Top 10 tips to help you prevent cancer
Few things are as devastating as being diagnosed with cancer. As ER doctors we are disturbed by the increasing number of cancer patients we diagnose in the ER. According to the latest publication from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) the cancer burden is growing at an alarming pace. Nearly half of Americans will develop cancer in their lifetime. Despite recent advances in therapy, this report shows that the battle against cancer will not be won by treatment alone. Prevention is our strongest weapon against this disease. The best way to prevent cancer is by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Below are our top ten tips to achieve just that and help you prevent cancer.
1. Avoid Alcohol.
Did you know that alcohol was declared a carcinogen in 19881? Surprisingly, most people are not aware of alcohol’s cancer risk. The IARC reports no amount of alcohol is safe to drink. Alcohol is clearly identified as causative for cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, colon, rectum, liver, and female breast. Even ‘light drinking’ has been linked to causing cancers of the mouth, esophagus and breast.2 15% of all breast cancer deaths are attributed to alcohol. The more you drink the greater your cancer risk. "There is no risk-free level of alcohol consumption" says Dr. Rehm, “there is always some risk, and the risk increases in accordance with the level of consumption.“ Alcohol is blamed for 1 in every 30 cancer deaths. It will not be surprising if in the near future alcoholic beverages are required to have warning labels explaining risk of cancer, hypertension, stroke, atrial fibrillation and cardiomyopathy.
2. No Tobacco.
3. Avoid Styrofoam.
Styrofoam is made of a substance called styrene which is known to be carcinogenic. According to the EPA, 100% of Americans have styrene in their bodies. It finds its way into our bodies by consuming food that has been packaged or stored in styrofoam containers. Styrofoam dissolves into the food especially when the food is hot. Avoid heating food or beverages in styrofoam containers. The state of California tried to ban use of Styrofoam in restaurants and other food service establishments but became the subject of a legal challenge by the $28 billion styrene industry. The case was lost in a California district court on the basis of costs associated with regulating the chemical, not on the basis of the human health impact or inadequacy of the science.
4. Be Lean.
Being obese increases your chances of getting certain cancers such as those of the breast, colon, rectum, stomach, liver, kidney and uterus. It is important to always watch your weight and know your body mass index (BMI).4 A normal BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9. A BMI between 25 and 29.5 is considered overweight, while a BMI of 30 or higher is obese. Carrying around excessive fat in our bodies is harmful because of excess hormones produced by this type of tissue. Fat tissue not only produces hormones like estrogen which has been linked to cancers of the breast, endometrium and pancreas, but also acts as storehouse for other harmful chemicals. A good rule of thumb to see how you are doing is your waistline. A normal waist measurement is under 40 inches for men and under 35 inches for women. Start taking steps to monitor your weight and calculate your BMI today.
5. Cut Down On Red Meat.
According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) red meat is a cause of colorectal cancer, the 2nd leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. Red meats such as beef, pork and lamb contain substances that are known to cause cancer. These meats get their red color from a substance called ‘heme’ which is known to damage intestinal linings. It is equally important to avoid processed meats such as hot dogs, sausages, bacon, ham, salami and pastrami. Multiple studies have shown that vegetarians have a lower cancer risk than meat-eaters and vegans have lower cancer risk than both groups. To minimize your cancer risk try to limit your meat consumption to 18oz per week.
6. Drink Pure Water.
7. Eat More Greens.
Momma always said ‘eat your veggies’ and she always means well and is usually right. Now Mommas everywhere have organizations like the American Cancer Society and the International Association for Research on Cancer supporting their statements. Multiple studies have shown that eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes decreases the risk of several cancers such as those of the colon, prostate, breast, mouth, esophagus, pancreas and stomach. Research also shows that cancer survivors were twice as likely to have their cancer return if they consumed a "Western " diet, characterized by eating a lot of meat, fat, refined grains and desserts, when compared to those who ate a diet made up of mostly fruits, vegetables, poultry and fish. Eat at least 2-3 cups of fruits and 2-3 cups of vegetables everyday to help prevent cancer.
8. Be Active.
Being physically active will lower your risk of cancer. Activity in any form including house chores or walking will help keep hormone levels in check and boost the immune system. Aim to incorporate at least 30 minutes of activity into your day. Start slowly and build up to a desired goal. Even a brisk 30 minute walk has been shown to have measurable benefits. One study found that people who maintained high activity over a 10-year period cut their risk of cancer by half. The American Cancer Society recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week. Don’t be a couch potato - Get up and move!
9. Avoid Fatty and Processed Foods.
Always be mindful of what you eat and avoid saturated fat and fried foods. Diets high in fat (and meat) have been associated with high risk of certain cancers particularly colorectal cancer. It was found that males who ate something fried at least once a week had a 37% higher chance of getting prostate cancer. It has also been determined that foods with high salt content can damage the stomach thereby increasing the risk of gastric cancer. Generally speaking we only need 2400 mg of salt a day. Most of our salt intake actually comes from processed foods such as cereals, frozen meals, pizza, certain breads and chips. Start minimizing your risk by paying attention to the ingredients in the foods you eat. Watch out for saturated fats, salt and high sugar content.
10. Watch Your Supplements.
When it comes to preventing cancer you can skip your supplements. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research you should not take supplements to decrease your risk of cancer. In fact numerous studies have shown that taking supplements can actually be harmful and increase your chances of getting cancer. In the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT) it was found that men who took vitamin E supplements actually developed a higher risk of prostate cancer. Beta Carotene and Vitamin A supplements have been found to increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers. Because dietary supplements are not regulated and manufacturers are not required to support their claims, it is best to use these with caution. The best source for nourishment is healthy food and drink.
The continual rise of cancer worldwide is a major source of suffering and disability for humanity. The best approach to fighting this disease is prevention. 30% of the most common cancers can be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Above are our top ten lifestyle recommendations. These lifestyle changes will also help prevent many other chronic and debilitating diseases such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, kidney failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and stroke. By implementing some or all of these you will be well on your way to a healthier and happier life.
Below are some additional tips to live by:
- Only eat when hungry
- Stop eating before you get full
- Avoid canned foods which might contain bisphenol-A (BPA)
- Avoid risky behaviors ( i.e. iv drug abuse, sharing needles and having multiple sexual partners )
- Get immunized and get regular screenings
- Enjoy pomegranate juice once in awhile ☺
Don’t forget to register on Symptify if you would like to receive more health tips. Feel free to contact us with any questions or comments. You can reach us by e-mail at Info@Symptify.com.
To better health,
Jalil Thurber M.D.,
©Symptify, LLC 2013.
- Alcohol drinking. IARC Working Group, Lyon, 13-20 October 1987. IARC Monogr Eval Carcinog Risks Hum. 1988;44:1-378.
- Bagnardi V, Rota M, Botteri E, et al. Light alcohol drinking and cancer: a meta-analysis. Ann Oncol. 2013;24:301-308.
- The World Bank. Economics of Tobacco Control. Curbing the Epidemic: Governments and the Economics of Tobacco Control. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank; 1999
- To calculate your BMI take your weight in pounds and divide it by the square of your height in inches and multiply this number by 703. BMI= (weight in lbs/height in inches2) x 703