In Canada, 171,000 new cases were diagnosed in 2009, according to the Canadian Cancer Society, and, according to the American Cancer Society, 562,340 people died of cancer in the U.S. in 2006. With statistics like those, chances are, you or someone you love has been in for the fight of his or her life.
The point of all these numbers isn’t to scare you, though. In fact, there’s actually some good news about cancer floating around out there. According to cancer survivor and nutritionist Conner Middelmann Whitney, 30% of the cancers in the West could be prevented by proper nutrition, exercise and body weight control and another 30% could be prevented by not smoking.
While many people feel like cancer is waiting around to attack them at any time (and, let’s face it, for some people, it is) for a good many of us, the things we do — and eat — in our daily lives can keep us from ever getting the “big C.” Furthermore, whether we are fighting for our lives or cancer survivors, keeping away from the Marlboro man and tweaking our lifestyles can keep us cancer free in the future.
While there are certainly those out there who dispute each of these ideas, here are a few “rules” that can help you and your family prevent cancer from coming in the first place, or, if you’re a survivor, from coming back again:
- Sugar Feeds Cancer: If you’ve read my blogs about sugar, you know I’m not a big fan of the refined stuff and its health consequences. Neither is Patrick Quillin, PHD, RD, CNS. Quillin sites multiple studies that show that in mice and in humans, the more sugar consumed, the higher the risk for cancer. So save the Hershey’s Bars for an occasional treat.
- Eat Whole Grains: According to Lucy Burney, author of Superfoods for Kids, the fiber in the wholegrains “helps to balance blood glucose levels and to carry toxins and carcinogens out of the body.”
- Go Organic: It might cost you a little bit more, but going organic is a crucial step in any cancer battle. Pesticides are carcinogens. Period. While I would always recommend going as organic as your budget allows, if you are going to eat meat, dairy products and eggs, it’s especially important to go organic in those areas.
- The ideas of bioaccumulation and biomagnification teach us that when a pesticide goes from the environment to the first layer of the food chain (i.e. grass to cow) the effects of it multiply. When it goes to the next link in the food chain (i.e. cow to human) they multiply again. In short, while the pesticides in that grass might not have been so bad, by the time they get to you, you can have some major poison on your hands (and in your body).
- Maintain a Healthy Weight: The American Cancer Society reports that excess weight leads to 90,000 unnecessary cancer deaths every year. That’s 20% of the cancer deaths in women and 14% in men in the U.S. And what’s frightening is that only 1% of the American public, when polled, even realized that weight and cancer could be linked.
Long story short, the bad news is that there will always be people out there who get cancer, even when they do all the right things. The good news, though, is that, for a good many of us, the choices we make can keep us strong, healthy and cancer free.