Acupuncture and Cancer

Cancer is becoming more and more common in the modern society, one out of five American women develop breast cancer between their forties and fifties. Many factors contribute to this detrimental disease, such as high stress levels, environmental contamination and junk food. Chemo and radiation therapy can effectively kill the cancer cells, but can also damage normal tissues at the same time. I have always wondered why some patients survive longer over time with a better quality of life than others even when they have the same degree of the same diseases. As I think about the patients I have treated over my 20 years of clinical experience, three factors seem to contribute to the extended survival rate of some: 1. how relaxed and happy they are generally, 2. how well they digest and absorb food and 3. how well they sleep. All the three factors contribute to the function of their immune system and the ability of their body to repair the damaged tissue caused by chemotherapy and normal wear and tear.

NK cells are essential effector cells of the innate immune system that spontaneously kill transformed and infected cells, and therefore represent the first line of the host immune defense against cancer and pathogens. Michael Francis Johnson of California reviewed the study done by Arranz and colleagues in Spain. This study indicated that high levels of anxiety can lower the natural killer cell activity 3-fold, compared with healthy controls. This explains why many people, who cannot relax periodically and always rush from one project to another project, tend to develop cancer. In the same study, when a group of points such as ST36, SI3, HT3, HT5, LI11, PC6, LI4, TW5, CV3, CV4, CV6, CV15, GB34, GB43, SP6, LV2, UB60, KD6, GV20 were stimulated twice a week for 10 treatments, anxious women showed a complete restoration of their natural killer cell activity. In animal studies, experiments show that acupuncture on ST36 can increase NK cell tumoricidal activity and the secretion of interleukin-2 and interferon. Furthermore, acupuncture can increase the expression of the NK cell receptor CD94 and protein tyrosine phosphatase.

During chemotherapy, patients are often given a steroid drug to suppress their immune function. By combing acupuncture treatment with this, patients can have less infection and relax more. More importantly, acupuncture on ST36 can strengthen the digestive function. Also after the tumor is destroyed by drugs, the body can quickly repair normal cell function by absorbing nutrients more efficiently. Research also shows that acupuncture can help people produce more growth hormones by sleeping better and supplying energy to pituitary and hypothalamus gland. Acupuncture not only enhances immune function, but also balances it during a time when it is abnormally hyperactive.