The best cancer prevention technique uses equal parts awareness and action. Many believe if you eat loads of veggies, workout often and avoid smoking, you should be safe. Well, while exercise and a balanced diet are known to improve your health, there are other activities and practices you can incorporate into your life to decrease your risk.
No one's immune to cancer, not even the young and fit, and there are many ways those of us who try diligently to prevent cancer, fall short. For instance, you may not think twice about going for a run without wearing sunscreen or having a couple of drinks at night, however these are both risk factors. Obesity, chemicals, cell phone use and too much sun exposure could all be to blame. Don't panic, just be proactive. Here's how to protect yourself.
Fight Type 2 Diabetes
This is a dangerous risk factor when it comes to pancreatic cancer, and often referred to as a silent killer. For many physicians, this is the most feared cancer because it is often so difficult to detect until it gets to an advanced stage. This link exists because type 2 diabetes is associated with increased inulin production, and inulin causes the growth of cells and the proliferation of blood vessels in the pancreas. This increase of blood flow creates a hospitable environment for tumor formation. Diabetes is also linked to liver, uterine and bladder cancer.
Stabilize Your Weight
Weight that goes up and down isn't just a problem when it comes to fitting intoyour clothes. Having extra fat creates a cocktail of hormones that can turn on the growth of cells, including those that are cancerous, states Breastcancer.org. Estrogen, cortisol and insulin growth factor are just some of the culprits. Extra fat also produces damaging chemicals that cause cell inflammation and wear down your immune system, and fat buildup around and inside your abdomen is particularly unhealthy.
A recent study in BMJ Open found that just going up one skirt size every 10 years starting at age 25 increases the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer by 33%. Fluctuating weight also seems to triple endometrial cancer risk, so to end the flucuations, eat foods that keep your blood sugar level low and even. Sugar spikes occur after eating sugary and high-carb foods, and these peaks trigger the release of insulin, and makes you crave more sugar. It's much better to eat lean meat, fish, poultry, vegetables and whole fruit.
Eat to Starve Cancer
What you put on your plate can alter the way your genes behave and actually lower your risk for cancer, says William Li, M.D., the president and medical director of the Angiogenesis Foundation in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This is because cancerous tumors need blood vessels in order to grow. However, certain "antiangiogenic" foods can block those unwanted blood vessels, withholding oxygen and nutrients from tumors and actually starving them to death. When choosing ingredients for your meals, be sure to pick the items that are the richest in cancer-fighting nutrients.
You can spot the cancer fighters at a salad bar, and build yourself some powerful protection with certain ingredients. Start with leafy greens, as they contain a hefty amount of the B vitamin folate, which has been shown to reduce one's chances of getting colorectal, ovarian, and breast cancers. In one study, researchers at Vanderbilt University found that women who ate the mostly dark greens were among the least likely to get breast cancer. Apparently, folate can halt changes in DNA that trigger runaway cell growth, the main characteristic of cancer.
Avoid or Limit Sugar
The statement that sugar feeds cancer is often debated, since all cells, including healthy cells, use glucose to grow. However it appears that cancer cells use sugar more efficiently, and in greater quantities, than healthy cells.
The idea that sugar feeds cancer is often attributed to Otto Warburg, a German researcher who received the Nobel Prize in 1931 for his discovery that cancer cells have a different energy metabolism than healthy cells. Warburg believed that cancer cells learn to thrive by gleaning energy from the fermentation of glucose, or sugar.
Don Ayer, Ph.D., a Huntsman Cancer Institute investigator and professor in the Department of Oncological Sciences at the University of Utah, told Science Daily:
"It's been known since 1923 that tumor cells use a lot more glucose than normal cells. Our research helps show how this process takes place, and how it might be stopped to control tumor growth.”6In studies conducted by Ayer and colleagues, it was found that both healthy and cancerous cells use glucose and glutamine (an amino acid) interdependently for growth. But by blocking the availability of glutamine, the entire cellular process “short circuits” and prevents glucose from doing its work, thus stopping the growth of tumor cells, according to the study.
Harvard Medical School researchers also supported Warburg’s findings that growing tumor cells can crowd out the oxygen-carrying blood vessels needed for most cells to survive. In turn, some cancer cells learn to survive without oxygen, using the glycolytic pathway instead.
Research studies in the last few years have shown that people with the highest levels of blood glucose develop more cancers, and people with cancer, who also have the highest blood levels of glucose, survive least. Cancer cells need glucose, and in fact they can make it themselves, just not enough to grow, but enough to survive. They need to be fed glucose to grow.
Include Garlic Frequently
Garlic is a wonder food, that can help stave off cancer. To preserve the potential cancer-fighting power of garlic, chop it up and let it sit a bit, roughly 10 minutes. Research suggests that heating garlic can block 90% of the activity of alliinase, the enzyme that helps to form a cancer-fighting compound. Alliinase is activated when the cloves are crushed or cut, but if cut garlic cools its heels for 5 to 10 minutes before heating, enough compounds are formed to survive cooking.
Use Plenty Red Fruits & Vegetables
Red fruits like watermelon, tomato, and pink grapefruit are loaded with lycopene, a substance that has been proven to be a potent cancer fighter. It seems that heating these fruits makes the lycopene easier for the body to use, which explains why men who eat a lot of ketchup, pizza and spaghetti sauce are far less likely to get prostate cancer.
Avoid Processed Meats
Diets high in processed meats contain preservatives like nitrates, which act like carcinogens in your body and damage healthy DNA. This damaged DNA is a breeding ground for cancer cells. Studies show that eating as little as 1-3 slices of processed meat a day can also increase your risk of esophageal, stomach and colon cancer. Be vigilant of food labels, and pass on processed meats that have sodium nitrate or nitrites on the label.
Hot Dogs are particularly bad. You can smother them in all the ketchup you want, but you can't negate a hot dog's negatives. One study of 190,545 people found that eating a hot dog daily can boost your risk of pancreatic cancer, which is nearly always fatal, by 67%.
Ditch Refined Carbs
The problem foods are mostly white, such as white bread, pasta, flour, potatoes, and sugary pastries. Low-glycemic-load foods come with fiber. A Harvard Medical School study involving 38,000 women found if you eat a lot of items having a high glycemic load, (foods that raise blood sugar quickly) you run a higher risk of colorectal cancer than people who eat low-glycemic-load foods.
Crunch On Carrots
In a study from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, women who ate just five servings of four raw carrot sticks a week had a 54% decrease in their risk of getting ovarian cancer, compared with women who ate them less than once a month. Carrots may also reduce your risk of kidney cancer.
Binge On Beans
Women who ate beans at least twice a week were 24% less likely to develop breast cancer than those who ate them less often, reported Harvard School of Public Health researchers, who analyzed data from 90,630 people. Legumes may lessen risk of breast cancer, thanks to their ability to suppress the production of enzymes that encourage tumor growth.
Go Wild With Salmon
A University of Arizona study found that when B6-rich foods like salmon are eaten with folate-filled foods like dark leafy greens, they can help reduce the recurrence of colorectal adenomas, that are a precursor to colorectal cancer, by 39%. Salmon may also help shield regular eaters from skin cancer.
Mixing Oil & Vinegar
Mixing your favorite vinegar with extra virgin olive oil can also help prevent breast cancer. Scientists from Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine found that oleic acid in olive oil dramatically cuts the levels of the cancer gene Her-2/neu, associated with highly aggressive breast tumors with poor prognosis.
Watch For a Calcium Deficiency
This poses a threat when it comes to colon cancer. Fewer than 15% of women over 40 get the calcium they need. Calcium works to stop the growth of cancer cells and detoxifies the system, preventing these outside invaders from wreaking havoc in the colon, where they can promote cancer. When a calcium deficiency is present, cancer cells have the chance to grow large and more threatening. To ensure that you are getting enough calcium, it is recommended to take a daily mix of 600 mg of calcium, 400 mg of magnesium and 1000 IU of vitamin D. Natural sources of vitamin D include dairy, spinach and kale.
Get More Vitamin D
People who get the most vitamin D, which lies dormant in skin until ultraviolet rays activate it, may protect themselves from a variety of cancers, including non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, breast, and colon. Ironically, it even improves survival rates of melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. But 10 to 15 minutes a few days a week is all it takes to benefit. If you're out any longer than that, put on sunscreen. If you go the supplement route, aim for 400 IU of vitamin D a day.)
Boost Broccoli Intake
Many studies have shown that broccoli helps stave off ovarian, stomach, lung, bladder, and colorectal cancers. And steaming it for three to four minutes enhances the power of the cancer-fighting compound sulforaphane, which has been shown to halt the growth of breast cancer cells. Microwaving doesn't do the trick, as it strips out most antioxidants. Get more protection by sprinkling a handful of selenium-rich sunflower seeds, nuts, or mushrooms on your greens. Researchers are discovering that sulforaphane is about 13X more potent when combined with the mineral selenium.
Become a "Flexitarian"
You don’t have to be vegetarian to love vegetarian food. “Flexitarian” is a term recently coined to describe those who eat a mostly vegetarian diet, but occasionally eat meat. Many people who call themselves "flexitarian" or "semi-vegetarian" limit meat for health or environmental reasons, and only eat free-range or organic animals and animal products.
Middle-aged people who ate a lot of protein, that particularly comes from animals, have 4X the cancer death rate over an 18-year period as those who followed a more plant-based, low-protein diet, according to a University of Southern California study.
Protein appears to raise levels of an insulin-like growth factor known as IGF-1, which encourages the development of cancer cells," says study author Morgan Levine, Ph.D.
There are plenty of plant sources of protein, like beans and legumes, tofu, seeds and nuts, and many of those foods are antiangiogenic too.
Eat More Citrus Fruits
These fruits are like eating sunscreen, but they taste better. Limonene which is a compound that gives oranges, lemons, and limes their scent, and a University of Arizona study of 400 people found they are linked to a 34% reduction in skin cancer.
Scientists believe drinking the correct amounts of water flushes possible cancer-causing particles from your system. Chronic dehydration is 100% preventable and is estimated to affect more than 70% of the United States population. Our bodies consist of two-thirds water, so not getting enough water can lead to fatigue, weight gain, respiratory issues, high blood pressure and cholesterol, digestion trouble, bladder and kidney distress, skin disorders and premature aging. Chronic dehydration also makes the body sluggish and inefficient. Women should drink no less than 70 ounces daily and men should drink no less than 90 ounces daily.
Drink Caffeinated Coffee
Your daily cup of coffee can cut your risk for different types of cancers, as the theory here is that caffeine is a catalyst in the “suicide” of cancer cells. Studies have found that drinking 2 cups a day can cut your risk for colon cancer by 25%, while 3 cups can prevent certain types of breast cancer, 4 cups reduce the risk of head and neck cancer by 39%, 5 cups cut your brain cancer risk by 40%, and for men, 6 cups the risk of prostate cancer by 60%. But remember, drink coffee in moderation because caffeine can negatively affect people with other health conditions. If you have high blood pressure, a rapid heart rate, or other heart-related issues, please talk to your doctor about how much caffeine is safe for you. Green Tea and other teas have also been shown to be helpful in preventing brain cancer, breast cancer, oral cancer and various other forms of cancer
Watch Your Cooking Methods
Cooking your food over an open flame is a great way to cut calories, unfortunately, it can also raise your cancer risk. The grill's high temps can trigger substances in muscle proteins to form cancer-causing compounds called hetero-cyclic amines, or HCAs. But avoiding this potential hazard is possible, as keep gas jets low, and waiting until the charcoal turns into glowing embers before you start cooking will help.
Protect yourself even more by lacing your burgers with rosemary and other antioxidant-rich herbs such as basil, oregano, or thyme. A Kansas State University study found that this helps reduce the amount of some HCAs in meat.
Fight Gum Disease
Periodontitis is an issue that causes inflammation and infection around the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth. This is a cancer risk in and of itself, because each millimeter of bone loss due to chronic periodontitis is associated with a 4X greater risk of head and neck cancer. Female hormones make women over 40 more susceptible to bone loss. Additionally, when a person suffers from periodontits, their saliva contains higher levels of a protein called VEGF, which spurs the growth of blood vessels that feed cancer cells. Brush and floss daily, as oral hygiene contributes to your overall health.
Check For Dense Breasts
Women who have dense breasts are at an increased risk for breast cancer. Regular mammograms have trouble seeing through denser breast tissue, but it is said that digital mammography, in combination with an ultrasound or MRI, can help achieve more accurate results. Most can not tell on their own whether they have dense breasts, so a mammography would be the only way to know. Ask your doctor to check if you have dense breasts, as a monthly breast self-exam is critical, as are regular screenings.
Know Your Moles
Start giving yourself regular skin checks using the "ABCDE method" that stands for: asymmetry, border irregularity, color, diameter, evolution, to evaluate spots and moles. Self-exams however, only ID only about 80% of melanomas, so regular dermatologist visits are also important. Melanomas can also come in shades other than black or brown, so don't overlook a red or flesh colored lesion that resembles a wart or a persistent bug bite, as it could be skin cancer. And beware of using skin cancer smartphone apps for your self-checks. A study from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center found 3 in 4 apps tested misdiagnosed 30% or more of melanomas as "unconcerning." When in doubt, have your dermatologist check it out, especially if it's a new bump bigger than a pencil eraser.
Adding regular activity into your daily routine is health smart, as you will sweat out those toxins! According to a Canadian study, women who exercise at least 30 minutes every day decrease ovarian cancer risk by 30%! Exercise also causes the digestive system to work more efficiently and remove waste from the body faster.
According to the American Cancer Society, obesity is directly linked to 20% of female cancer deaths and 14% of male cancer deaths, but losing as little as 10 pounds can lower your cancer risk. On days you can't squeeze in a full workout session, incorporate spurts of activity such as running up and down the stairs or 10 quick burpees into your schedule to help you build toward the American Cancer Society's recommended 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. FYI, if you stick with any exercise program for 2-4 weeks, your brain considers it a habit.
Lung cancer is well known as one of the main hazards of smoking, however, everything the smoke passes on its way to the lungs can also turn cancerous such as the mouth, larynx, and esophagus. Smokers are also encouraging stomach, liver, prostate, colorectal, cervical, and breast cancers as well. Share that news with the people who puff around you, because exposure to someone else's smoke can cause lung cancer, and it may boost your chances of cervical cancer by 40%.
Over 50? Schedule A Colonoscopy
Colonoscopies are about as popular as root canals, but if you're 50 or older, get one. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Don't think you're off the hook because you got a digital fecal occult blood test at your last checkup: Research by the Veterans Affairs Cooperative Study found that the test missed 95% of the cases.
Reduce Contaminants At Home
Thousands of chemicals hide out in everything from the food you eat to the moisturizer you put on your face day in and day out. Just because these chemicals are allowed in the products you apply to your skin every morning and evening and the treatments you feed your lawn doesn't mean they're safe. The sad truth? Most have never been tested for long-term health impacts. Protect yourself by eating organic to avoid chemical pesticide residues and potentially dangerous food additives. You can also practice organic lawn care, and use safer cleaning products.
The majority of canned foods and drinks are a problem because they are sold in cans lined with bisphenol A, or BPA, that is also in thermal cash-register receipts and in some plastic containers, including water bottles made from No. 7 plastic. Despite numerous studies showing a link between bisphenol A and cancer, BPA is still in many U.S. products. Protect yourself by choosing fresh or frozen food whenever possible, use glass, ceramic, or food-grade stainless steel food and drink containers instead of plastic, and say no to trivial cash-register receipts. Be wary of products claiming to "BPA-free," too, as a recent study found bisphenol-S, a common replacement, may be just as harmful as BPA.
Filter Your Tap Water
A new study has determined that home-filtered tap water is safer than bottled water, as bottlers are not required to disclose the content or source of their water and may be contaminated with carcinogenic chemicals. Filtering your own tap water reduces exposure to carcinogens linked to bladder and stomach cancer.
Phase Out Parabens
Studies have found traces of this hormone-disrupting chemical in breast tumors. Because parabens have estrogen like properties, there's a chance the chemicals could stimulate the growth of hormone-related cancers. Check your personal care products, and if you find anything with the word "paraben" on the ingredients list, the item should be avoided.
Open Your Windows
According to the EPA, air in most homes is up to 5X more contaminated than outdoor air. Opening your windows for 15 minutes a day can help to filter out the contaminants that may be present in your home, including radon, a leading cause of lung cancer, or formaldehyde, an air pollutant linked to leukemia.
Be Smart About Radiation
Depending on where it's done on the body, a CT scan could be equivalent to 100 to 800 chest X-rays, potentially increasing cancer risk. While the radiation risk from imaging technology to any given individual is small, the cumulative impact is not, as the 70 million CT scans performed in 2007 can be expected to cause some 15,000 to 45,000 new cancers, according to a calculation inArchives of Internal Medicine. Make informed decisions. Ask your doctor why a medical imaging test is ordered, and if it's really necessary. Keep track of how many scans and X-rays you've had, and ask whether an alternative test that doesn't use radiation, such as an MRI or a sonogram, would be appropriate.
Limit Cellphone Use
Cellphones use radiofrequency waves, a form of electromagnetism that has been classified as 'possibly carcinogenic to humans' by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Whether cellphones cause brain cancer or not will likely take years of research, but it's probably in your best interest to play it safe in the meantime. Keep your phone away from your head by using speakerphone or texting instead of calling. You can also look for a phone with a lower specific absorption rate (SAR), which measures the level of radiofrequency energy it emits. Check cellphone SAR levels on CNET. Also women should not store there cellphones in their bras, as this has been shown to cause breast cancer.