Cancer is the second among 10 leading causes of deaths in the United States and in many other developed countries around the world, just below heart disease, the # 1 killer. In the USA in 2014, more than half a million (576.691), almost 1,600 people a day (yes, PER day!), died of cancer.
Are you at risk?
Practically anyone can develop cancer. Of course, the older you are and the more exposure to cancer risks you have, the more prone you would be. Genetic susceptibility plays about one-third role, lifestyle/environment, a third, and “bad luck mutation,” as some experts suggest, plays another third.
To lower your risk
It is a scientific fact that we can minimize the risk for cancer with simple choices we make each day. The problem is how to discipline ourselves to adopt those daily measures. Since one third of all cancers among adults are associated with (caused by) lifestyle, this significant factor is within our control, literally in our hands.
Lifestyle: global and personal
The “lifestyle” of every nation and the international community as a whole, with policies and legislations impacting environmental health, world ecology, affecting our air, water, land, radiation, and noise pollution, plays a major role in the causation of the various forms of cancers and most of the diseases afflicting us today around the world.
And more significantly, our personal lifestyle, which includes avoiding the damaging pitfalls and adverse effects of the inadequate or failed national policies in environmental health, will impact us individually to a greater extent. Hence, our personal health choices, as individuals, skirting around risks factors in our environment beyond our control, are most significant in preventing majority of illnesses, including cancer, and in maximizing longevity.
The following pro-active and pre-emptive strategy would severely reduce the risk for cancer, especially if initiated before the teenage years (or, even earlier, as I have suggested in my book, Let’s Stop “Killing” Our Children.
1. Be health conscious – Learn as much as you can about health and well-being. Know that those so-called “food supplements”, juices, herbals, being marketed as cancer cures, are ALL (I repeat, ALL) without scientific basis, ineffective, unsafe, loaded with potential complications to the liver and kidneys, expensive, and are only a waste of money. Drinking adequate clean filtered water is more beneficial than any of those.
2. Do not smoke – About 28 percent of all cancer deaths (about 160,000 from lung cancer alone) each year are smoke-related. Smoking (active and passive) account for about 30% overall deaths from dozen other cancers. About 3,000 of those died from secondhand smoke. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2010 revealed that among smokers who cut back from 20 cigarettes to 10 sticks per day reduce their lung cancer rate by 27 percent. Obviously, quitting is the way to go.
3. Get moving – Physical exercise for half an hour at least 5 times a week greatly reduces the risk for cancer and all other major illnesses, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, stroke, even Alzheimer’s. Exercise reduces the risk for cancer by 30 percent to 50 percent. It also reduces stress and the risk for depression. Even simple regimented walking every day does wonders.
4. Watch your weight – Medical studies have shown that a person who is overweight, especially those who are obese, have greater risk to develop cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and a variety of cancers (breast, pancreas, uterus, gall bladder, colon, kidney, etc. ). Obesity also increases the risk for major surgery. Caloric control is essential. Low carbs diet is in. Staying away from rice and bread, cakes, ice-cream, and other sweets brings the weight down fast, discernable as early as one week. Obesity is the cause of 14 percent of cancer deaths. Of course, there is also the aesthetic benefit from maintaining a healthy weight.
5. Color your plate – Load your plate with veggies, all colors, at least 14 ounces daily. The more colors the better. Vegetables, and fruits, beans, contain antioxidants that neutralize the harmful effects of free radicals, and hence reduce the risk for cancer, metabolic, and cardiovascular diseases. It is now obvious, supported by medical evidence, that our mother was right all along in insisting that we ate veggies. Two-thirds of our plate should be veggies, beans, some fruit, and only a third fish, tofu, lean meats and low-fat dairy. Eating green leafy vegetable salad with each meal, on top of the veggies in the main course, increases the protection.
6. Drink a drop – Alcohol, especially red wine, in moderation, with lunch and or dinner, is supposed to be beneficial to health. However, alcohol intake increases the risk for cancer, and is dose-related. The more alcohol is imbibed, the greater the risk. So, minimize alcohol to “a drop,” and only socially. If one must drink, red wine is best, especially Pinot Noir from Oregon, which contains very high level of resveratrol, a cardio-protective antioxidant from the skin of this grape. The recommended restriction is a limit of one drink per day for women, and no more than two, for men.
7. Kick stress away – Stress can raise the risk for cancer and other illnesses, but not in itself and not directly. Stress and its chain of reactions can lead people to overeat, smoke, drink, do drugs, which are all unhealthy and could result in increase risk for cancer and a list of diseases. Indoctrinating yourself to worry only about things within your control, and leave to God those beyond your power to change or improve, could go a long way to reduce your worry and anxiety. Doing positive things that make you happy, making meditation a part of your regular routine, enjoying time with your loved ones, taking vacation at least once a year, owning a pet you’ve always wanted, can help in your stress management.
8. Say hi to Doc – a regular annual visit to your physician, or more often as needed, will go a long way in early detection (physical examination and through screening tests) of any silent or subtle medical condition, including cancer. Malignancies are best diagnosed and treated at their early stage, which could lead to a cure. Also, the physician could also delve into your family’s medical (genetic) history to help determine what diseases, if any, you are more prone to develop, and what to watch for. Your physician might also discuss the pro and cons of taking aspirin, which has been found to help in reducing cancer risk, besides cardiovascular diseases. A large study in 2010 showed that a daily low-dose aspirin (81 mg) can reduced by 21 percent the risk for lung, esophagus, and colo-rectal cancers. This regimen must be done only under a physician’s supervision, since aspirin has potential serious side-effects.
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