Cancer is the second-biggest killer of people worldwide. Doctors have listed well over 100 different cancers which can occur anywhere in the body. It could be breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer or even a blood cancer, like leukaemia. Despite the expenditure of billions of dollars, involvement of vast armies of researchers and scientists, modern medicine has failed miserably in finding that elusive cure for cancer.
In my opinion, mankind would have been much better served if half of the monies spent on looking for a cure were devoted to meaningful prevention strategies. A popular myth about cancer is that we do not really know what causes it. The truth is that we know a great deal about the causes of cancer.
Sadly, cancer-prevention programmes do not attract big-money interests because they require no fancy drugs or expensive new technology, only simple lifestyle changes. The prevention-is-better-than-cure adage is of extreme relevance when it comes to cancer.
Early detection is not prevention
Most people have been misled to think that when they do cancer-screening tests, they are practising cancer prevention. Most of these tests are designed to help diagnose cancer at an early stage so that doctors can treat it. What they seek to do is to prevent advanced cancer. The experts further confuse the public by calling these interventions ‘secondary prevention’.
Cancer is a disease that is better not to get at all. Waiting for it to happen so we can diagnose and try to treat it is a poor game plan. Even when detected early, many cancers would have already been present in your body for several years and have spread to other parts of the body.
We regularly have potentially cancerous cells in our bodies. The reason why we do not all get cancer is that our bodies possess its own anti-cancer system called the immune system. It is designed to detect and destroy abnormal cells before they can develop into full-blown cancer. You can weaken your immune system and promote cancer by an unhealthy lifestyle. Here is my anti-cancer programme.
Eat the right foods
Even conservative groups, like the American Cancer Society, recommend a high consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables as a primary anti-cancer strategy. Seven to nine servings per day for men and five to seven servings for women are suggested. A high-fibre diet aiming at 30 grams or more of fibre each day is critical for cancer protection. When it comes to cancer, a more plant-food based diet is preferable to an animal-food based diet.
Soy foods, green tea, garlic, onions, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage have all been shown to have specific cancer-protective properties.
One of the most powerful cancer-promoting food ingredients is sodium nitrate. This is a chemical added to virtually all packaged meat products including hot dogs, peppe-roni, ham and luncheon meat. Its also found in most breakfast meats like bacon and sausages. Other food ingredients suspected of causing cancer include hydrogenated oils, aspartame, saccharin and artificial colours. Highly refined carbohydrates and sugars found in white bread, sweet breakfast foods, donuts, candy bars, cookies, crackers and sweets of all kinds have also been shown to increase your odds of getting cancer.
A common site for tumours is the reproductive system: the breast, the womb, ovaries and the prostate. All these organs are hormone sensitive and research indicates that these cancers are hormone related. Sadly, commercial foods, water, air, plastics and many personal-care skin and hair products contain a vast array of hormone-like chemicals. Avoid these as an important part of cancer prevention.
Avoid tobacco use and minimise alcohol
These are two common carcinogens. Smoking cigarettes causes cancer, along with many other illnesses. The longer you smoke, the more likely you are to get cancer, especially if you are consuming the cancer-causing foods and ingredients as discussed above. Smoking will multiply the carcinogenic effect of everything else in your life. Alcohol in excess also compromises the immune system and increases the risk of several cancers, particularly of the digestive system and the liver.
Get regular sunlight
Natural sunlight is a powerful prevention against cancer. People who get plenty of natural sunlight have a greatly reduced risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer, breast cancer and many other disorders that aren’t cancer related, such as osteoporosis and mental depression. By staying out of the sun, or using sun block and sunscreen every time you are in the sun, you lower your body’s protection from cancer. This is because your body’s production of vitamin D is dependent on sun exposure, and research shows a clear relationship between your blood levels of vitamin D and your risk of being diagnosed with several cancers. Vitamin D is critical to a healthy immune system.
Do regular physical exercise
Exercise helps your body prevent cancer. Body movement stimulates the flow of lymphatic fluid that bathes your cells, and this is important in your immune system’s fight against cancer. If you do not move, you will increase your cancer risk. Aerobic activities like walking, deep breathing and rebounding using a trampoline are particularly useful exercises in this regard.
Learn to manage stress
Chronic stress suppresses the function of your immune system by greatly elevating the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. High cortisol levels powerfully suppress the immune system and may thus promote cancer. Research shows that an individual’s risk of being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness like cancer is often doubled following a major life trauma like a job layoff, loss of a spouse or divorce.
Take antioxidant supplements
Antioxidants are substances that protect the cells of the body from damage by chemicals called free radicals. These free radicals can damage your genes and turn on cancer as well as impair your immune system. The main dietary antioxidants are the ACES – vitamin A, C, E and selenium. There are also many herbs with antioxidant properties like green tea, rosemary, schizandra and pycnogenol. They also assist the body in producing its own cellular antioxidants like glutathione and superoxide dismutase. Supplementing your diet on a daily basis with these antioxidants will also reduce your risk of cancer.
Statistics indicate that one third of the population will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. You are not a helpless victim. Using these strategies will significantly reduce your risk of being afflicted with this terrible disease.
You may email Dr Tony Vendryes at firstname.lastname@example.org or listen to An Ounce of Prevention on POWER 106FM on Fridays at 8 p.m. His new book, ‘An Ounce of Prevention’ is now available.