Given the aggressive and treatment-resistant nature of malignant mesothelioma, it can be frustrating for patients to hear news about experimental therapies that may be decades away from clinical use.
But patients are far from powerless, as the stories of mesothelioma survivors like Paul Kraus prove. At 20+ years post-diagnosis, Kraus is the longest-living mesothelioma survivor in the world and credits his longevity, in large measure, to dietary and lifestyle changes.
During this year’s National Nutrition Month, the Academy of Nutrition and DIetetics is reminding everyone of the power of nutrition to impact health and wellbeing. This year’s theme, “Go Further with Food”, is a fitting slogan for mesothelioma patients and those with other cancers.
Nutrition and Malignant Mesothelioma
Malignant mesothelioma is usually caused by asbestos exposure. When asbestos enters the body, it embeds itself in the tissues, triggering a cascade of cellular changes that can result in peritoneal or pleural mesothelioma decades later.
But evidence suggests that certain foods may be able to help counter those effects. A report published last year in the journal Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy suggests that dietary phytochemicals impact the expression of microRNA, a small non-coding RNA molecule that plays a role in how genes are expressed.
One compound in particular – ursolic acid found in apple peels – has been shown to regulate microRNAs in malignant mesothelioma cells. But many others, including dietary phytochemicals found in fruits and vegetables, mushrooms, wine, herbs, and spices may also be powerful weapons in the fight against mesothelioma.
Since 2016, new studies have been released on
- The potential mesothelioma survival benefits of the flavonoid apigenin found in parsley and chamomile tea
- The apparent ability of the broccoli compound sulforaphane to improve mesothelioma chemotherapy with cisplatin
- The immune-boosting properties of micronutrients in red wine, tea, and leafy greens in people with mesothelioma
- The mesothelioma tumor growth-slowing effect of the polyphenol curcumin
Eating During Mesothelioma Treatment and Beyond
According to the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, patients undergoing treatment for mesothelioma and other cancers should aim to eat a minimum of five servings of fruit and vegetables daily along with whole grains, lean protein, and lowfat dairy.
They recommend that patients aim for a “balanced plate” that includes one fourth lean protein, one half cooked or raw vegetables, and one fourth whole grains. There is some evidence that eating foods rich in vitamin D may decrease the risk of recurrent mesothelioma and improve survival. Alcohol has been linked to cancer risk and should be minimized.
Not only can nutrient-dense food help repair tissue damage caused by mesothelioma treatment, but it can also help counter treatment-related side effects.
Avoiding fried, sugary or spicy foods can help counter nausea and vomiting that can accompany chemotherapy and consuming more water helps fight dry mouth and dehydration.
Because decreased appetite and weight loss are common for mesothelioma patients during treatment, your doctor may recommend frequent smaller meals and nutritional drinks as a way to consume more calories and maintain energy.
“Nutrition for Cancer Survivors”, National Comprehensive Cancer Network, Accessed March 27, 2918
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, National Nutrition Month page