Embrace an anticancer lifestyle
Gillian Flower, ND
Adopting a healthy lifestyle - for our entire life - is the best cancer prevention strategy we can embrace.
Cancer is the number one cause of death among Canadians. Is there anything we can do to prevent cancer from developing? While there is no guarantee against this seemingly indiscriminate illness, there are strategies to give us added insurance throughout each decade of our lives.
Many twentysomethings flee the nest to forge an existence separate from the family unit. Starting out on the right path by establishing cancer-preventing practices will help to ensure a lifetime of good health.
Cancer-fighting cuisine Dietary factors alone are responsible for as much as 9 percent of all cancers. Follow a few simple guidelines to reduce risk.
People come in all shapes and sizes. Our anatomy is as individual as our face, with a wide range of variations falling within the “normal” range. Knowing your body and what is normal for you will help you to notice subtle changes if they happen.
Smoking causes about one-fifth of all cancer cases worldwide, while consuming as few as two drinks per day significantly increases the risk of colorectal and other cancers. Binge drinking in particular increases breast cancer risk.
The thirties are a time of heightened activity as we balance the demands of new careers, new families, and often-demanding social schedules.
As parents and other family members age and some reach the end of their lives, cancer awareness may hit very close to home. Having children may lead us to new heights of concern about our future health and that of our kids.
If dating rather than child-rearing is on your agenda in this decade, inform yourself about the cancer risks associated with some sexually transmitted infections. Human papilloma virus (HPV), hepatitis B and C, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are associated with cervical cancer, liver cancer, and Kaposi’s sarcoma (a rare skin cancer), respectively. HIV may also increase the risk of anal and lung cancers.
Use a condom or dental dam to prevent HIV spread and reduce the risk of contracting HPV and hepatitis.
Melatonin, a soporific antioxidant hormone, has potent anticancer properties and is decreased by nighttime wakefulness, potentially increasing cancer risk. Production of melatonin is decreased by interrupted or shortened sleep patterns.
As we reach our forties, waistlines tend to expand while our free time for relaxation and exercise seems to contract. Reversing this common trend is a powerful step in cancer prevention.
Sixty percent of Canadians are overweight or obese—body mass index (BMI) over 24.9-—increasing the risk of cancers of the colon, pancreas, breast, and liver. Obesity may also prompt the development of more aggressive types of cancer. Simply losing those extra pounds and maintaining a healthy BMI (18.5 to 24.9) can significantly reduce cancer risk.
Although it cannot be said that stress causes cancer, chronic stress creates an environment within the body that supports cancer progression and may increase cancer risk. While we cannot prevent stressful events from occurring, learning to manage our stress response may mitigate its effect on our health.
A sedentary lifestyle is a risk factor for cancer development in the colon, breast, and endometrium. Exercise to reduce these risks, while decreasing stress and obesity at the same time.
By the time we reach our fifties, we have a pretty good idea of what is normal for our bodies. Deepen this awareness by screening for common cancers while staying aware of signs and symptoms of change in your body.
Screening for many cancers begins in earnest at the age of 50. Blood tests, physical exams, and imaging help to detect these cancers at an early stage. If you have a family history of cancer, your doctor may suggest screening before the age of 50.
You are ultimately the expert on your own body. If you are noticing changes in your body and feel like something is off, follow it up with your health care practitioner.
Cancer is a major cause of illness in the Canadian population. Through simple yet powerful lifestyle choices and a heightened awareness of our own physiology, we can take significant steps toward prevention.
|outdoor air pollution||car (diesel) and industrial exhaust||lung cancer||monitor air quality reports; don’t exercise in areas of heavy traffic|
|radon||natural breakdown of rocks and soil—accumulates in poorly ventilated indoor spaces||lung cancer||test home radon levels; seal cracks in basement floors and walls; increase air circulation in the rest of the home|
|phthalates||plastics, especially soft plastics such as vinyl (PVC); children’s toys; cosmetics||liver cancer and endocrine disruption (in animal studies)||use glass food storage containers; avoid plastic toys; ask for PVC-free medical equipment|
|chlorine and byproducts||household water use; swimming pools||possible links to bladder and colorectal cancer||filter drinking and bathing water; minimize use of chlorinated pools|