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Cancer

The dos and don'ts of prevention

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Cancer

The Canadian Cancer Society’s slogan is, "Let’s make cancer history." With cancer affecting thousands–among them friends, family, and loved ones–each and every year, this slogan has become the goal for many dedicated and hardworking researchers, scientists, and healthcare practitioners.

The Canadian Cancer Society’s slogan is, “Let’s make cancer history.” With cancer affecting thousands–among them friends, family, and loved ones–each and every year, this slogan has become the goal for many dedicated and hardworking researchers, scientists, and healthcare practitioners.

From pink ribbons and 10k runs to hospital gala events and daffodils in April, funds are being raised Canadawide to put an end to the disease that has unnecessarily taken the lives of so many.

While there is great merit in allotting a percentage of funds toward conventional treatment methods, diagnoses, and research, natural healthcare is another area that is equally as deserving of our attention and budget. Natural health approaches have proven to be one of the most powerful steps in slowing the growing number of cancer cases occurring every year.

A word that strikes terror in many, cancer can be defined as uncontrolled, abnormal cell division that can be spread into other areas of the body through the blood or lymphatic
systems. While certain cancers are more likely genetic, the modifiable factors that are mentioned above can “tip the scales,” providing the disease with the perfect environment to proliferate.

Unfortunately, cancer is a major cause of death in the Western world with staggering numbers of Canadians affected by the disease. Because of the large numbers of men, women, and youth now diagnosed with cancer, natural healthcare research, education, and integration into regular cancer treatment plans becomes even more prudent.

Preventing Cancer Naturally

Although there are no guarantees, it appears one of the most effective preventive steps to avoiding cancer is to become informed about how to positively affect your modifiable risk factors. Because cancer is a multi-faceted disease with several underlying causes, the “dos and don’ts” list includes some, not all, of the most powerful approaches documented by research. If you have a family history of cancer, I highly recommend speaking to a natural healthcare practitioner for a one-on-one consultation.

Evidence of Progress

The tides are slowly turning. Several cancer centres are now working to find ways to prevent cancer from developing in the first place. For example, in 2004, the Cancer Institute of New Jersey devoted some four million dollars, or approximately 8 percent of its budget to cancer prevention efforts. With more money and attention dedicated to natural prevention, the slogan “let’s make cancer history” will certainly have more meaning.

“Dos”

Do maintain a healthy body weight. A report from the American Cancer Society states that being overweight or obese could cause as many as one in seven cancer deaths in men and one in five in women. Having a high body mass index (BMI) increased death rates for 11 types of cancer in men and 12 types in women.

Do eat your fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables contain phytochemicals (plant chemicals) that have been shown to have antioxidant and cancer protective effects. While research has documented several of these phytochemicals, new discoveries are being made daily.

  • Tomatoes contain lycopene, which has been shown to provide protection against cancer of the prostate, stomach, and lung.
  • Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower contain indole-3-carbinol, which has been shown to reduce the risk of bladder cancer.
  • Apples and onions contain phytochemicals called flavonoids that appear to have cancer-fighting effects.

Do go organic. There are over 7,000 different herbicide and pesticide products currently available in Canada. Many of these chemicals were approved prior to 1960 when their long-term effects were unknown. There is a strong body of evidence linking various cancers (for example, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma), asthma, and neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s to the increase in use of herbicides and pesticides.
Childhood cancers are also on the rise. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 60 percent of all herbicides (weed killers), 90 percent of all fungicides (mould killers), and 30 percent of all insecticides (insect killers) are potentially cancer causing.

Do eat fibre. Research has demonstrated that diets high in insoluble fibre have been shown to decrease the rate of breast cancer. To boost the levels of insoluble fibre in your diet, switch from processed refined flours (white bread, pastries, cookies, white pasta, etc.) to whole grain items such as whole grain breads and breads labelled 100-percent whole wheat. Refined flours that are a no-no typically have the words “enriched” or “unbleached” flour, “durum wheat,” or “semolina” on the label. (These are all milled to remove the germ and bran; hence fibre and nutritional values are lower.)

Do eat fish–and supplement with fish oils. Eating fish and foods high in omega-3 fatty acids has been shown to lower the risk of throat, stomach, colon, rectum, lung, and breast cancers. I highly recommend supplementing with 2 to 3 grams of high quality, distilled fish oil, daily. Also, minimize the amount of saturated fat in your diet as research has linked this with an increase in a number of cancers.

“Don’ts”

Don’t smoke. According to Dr. Majid Ezzati, lead researcher of the Harvard study examining the nine risk factors that can lead to cancer, smoking was the most important, responsible for 21 percent of all cancer deaths worldwide. Tobacco accounts for more than 168,000 cancer deaths per year.

Don’t stress. Whether due to financial, personal, or vocational stress, a majority of people are living in a mild to moderate state of chronic stress. Unfortunately, stress triggers the release of a hormone called cortisol. Elevated cortisol levels cause fat to be deposited in the abdominal area. Not only is this a risk factor strongly correlated with heart attacks and strokes, but also an increase in body weight and body mass index (BMI) is a risk factor for developing cancer.

Don’t drink too much alcohol. Drinking excessively has been correlated with mouth, throat, breast, esophagus, liver, colon, and rectum cancers. Alcohol damages cells. It is this cell damage that causes cancer. Alcohol depletes vitamin A and selenium, which may have a general protective effect against cancer. Alcohol also decreases the body’s ability to fight off cancer by compromising the immune system, and irritating the lining of internal organs. If you do imbibe, limit yourself to no more than four alcohol-containing drinks per week and try to select red wine for its antioxidant benefits.

Don’t eat too much meat. Vegetarians appear to have significantly lower cancer rates in comparison to meat eaters. This may be due to vegetarians’ higher consumption of fruits and vegetables, or it may be linked to the inflammatory fats and hormones in meat that can lead to cancerous states. In any case, a reduction of meat and a switch to fish, eggs, and a moderate amount of high-quality soy products appears to have beneficial effects.

Don’t eat nitrate meats. Meats such as cold cuts, bologna, and hot dogs contain nitrates, a chemical that preserves the meat’s pinky colour. Unfortunately, nitrates combine with stomach acid, which creates a cancer-causing substance called nitrosamine. Inquire at your local butcher about purchasing nitrate-free cold cuts. Even better, switch to healthier proteins such as fish, eggs, and low-fat dairy products.

Estimates from the Canadian Cancer Society for the Year 2005

(based on projections from the Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Control)

  • An estimated 149,000 new cases of cancer and 69,500 deaths would occur.
  • On average, 2,865 Canadians would be diagnosed with cancer every week.
  • On average, 1,337 Canadians would die of cancer every week.
  • An estimated 72,800 Canadian women would be diagnosed with cancer and an estimated 32,800 women will die of it.
  • An estimated 76,200 Canadian men would be diagnosed with cancer, and an estimated 36,700 men will die of it.
  • Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian women. In 2005, an estimated 21,600 women were diagnosed with breast cancer and 5,300 would die of it.
  • Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian men. In 2005, an estimated 20,500 men were diagnosed with prostate cancer and 4,300 would die of it.

Scientific Breakthrough

In 2001 experts at Harvard University linked more than one third of the seven million cancer deaths worldwide to nine potentially modifiable risk factors:

  1. obesity
  2. low fruit and vegetable intake
  3. lack of exercise
  4. smoking
  5. alcohol
  6. unsafe sex
  7. urban air pollution
  8. indoor smoke from household use of coal
  9. contaminated injections
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