It may surprise you to know that most of us have numerous microscopic and (mostly) harmless cancers lurking in our bodies. Part of the reason these tiny tumors never pose a health threat has to do with a process called angiogenesis: the formation of new blood vessels.

Cancer cells need nutrients and oxygen to grow, just as healthy cells do. Cells receive nourishment (and remove waste) through blood vessels. However, the unchecked growth of blood vessels can lead to the development and spread of cancers. 

Our body controls angiogenesis by producing proteins. Some of these proteins promote blood vessel growth; others inhibit their growth. When something disrupts the balance of growth and inhibitory proteins, tumors may release molecules that send signals to nearby healthy tissue, activating certain protein-making genes and encouraging new blood vessel growth. Certain conditions can also cause too few blood vessels, which is also a problem.

Medical experts now recognize angiogenesis as a common denominator underlying many serious diseases, including cancer.

This is actually good news for several reasons. Without angiogenesis, tumor growth stops, so theoretically, anti-angiogenic therapies should starve tumors of their blood supply. They do. Currently in the U.S., oncologists are using at least 13 approved cancer therapies with recognized anti-angiogenesis properties. These treatments work by interrupting the cell signaling pathways involved in tumor angiogenesis and growth.

Furthermore, evidence shows that you can influence angiogenesis through diet. Some foods help starve cancers by preventing the growth of tumor-feeding blood vessels, and certain cooking and heating methods affect a food's anti-angiogenic effects.

What to Eat to Defeat Cancer

Eat to Defeat Cancer, an initiative of the Angiogenesis Foundation, is accumulating evidence-based scientific studies about food and helping individuals make food choices that discourage angiogenesis.

Here are just a few of the many easy nutrition tips from Eat to Defeat Cancer's website, where you can also find numerous simple recipes.

  • Choose even healthier foods. For example, apples are powerful anti-cancer foods, but Red Delicious and Granny Smith apples have twice as many cancer fighters as Fuji or Golden Delicious, and fermented soy has four times the anti-cancer power of regular soybeans. 
  • Try sprouts instead of stalks. Broccoli sprouts are higher in a compound shown to have potential anticancer effects than regular broccoli heads. Toss some in a salad or on a sandwich. 
  • Dunk your tea bag. Moving it up and down releases more cancer fighting molecules than letting it sit in your cup. 
  • Thoroughly chew leafy greens. Chewing releases enzymes that activate cancer-fighting molecules.

Just think, a few well-chosen foods each day can add up to a lot of potential cancer-fighting power.

Rajiv V. Datta, MD, FRCS, FACS, FICS, reviewed this article.


Lippert, Marissa. "What are antiangiogenic foods?" Web. 18 March 2011.

The Angiogenesis Foundation. "Diet, Lifestyle & Angiogenesis." Web. 7 September 2011.

The Angiogenesis Foundation. "Angiogenesis in Disease." Web. 7 September 2011.

National Cancer Instititute. "Angiogenesis." Web. 1 September 2006.

The Angiogenesis Foundation. "How is Angiogenesis Important for Health?" Web. 27 April 2011.

The Angiogenesis Foundation. "Angiogenesis Inhibitors for Cancer." Web. 3 January 2013

Li, William, MD. "Eat to Defeat Cancer... Every Day." Web. 4 November 2011.