Strategies to Prevent Cancer

According to the World Health Organization, more than 11 million people are diagnosed with cancer every year. It is estimated that there will be 16 million new cases every year by 2020. In the US, cancer has surpassed heart disease as the leading cause of death for those 85 years of age and under, reports the US National Center for Health Statistics.

The World Cancer Research Foundation (WCRF) recommends that the single most important lifestyle behavior influencing the onset of cancer is diet. WCRF reports that changes in diet could prevent up to 50% of all breast cancer cases, up to 75% of stomach cancer cases, and up to 75% of colorectal cancer cases. Continuing, the WCRF emphasizes that eating at least five portions of vegetables and fruits each day could, in itself, reduce cancer rates by 20%. WCRF also reports that eating healthily, plus staying physically active and maintaining a healthy weight, could cut cancer risk by 30-40%.

Along with dietary considerations, other preventive measures may indeed delay the onset of cancer. In this article, we present potential preventive strategies for consideration.

Butt Out. According to the US National Cancer Institute, cigarette smoke contains about 4,000 chemicals including over 60 carcinogens (cancer-causing agents). In addition, many of these substances, such as carbon monoxide, tar, arsenic, and lead, are poisonous and toxic to the human body. Tobacco is the leading preventable cause of cancer.

Meats and Sweets Are Not Healthy Treats. Dietary factors, second only to tobacco as a preventable cause of cancer, account for about 30% of all cancers in Western countries and approximately 20% in developing countries. Announcing findings in 2005 of its 20-year-long study tracking 150,000 Americans, the American Cancer Society found that men and women who ate the most amounts of red meat (as compared to those who ate more poultry, fish, and non-meats) had a 53% higher risk of distal colon cancer. Also in 2005, a study by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health (USA), in which 1 million Koreans were tracked for 10 years, reported that high sugar consumption could be a risk factor in developing several types of cancer. These researchers suggest that glucose intolerance may be one way that obesity increases cancer risk and that rising obesity rates may increase future cancer rates.

Bean-Nutty to Fight Cancer. A compound found in everyday foods can slow the development of cancerous tumors. A 2005 study conducted by scientists at the University College of London’s Sackler Institute (United Kingdom) found that inositol pentakisphosphate can inhibit an enzyme that is necessary for tumors to grow. Each day, try to eat foods rich in inositol pentakisphosphate: 1 cup (226 gm) of beans (such as lentils and peas), 1/2 cup (113 gm) of nuts (almonds, and hazelnuts [filberts] are also good sources of Vitamin E – see Tip 31) and 6 ounces (170 gm) of whole-wheat cereals (for the wheat bran).

Prevent Prostate Problems. Prostate cancer is a major cause of death among men. It has claimed the lives of 56,000 European men (1998), along with 29,900 American men (2004). To-date, there have been no obvious preventive strategies, however in 2005 scientists from the Northern California Cancer Center (USA) proposed that Vitamin D may cut prostate cancer risk. The researchers found that in men with certain gene variants, high sun exposure reduced prostate cancer risk by as much as 65%. Previous research has shown that the prostate uses Vitamin D, which the body manufactures from exposure to sunlight, to promote the normal growth of prostate cells and to inhibit the invasiveness and spread of prostate cancer cells to other parts of the body. The scientists propose that men may benefit by increasing Vitamin D intake from diet and supplements (whereas excessive exposure to sunlight may result with the negative effect of sun-induced skin cancer). Foods rich in Vitamin D include egg yolks, liver, and cod liver oil, and margarine and cereals are often fortified with this nutrient as well.

Women Be Wary. While the Pap Smear is a test that doctors routinely conduct to check women for cervical cancer, the Pap may not find abnormal cells in the cervix until cancer already has developed. A new test, the human papilloma virus (HPV) test, detects elevated levels of the infectious pathogen that is the cause of nearly all cases of cervical cancer. HPV is harbored by an estimated 80% of sexually active adults, but the majority of infections clear up without incident. If you are younger than 30, experts now recommended that you have the HPV test if your Pap Smear test is unclear. If you are 30 or older, experts recommend you have the HPV test at the same time as your Pap test. A new vaccine for cervical cancer is now available. The vaccine targets HPV types 16 and 18, thought to cause 70% of cervical cancers, and HPV types 6 and 11, associated with 90% of genital warts cases.

In conclusion we cite the Report from the World Cancer Research Foundation: “The burden of preventable suffering and death from cancer throughout the world is huge. Some of the cancers now most common in Europe, North America and Australasia are known to be largely preventable. Changes in society worldwide are accelerating and are liable, if unchecked, to increase the burden of cancer, most of all in Africa, Latin America and Asia. It is now apparent that, although genetic predisposition varies, the key factors determining whether or not people develop cancer are environmental. The two most important ways to reduce cancer risk are the avoidance of cancer-causing agents, of which tobacco is by far the most lethal, but which also include biological agents, viruses and bacteria, and the habitual consumption of diets high in those foods and drinks that protect against cancer.”

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