Here’s the bad news! Nearly half of today’s North American men and one-third of women will develop cancer, making it the second leading cause of death after heart disease.
To some people, fate deals a bad hand when they inherit genes that increase the risk of cancer. But here’s the good news. Drs. John Swartzberg and Jeffery Wolf at the University of California say that lifestyle changes can help people reduce the risk of at least 65% of cancers.
One – use alcohol moderately. Cancers of the esophagus (stomach tube), mouth, throat and larynx are linked to alcohol. The more you drink the greater the risk. For women who know they have a higher risk of breast cancer or have had breast cancer, the advice is to forego the alcoholic drink or do so occasionally. Moderate drinking means one or two drinks a day for men and one for women.
Two – test the water for arsenic.
This should not be necessary for city dwellers. But if you’re on a farm and use well water, high levels of arsenic have been associated with cancers of the bladder, colon, kidneys, liver, lung and skin. Arsenic is tasteless, odourless and is found in soil, rocks, water and air. Water filters that are placed on the faucet do not remove arsenic. The only solution is bottled water.
Three – decrease workplace exposure to carcinogens.
Bartenders and waiters who work in venues that still allow smoking should look for a smoke-free environment to decrease the risk of lung cancer. Funeral directors and those who work in nail salons can become exposed to formaldehyde increasing the risk of nasal cancer. Others who work in chemical or printing plants may be exposed to benzene, a chemical that is linked to leukemia and Hodgkins lymphoma.
Four – decrease sun exposure
Ultraviolet light from sun tanning beds is estimated to cause two million cases of skin cancer every year. Remember this summer that no sunscreen blocks all radiation.
Five – get moving. Prostate, lung and cancer of the uterus are associated with inactivity. Exercise enhances the immune system and decreases cancer risk by lowering cellular growth.
Six – shed pounds. Studies suggest that being obese accounts for 14% of cancer deaths in men and 20% in women. These deaths occur from cancers of the large bowel, esophagus, liver, uterine cancer and leukemia. Why this happens is not totally understood, but there’s evidence it may be associated with the production of hormones. Obesity is also linked to chronic inflammation which may trigger cancer growth.
Seven – decrease high-heat cooking. Heating food over coals or flames creates chemicals called heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons which are believed to increase cancer risk. Most people associate this risk with grill cooking. But it’s also true for pan-frying foods on the stove. These chemicals are associated with an increased risk of pancreatic, prostate and colon malignancy. You can lower risk by using the microwave to pre-cook food for a few minutes before putting meat or chicken on the grill and then turn food often to prevent charring.
Eight – Limit radiation exposure. It seems unbelievable, but every year 10 percent of Americans get a CT scan! Equally frightening, the number getting this procedure increases every year. These scans now account for half of our radiation exposure. One CT scan is the same as 500 x-rays of the lungs. So always ask your doctors if the same result could be achieved by either an ultrasound or MRI test.
Nine – don’t smoke.
I tell patients to see a psychiatrist if they still smoke cigarettes, pipes, smokeless tobacco or cigars. Smoking is the leading cause of premature preventable deaths in this country. Remember it is never too late to quit and stop needless lung and other cancer deaths.
Ten – eat a nutritious diet. What is an anti-cancer diet? Authorities state repeatedly it’s prudent to limit the amount of red meat, pork and particularly processed meats, and to increase the amount of whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
For my personal vitamin and mineral program see the web site www.docgiff.com.
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