October and November are global cancer prevention months. The WHO has published the following cancer facts in 2008
At least one third of all cancer cases are preventable. Prevention offers the most cost effective long term strategy for the control of cancer.
About 30% of cancer deaths are caused by the five leading behavioural and dietary risks: high body mass index, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco use, alcohol use and could be prevented.
Cancer can also be caused by: physical carcinogens, such as ultraviolet and ionising radiation;chemical carcinogens, such as asbestos, components of tobacco smoke, aflatoxin (a food contaminant) and arsenic (a drinking water contaminant); and biological carcinogens, such as infections from certain viruses, bacteria or parasites. In 2015 the global medical establishment as well as several national cancer research centres around the world have changed the number of preventable cancer cases closer to 50%. Screening tests can help detect malignancies in their earliest stages, but you should always be alert for symptoms of the disease. The American Cancer Society developed this simple reminder years ago:
C: Change in bowel or bladder habits
A: A sore that does not heal
U: Unusual bleeding or discharge
T: Thickening or lump in the breast or elsewhere
I: Indigestion or difficulty in swallowing
O: Obvious change in a wart or mole
N: Nagging cough or hoarseness
You don’t have to be an international scientist to understand how you can try to protect yourself and your family. Harvard Medical School has put together the following 7 commandments of cancer prevention:
1. Avoid tobacco in all its forms, including exposure to secondhand smoke.
Additional note: The newest research shows, that e-smoking devices have an equal impact on your health as normal smoking habits.
2. Eat properly
Reduce your consumption of trans- and saturated fats as well as red meat, which appears to increase the risk of colon and prostate cancers. Limit your intake of processed products especially meat products like sausage, hot dogs, cold cuts, meatballs etc. and avoid deep-fried foods. Increase your consumption of fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes and whole grains. Two large studies in 2003 found that high-fibre diets may reduce the risk of colon cancer.
3. Exercise regularly.
Physical activity has been linked to a reduced risk of colon cancer, and it may even help prevent prostate cancer. Exercise also appears to reduce a woman’s risk of breast and possibly reproductive cancers. Exercise will help protect you even if you don’t lose weight.
Additional note: Exercise is boosting your immune system and is helping you prevent chronic disease that could increase the risk of cancer in the long run. Exercise at least 150 minutes per week if needed start with something as easy as walking 8-10,000 steps a day.
4. Stay lean
Obesity increases the risk of many forms of cancer. Calories count. If you need to slim down, take in fewer, nutrient dense calories and burn more energy with exercise. Additional note: There are several reasons including physical and emotional stress that can make staying lean difficult. It is sometimes worthwhile to talk to a nutritionist, fitness or lifestyle coach to lead us in the right direction for adjustments.
5. Moderate alcohol consumption
Excess alcohol increases the risk of cancers of the mouth, larynx (voice box), oesophagus (food pipe), liver, and colon; it also increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer. Smoking further increases the risk of many alcoholinduced malignancies.
Moderate alcohol use for healthy adults means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger. Examples of one drink include: Beer: 12 fluid ounces (355mL) Wine: 5 fluid ounces (148mL) Distilled spirits (80 proof): 1.5 fluid ounces (44mL) Additional note: Unfortunately the recommendations above are still the official statements from most government agencies, based on a lack and feasibility of research. Personally I would limit alcohol to 2-3 drinks a week.
6. Avoid unnecessary exposure to radiation.
Get medical imaging studies only when there are other symptoms indicating that you need them. Check your home for residential radon (radioactive, colourless, odourless, tasteless noble gas), which increases the risk of lung cancer.
Protect yourself from ultraviolet radiation in sunlight, which increases the risk of melanomas and other skin cancers. As far as research shows today, there is no evidence that electromagnetic radiation from highvoltage power lines or radio frequency radiation from microwaves and cellphones, cause cancer. Additional note: Thai hospitals like to offer unnecessary X-rays to increase your medical bill. Ask for alternative assessment treatments and use common sense when in doubt.
7. Avoid exposure to industrial and environmental toxins
Be aware of asbestos fibres, benzene, aromatic amines, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
8. Avoid infections that contribute to cancer
Take action to prevent hepatitis viruses, HIV, and the human papillomavirus. Many are transmitted sexually or through contaminated needles.
These lifestyle changes will yield another cancer-preventing benefit: if you stay healthy, you won’t need cancer treatments (chemotherapy, radiotherapy, drugs that suppress the immune system) that have the ironic side effect of increasing the risk of additional cancers. (Harvard Medical School, April 2009)
As always, prevention is the best medicine