, and Pregnancy which strengthens the suspicion.
The people with a history of other cancers like basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma or the people with the compromised immune system (as seen in cases of AIDS, organ transplants, lymphoma, etc.) have an increased risk of having melanoma.
Cinnamon is the bark of an evergreen tree with numerous health benefits.
Even the leaves of the cinnamon tree are useful in many treatments.
It has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial, antitumor and anti-diabetic properties.
Magnifying its use in cancer helps us to view a lot which we have to know about.
Cinnamon, as earlier quoted has anti-tumor properties or in simple words, it has the ability to fight against cancer.
It acts as a preventive as well as a curative agent for cancer.
Cinnamon contains two essential components called as the cinnamyl aldehyde and cinnamic aldehyde.
The cinnamic aldehyde, so present, interferes in the tumor invasiveness, growth, and proliferation.
A study was conducted in 2010 by the researchers at the School of Life Sciences and Immune Synapse Research Center (Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology in Republic of Korea) which tested the anti-tumor properties of cinnamon in mouse models.
Cinnamon extract in its water-soluble form was used for the study or demonstration. The extract was tested for quality by HPLC or High-Performance Liquid Chromatography.
Various lab cell cultures of human cancer lines were chosen including those of lymphoma, melanoma, cervical and that of colorectal cancers.
The mice were given the water-soluble cinnamon extract orally (1-2 grams) and decreased growth of tumors was observed.
Earlier it was thought that cinnamon helped in melanoma by acting as a modulator in the function of CD8+ receptor cells (these cells are responsible for the destruction of any foreign cell in the body) but recent research says that cinnamon fights melanoma by inhibiting certain molecules (NFKappaB and AP1) which help in the proliferation of cancer cells and also by increasing the pro-apoptotic activity of the cells by increasing the regulation of pro-apoptotic molecules (apoptosis is defined as the self-destruction; in layman language termed as suicide).
It also showed that there was a decrease in VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) and fibroblast growth factor (responsible for the growth and proliferation of cancer cells).
Thus, cinnamon has two functions which confirm its anti-tumor property –
- Inhibit tumor cell proliferation
- Induce death of tumor cells actively
Moreover, cinnamon’s property of lowering the blood sugar levels in the body is also known to help in cases of cancer.
Researchers at the Peter Maccullum Cancer Center say that the proliferating cancer cells require glucose for their growth i.e. sugar.
Most of the cancer cells begin to die when the patient is on cancer drugs as the cells lose their energy supply and they starve to death.
The drugs have the potential to block the cancerous cell’s ability to take up glucose. Thus, the cells cannot take up the glucose and finally die.
Earlier it was thought that the drugs kill the cells and thus fewer cells take up less glucose.
The recurrence of cancer occurs when some mischievous cells escape this death by finding another fuel as an alternative and thus surviving the sugar drought.
Cinnamon lowers the blood sugar in the blood by decreasing the insulin resistance and increasing insulin action.
It enhances the insulin signaling action even in the skeletal muscles.
Use of cinnamon helps in controlling blood sugar levels in the blood, according to a 2012 review considering all the recent research studies. (According to a study conducted in 2009, if a person with poorly controlled diabetes consumes 500 mg capsule of cinnamon twice a day for about 90 days regularly, his/her physician would definitely note a significant decrease in his/her blood sugar levels).
Cinnamon is also known to improve the health of the colon thus reducing the risk of melanoma in the intestine.
It also reduces the chances of spread of melanomas to other sites of the body (increasing survival rates of the patient).
It is said that melanomas need blood supply to survive and grow. Sufficient blood supply can convert small and harmless melanomas into large and deadly ones.
When the cancer cells grow, new blood vessels are formed for their supply which is termed as angiogenesis. The blood vessels supplying these cancer cells differ a lot in their morphology as compared to the normal blood vessels in our body.
The cancer treatment is based upon the cessation of angiogenesis to prevent the growth of the cells.
So, the drugs used include various anti-angiogenic agents that may turn off their blood supply and stop the cells from growing.
But, these drugs when used for a long time present with a lot of side effects.
Whereas, cinnamon is naturally anti-angiogenic in nature i.e. it may turn off angiogenesis by decreasing the production of VEGF (stimulates angiogenesis and thus growth of the cancer cells) while the disease is progressing. So, unlike those costly drugs with lots of side effects, cinnamon which is available in your kitchen is ready to help you fight melanoma.
Cinnamon is a natural spice which makes it clear that it won’t cause any harm but it is better to stick to a dose range.
Dosage for a specific cancer is usually not known, so it is better to consult the physician first for medical purposes.
According to various studies and researches, about ½ to 1 tsp. of the spice is enough for medicinal purpose.
It is said that even up to 6 grams won’t do any harm but higher than that will definitely prove to be toxic.
Precautions and warnings
Allergic manifestations to the spice must be noted and the course must be discontinued.
Cinnamon should be avoided in cases of puberty, adolescence as well as pregnancy as the melanomas are in their active stage at that time.
Cinnamon must be avoided by those with cancer that affects the hormone levels – e.g. breast cancer.
Cassia species of cinnamon is usually not recommended for patients with the liver disorder as the coumarin present in it worsens the condition.
Pregnant and lactating women are advised not to take up cinnamon for therapeutic use.
Diabetic patients must consult their physician before administration with cinnamon as the spice highly alters the blood sugar levels.