Cancer. It’s the diagnosis no one wants, and everyone fears. But often cancer can be prevented. In the past 30 years, millions of dollars have been raised for research with the ultimate aim of curing cancer. During the summer we have different marathons and fundraisers. However, we have not made much progress and are still far away from curing the many different types of cancer. Therefore, it is time to take a closer look at what we may do for our health, and how we can be active and prevent cancer. The adage “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is nowhere truer than with cancer. At least 50% of all cancers can be prevented through healthy living.
A healthy lifestyle is crucial to preventing cancer according to the latest research. This means knowing and understanding risk factors for cancer and taking action to minimize them. Any habit, trait, or use of a substance that increases the odds of getting cancer is called a risk factor. Genetic predisposition is considered an influential risk factor, but usually does not guarantee that the person will develop the cancer. While some tumors that develop may be benign, or non cancerous, others are declared cancerous (or malignant) because of their ability to spread. There are many theories that try to explain the underlying causes of cancer but none can adequately explain the diverse nature of the disease. One popular theory is that cancer is caused by “oxidative stress.” No one factor alone is enough to cause cancer. Instead, cancer results from a ‘multifactor hit’ of age, inherited predisposition, general health, immune condition or environmental factors. The American Cancer Society notes that environmental factors which account for 75 to 80 percent of all cancer cases and deaths in the United States, are potentially changeable. These include tobacco use, poor nutrition, inactivity, obesity, certain infectious agents, sunlight and carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) in food, the work place and the air, water and soil. Although scientists have been unable to develop a cure, they have come to better understand the disease and how to prevent and treat it. Much of this research has concluded that lifestyle and nutrition play a major role in preventing cancer.
Here are some steps you can take to prevent cancer (or a cancer recurrence)
- Smoking: Although everyone knows that smoking (and exposure to second hand smoke) is the main cause of lung cancer, lung cancer is still the leading cause of cancer mortality in Canada for both men and women. What’s worse, the rates of lung cancer mortality have increased steadily for women for the last 30 years, and are still climbing. While men’s mortality rates from lung cancer are decreasing, they are still higher than the rates for women. So we still have a long way to go before smoking ceases to be the number one preventable cause of death – not just from cancer, but also from heart disease and stroke.
- Smoking also causes other forms of cancer including cancer of the bladder, esophagus, kidney, head and neck area, stomach, cervix, pancreas, and some leukemias.
- Maintain a normal weight (generally considered to be a Body Mass Index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9). Being overweight (BMI of 25-29.9) increases the risk of some cancers, including post-menopausal breast cancer, endometrial cancer (cancer of the uterus) and kidney cancer. Even more are linked with obesity (BMI of 30 plus) including cancer of the pancreas, colon and rectum, prostate, esophagus, gallbladder and liver, as well as some lymphomas and leukemias. See our January 2010 Newsletter for tips on weight management.
- Avoid over exposure to the sun – it is related to skin cancer.
- Exercise reduces cancer risk. Make physical activity part of your everyday life (see May 2010 Newsletter). An expert panel on Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer recommends being moderately physically active, equivalent to brisk walking, for at least 30 minutes every day. As fitness improves, increase to 60 minutes of moderate activity or 30 minutes or more vigorous activity per day. Limit sedentary habits such as watching TV. Being physically active directly reduces the risk of some cancers, and indirectly reduces the risk of others, by helping to prevent weight gain.
- A healthy diet reduces cancer risk.
- Women who eat the most fibre are at 29% less risk of uterine cancer.
- Antioxidants called flavonoids, found in brightly coloured vegetables and fruits such as yellow onions, scallions, kale, broccoli, apples, berries, and red grapes, are linked to a 20% lower risk of kidney cancer. Onions have also been found to reduce the risk of cancer of the pancreas. Limit consumption of energy-dense foods (refined carbohydrates). Avoid sugary drinks. Eat mostly foods of plant origin. Limit alcoholic drinks. Limit consumption of iodized salt. Eat less barbequed, broiled and fried meat. Compounds called heterocyclic amines form on the surface of fried, barbequed and broiled meat. In the body, these turn into substances which can cause cancer.
Boost your immune system
. While diet reduces our risk of cancer, cell mutation is inevitable. At any time there are potentially thousands of mutated cells circulating throughout our bodies. It is up to our immune system to seek out and destroy these rogue cells. It does so through an elaborate system of enzymes, antibodies, glands and millions of cells, all of it co-ordinated much like a modern day army.
There are certain foods, phytonutrients and lifestyle as mentioned, that can strengthen and build the immune system. Studies show inflammation is the leading cause of many diseases such as Alzheimer’s, heart disease, arthritis, etc. as well as cancer. Inflammation could be reduced using certain nutrients.
There is good evidence that living at latitudes closer to the equator decreases the risks of many cancers. Research shows that vitamin D protects against colon cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, endometrial cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and even malignant melanoma. For colon and breast cancer, its effects seem greater in combination with calcium. The reduction in risk may even apply to all types of cancer – an overall 77% reduction in cancer risk was seen in a recent study.
Cancer of the colon and rectum
is the 3rd leading cause of cancer mortality in women (after lung and breast), and the 2nd leading cause in men (after lung) in Canada. This is a cancer for which maintaining normal weight, and getting enough exercise definitely reduce the risk. Eating less red meat may also help, and avoiding processed meats is even more important. As mentioned, calcium-rich foods protect the colon as does vitamin D. In clinical trials, calcium supplements lowered the risk of polyps (pre-cancerous growths) by 20%. Dietary fibre protects against colon cancer (we need 30 to 35 grams of fibre per day), as does a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Specifically, garlic is protective.
There are a number of reasons that supplements may help to prevent cancer.
- Anti-inflammatory substances reduce inflammation that can sometimes lead to cancer. Examples include Zambroza, omega-3 fatty acids (see Newsletter, April, 2009), vitamin E, and other anti-oxidants.
- Since Canadians live far from the equator, vitamin D supplements are highly recommended, especially in the winter. There is increasing evidence that the 400 IU traditionally recommended is not enough.
- Immune supporting herbs can help the body fight diseases including cancer. For example, Colostrum (a Nature’s Sunshine product) contains immune transfer factors which not only enhance the performance of the immune system, but transfer certain components directly to the immune system. Probiotics (friendly bacteria) also help the immune system, as well as Zambroza which has xanthones which are powerful antioxidants. Researchers have found that by neutralizing free radicals, they relieve oxidative stress which, in turn reduces inflammation.
- Greenzone is a mixture of herbs and plant foods in concentration and whole form which supply vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, phytonutrients and chlorophyll. Their dense nutritional composition makes them especially beneficial in maintaining cellular health, increasing immune function, reducing inflammation, cleansing the intestinal tract and neutralizing toxins.
- Eating raw foods helps ensure an adequate supply of enzymes. Digestive enzyme supplements also help the body at the cellular level.
- Paw Paw is a Nature’s Sunshine product that has been used successfully by people with cancer. It is not recommended as a preventive measure.
Everyone’s cancer risk profile is unique. What is not unique is that each of us can substantially reduce our risk by healthy lifestyle practices and limiting our exposure to environmental cancer risks. For additional information on recommended amounts of supplements, please email email@example.com; or call Ramilas Healing Arts Clinic at 613.829.0427 for an appointment. Please continue sharing our newsletters with friends and family.
The suggestions and recommendations in this newsletter are not intended to be prescriptive or diagnostic. The information is accurate and up to date to our knowledge, but we are not responsible for any errors in our sources of information.
- Prevention. Canadian Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.ca/canada-wide/prevention.aspx. Accessed on June 14, 2010.
- Liebman B. Cancer: What you need to know. Nutrition Action Health Letter 2008;35(3)1,3-7.
- Liebman B. Cancer: How extra pounds boost your risk. Nutrition Action Health Letter 2007;34(7):1,3-7.
- World Cancer Research Fund / American Institute for Cancer Research. Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective. Washington, DC: AICR, 2007.
- Women who get the most fiber at 29% less risk of uterine cancer. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter 2008;26(1):8.
- Flavonoids linked to 20% lower kidney-cancer risk. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter 2007;25(2):8.
- An onion a day to keep pancreatic cancer away? Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter 2007;25(10):8.
- Willet WC. Diet, nutrition, and avoidable cancer. Environ Health Perspect 1995;103(Suppl 8):165-170.
- 10 tips to reduce cancer risk. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter 2008;25(11):3.
- Vitamin D gets its day in the sun. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter 2005;23(6):4
- Masson S. Vitamin D – more than just “the sunshine vitamin”. Sunshine Today July/August 2009; 16-17.
- Cancer study supports higher vitamin D levels. Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter 2007;25(7):1-2.
- Specialized support in building a strong immune system. Sunshine Today January/February 2010; 13.
These newsletters will help you make better choices for better health. The choices that you make today can either have a positive or negative impact on your overall health. Begin by choosing better. It is a step toward longevity.
Ramilas Healing Arts Clinic