The Role of Nitric Oxide in Cancer Proliferation And Prevention

Written by Dr. Michael White, Published on July 25th, 2018
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Nitric Oxide is a crucial and multifaceted chemical messenger, that is incredibly vital for maintaining human function. Nitric Oxide acts similar to a hormone but is an inorganic compound. There is even some evidence that Nitric Oxide can be used therapeutically to halt the growth of cancerous tumors. Though Nitric Oxide has been heavily studied, scientists are still in the process of learning the specific mechanisms by which Nitric Oxide mitigates tumor growth.


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Depending on external factors, Nitric Oxide can also facilitate tumor growth, so it is essential to understand precisely the role that Nitric Oxide plays to both promote new and better cancer treatments and reduce cancer risk.

What is Nitric Oxide?

Nitric Oxide has been a known entity since the late 19th century, but it was not until 1998 that researchers began to discover the functions of Nitric Oxide in the human system. Three doctors won the Nobel Prize in 1998 for describing Nitric Oxide's role as a vasodilator. All living human cells can produce Nitric Oxide, which is a free radical molecule that can be absorbed in water.

What does Nitric Oxide Do?

Nitric Oxide is a chemical messenger that the cells use to communicate with one another. It is also apparent that Nitric Oxide has a powerful effect on genetic expression, and is known as a Pleiotropic Regulator. Essentially, the hormone switches genes on and off, changing the way that cells function. A few of the most important things that Nitric Oxide does are foster vasodilation, enhance immune system function, and facilitate neurotransmission.

Beyond those functions, Nitric Oxide also encourages the growth and replication of cells. About cancer, this can have both a positive and negative impact dependent upon external factors. In our global fight to cure cancer, therapeutic Nitric Oxide shows promise as a mechanism to boost the replication of healthy cells, combatting the effects of cancer treatments which damage both cancer cells and healthy cells.

An article published in the Journal of Surgical Oncology in 2013 explains that the body of research thus far shows how Nitric Oxide can encourage cancer growth, specifically about metastasis, invasion, cell cycle, apoptosis, and angiogenesis. In spite of this evidence showing how Nitric Oxide can agitate cancer, there is mounting evidence that, when applied strategically, Nitric Oxide very well may have potent anti-cancer properties.

A recent British study provides evidence that expands on the hypotheses of the 2013 journal article. Research shows that the amount of Nitric Oxide expression has an impact on whether the chemical enhances or halts tumor growth. Correctly, it appears that, beyond a certain level of expression in which Nitric Oxide encourages cancer proliferation, it begins to have the opposite effect.

The takeaway point is that elevated levels of Nitric Oxide can impair cancer growth. When Nitric Oxide levels are too low, the chemical exacerbates existing cancer tissue, though the exact levels which are considered too low are still under consideration.

Nitric Oxide and Cancer Treatment

Numerous studies have shown that elevating Nitric Oxide Levels slows down tumor growth. For that reason, it may be prudent for you to consider taking steps to encourage healthy Nitric Oxide balance.

How Can I Encourage Higher Nitric Oxide Levels?

Based on current research, the most effective way discovered to boost Nitric Oxide Levels naturally is by increasing L-Arginine Levels in the bloodstream. L-Arginine is an amino acid which works as an enzyme to stimulate the production of Nitric Oxide, by activating Nitric Oxide Synthase. Research published in Tumour Biology in the year 2000 first showed evidence that elevated Nitric Oxide Levels destroyed cancer cells in a laboratory environment.

Further research published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine provided new evidence that a physiological environment high in Nitric Oxide could limit cancer growth. In this particular study (conducted in mice), Nitric Oxide increased macrophage activity at the cancer site, meaning that the macrophages were actively seeking out the offending cells. When Nitric Oxide Levels were too low, however, the proliferation of cancer cells was faster than they could be destroyed. A study released in 2011 provided similar evidence that Nitric Oxide appeared to have a similar impact on pancreatic cancer cells, by limiting the activity of enzymes which contributed to cancer growth.

How to Boost Nitric Oxide Levels

As mentioned earlier, L-Arginine facilitates the production of Nitric Oxide. There are lots of dietary sources of L-Arginine and nitrates which promote the release of Nitric oxide. The following are some foods that can boost L-Arginine Levels:

  • Dairy Products
  • Peanuts
  • Soybeans
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Chicken
  • Pork Loin
  • Turkey Breast
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Probiotics to Boost Nitric Oxide Production

Root vegetables and leafy green vegetables contain nitrates. Microflora in the digestive system consume these nitrates and can convert them directly into Nitric Oxide. Of course, to facilitate an optimal gut flora, you need to take steps to improve the environment in your digestive tract. One way to do that is to eat probiotic and prebiotic foods which allow good bacteria to propagate. The second component is to reduce your reliance on foods which encourage unhealthy bacteria to reproduce, such as simple carbohydrates, sugar, and highly processed foods

Other Benefits of Healthy Nitric Oxide Levels

As we mentioned earlier, Nitric Oxide impacts physiological function in a large number of ways. The following are some other reasons to be conscientious regarding your Nitric Oxide Levels, based on ongoing research:

  • Nitric Oxide plays a role in preventing Osteoporosis by increasing bone mineral density.
  • Nitric Oxide inhibits infections and reduces downtime from injury and illness.
  • Nitric Oxide boosts endurance and exercise capacity by encouraging improved blood flow.
  • Nitric Oxide facilitates a robust immune system.
  • Nitric Oxide alleviates inflammation.

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