By Dr. Dana Myatt
7 Simple Ways to Decrease Your Cancer Risk
Modern medical science knows a lot about the causes of cancer — much more, in fact, than we know about its cure. “Carcinogens,” or factors that cause cancer, abound in our environment. Avoiding them is one way to prevent cancer. Other factors are protective, helping shield us from getting cancer.
Here are seven simple steps you can take to greatly reduce your cancer risk.
- Take a hike. Even modest amounts of weekly activity have been associated with decreased risk of breast, colon, prostate, kidney, esophageal and perhaps other types of cancers. So get out those walking shoes and take a brisk walk — or any other form of your favorite activity that gets your blood pumping — for at least 30 minutes, three times a week.
- Spice up your life. Many common spices have proven anti-cancer benefits. Liberal use of herbs and spices, especially turmeric, garlic and onions, cayenne pepper, ginger, caraway, orange and lemon zest (grated orange or lemon peel), basil, rosemary and mint will not only add more flavor to food, but also help keep cancer away.
- Let the sun shine in. Rates of skin cancer (malignant melanoma) are rising 7% per years in the U.S. Yet for thousands of years “B.S.” (before sunscreen), skin cancer was not a major problem. Skin cancers are NOT caused by moderate sun exposure. In fact, the vitamin D created in our bodies in response to sunlight is highly cancer-protective. For those who have trouble getting sufficient sunlight to manufacture a healthy dose of vitamin D (about 12 minutes of sunlight per day), vitamin D supplements appear to be nearly as protective. The recommended supplemental dose is 2,000-3,000IU of vitamin D3 per day.
- Kick butt. That’s right, don’t smoke (or chew) tobacco. Tobacco smoke (cigarettes, cigars, pipes) is associated with a LONG list of cancers, including oral cavity/pharynx, larynx, esophagus, bladder, bowel, stomach, pancreatic, cervical and uterine cancer — oh yes, and lung cancer. (See Smoking: Just the Facts on the Wellness Club website for a complete list of problems caused by exposure to tobacco smoke). Tobacco in any form (smoked, chewed) is a proven risk factor for cancer. Even second-hand smoke appears to increase risk of some cancers. Kick butt while the kickin’ is good.
- Stay “lean and keen.” Maintain a normal weight. Statistics released April 2003 by the American Cancer Society estimate that at least 90,000 cancer deaths annually are attributable to overweight and obesity. Cancers known to be associated with increased body (fat) weight include: breast, prostate, colon, endometrial, and multiple myeloma.
- Don’t over-expose yourself. (Avoid environmental exposure to carcinogens).
Environmental exposure: cancer-causing agents are all around us; most are man-made but some are naturally occurring. Evaluate your surroundings for these known cancer-causing substances:
A.) Radon: a naturally occurring, odorless gas that comes out of the ground and can infiltrate a house through the basement. If you have a basement in your home, inexpensive tests will tell you if your level is above 4 picocuries per liter (the minimum safe level). Correction is as easy as ensuring adequate ventilation. Radon causes lung cancer.
B.) Asbestos: Homes built before 1980 may have asbestos insulation. Either leave it alone or have it removed by a qualified contractor. Asbestos causes lung cancer.
C.) Workplace hazards: If you work with chemicals, including construction materials (paints, thinners, etc.), be sure to wear protective masks, gloves and other clothing. If you are unsure of your exposure, find out what chemicals you are handling and take appropriate precautions.
D.) Water. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: water is a common source of carcinogens and other disease-causing contaminants. Check your water report yearly. If you use city-supplied water, ask for a water report that will be provided for free. If you use well water, have your water tested annually. Go to www.epa.gov/safewater/faq/sco.html to find a local lab for water testing. Read more about healthy water here.
E.) Cosmetics: from shampoo to deodorant to face powder, cosmetics contain a wide array of cancer-causing substances. Even BABY SHAMPOOS and creams contain known carcinogens! Evaluate your cosmetic ingredients at this link: http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/
F.) Minimize “food hazards,” including antibiotics and hormones in meat and dairy (organic is preferred). “Buy organic” for those fruits and vegetables on “The Dirty Dozen” list (produce that is highest in insecticides, herbicides and other carcinogenic chemicals). Review THE DIRTY DOZEN fruits and vegetables here: http://www.foodnews.org
Eat “Super Foods.” Some foods are healthy, but others are super-healthy. Vegetables including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, onion and garlic contain potent anti-cancer substances. Pacific (wild) salmon and flax seed (and oil) are high in Omega-3 fatty acids. Flax seed also contains an anti-cancer form of fiber called lignin. Concentrated tomato products are high in lycopene, a protective carotene. Add these foods to your daily “must have” list of cancer prevention foods.
Estimates suggest that 70-90% of all cancers are preventable by making these few lifestyle changes and taking simple precautions.
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Sunshine (vit D)
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