Estimates are that over 14 million people worldwide develop one of over 100 different forms of cancer each year. There are about 8 million deaths from cancer each year. Most of us know family or friends who have developed cancer at some point in their life. The worldwide economic impact of cancer has been estimated at over $1.5 trillion dollars each year. So, what can we do to reduce our chances of getting cancer?
Studies have concluded that as much as 22% of all cancers are related to the use of tobacco in various forms. So, the first rule in avoiding cancer is DO NOT USE TOBACCO in any form. Other factors to reduce the risk of developing cancer include eating a healthy diet (plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables), being physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting adequate sleep on a consistent basis.
For help quitting smoking, see the American Cancer Association’s online Guide to Quitting Smoking.
Eating to Prevent Cancer
Generally speaking, eating healthy to avoid cancer includes plenty of fresh fruits & vegetables, fatty fish, consuming meat in moderation, and avoiding fried foods and brunt/charred meats. In addition, many foods, herbs, and spices contain antioxidants, phytochemicals, bioflavonoids, and other anti-cancer compounds that may help reduce the risk of developing cancer. Here is a partial list of anti-cancer foods:
Cruciferous vegetables and leafy greens – broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, radishes, rutabagas, kohlrabi, kale, turnip greens & roots, mustard greens, collard greens, swiss chard, spinach, and watercress – contain high amounts of antioxidants and phytochemicals, including glucosinolates, thought to prevent or inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
Berries and grapes – strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and red/purple grapes (their bioflavonoids are concentrated in the skins, which give them their color – white, green, or yellow grapes have much less of these compounds).
Citrus fruits – oranges, tangerines, grapefruits, lemons, and limes – are high in vitamins, bioflavonoids, and other phytochemicals that guard against cancer.
Bright orange/yellow foods – oranges, tangerines, summer squash, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and carrots are high in carotenoids (alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin, cryptoxanthin). Carotenoids are “essential nutrients for immune functioning; detoxification; liver health; and fighting cancers of the skin, eyes and organs” according to Dr. Josh Axe.
Teas – all teas (black, green, white, oolong) contain antioxidants called catechins, which may inhibit cancer cells. Avoid adding sugar to your tea.
Fatty fishes (includes salmon, tuna, trout, herring, sardines, and mackerel) should be consumed 2 – 4 times a week for their omega-3s.
High fiber foods, such as legumes (beans, peas, peanuts) and whole grains, have been shown in various studies to reduce the risk of certain cancers.
Tips to add more fiber to your diet: replace white rice with brown rice or wild rice, replace white bread with whole grain bread, replace white potatoes with sweet potatoes, replace potato chips with popcorn, replace regular cereals with 100% whole grain cereals or oatmeal, and when consuming fruits such as apples, plums, or pears, be sure to eat the skins.
Other foods, herbs, spices: Asian mushrooms, tomatoes, celery, parsley, basil, turmeric, curcumin, garlic, onions, leeks, sweet potatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe, fennel, cumin, ginger, oregano, cayenne peppers, chilli peppers, saffron, cinnamon, and avocados, are all highly nutritious and contain anti-cancer compounds.
Important tip: Dr. K Medhi (Oncologist) recommends that cancer-patients do not use turmeric or curcumin supplements without consulting with their doctor, as these supplements may interact negatively with certain cancer medications.
Mushrooms for Cancer Prevention
(The following information on mushrooms is a Health Tip from Dr. Andrew Weil.)
There are many ways to help lower your risk of cancer; one is to incorporate medicinal mushrooms into your diet and health regime. The four fungi below are great choices to add to your meals, or to take in supplement form as cancer-preventive measures:
- Maitake (Grifola frondosa). This delicious mushroom provides anti-cancer, anti-viral and immune-enhancing properties, and may also reduce blood pressure and help regulate blood sugar. Find it dried or fresh in Japanese markets, gourmet stores or upscale supermarkets.
- Shiitake (Lentinula edodes). The shiitake has been found to have immune modulating, anti-viral and cholesterol-reducing properties. Certain extracts of shiitake mushrooms are used in Japan as adjunctive therapy to strengthen the immunity of cancer patients during chemotherapy and radiation. Find it – fresh or dried – in grocery stores and Asian markets.
- Agaricus (Agaricus blazei). This medicinal mushroom has anti-tumor and anti-viral activity, and is widely used by cancer patients in Japan and Brazil. You can get it as a culture or in extract form from Fungi Perfecti: visit www.fungi.com.
- Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum). Too woody and bitter to eat, reishi mushrooms are available in tea bags, capsules and liquid extracts. Animal studies have shown that reishi improves immune function and inhibits the growth of some malignant tumors. It also acts as a natural anti-inflammatory agent.
Maintain a healthy weight/body mass index. Being overweight does increase an individuals risk of cancer (as well as Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and a variety of other medical conditions). No amount of “positive body image” will change that. Being overweight is unhealthy. Discuss with your doctor what is the optimum healthy weight/body mass index for you.
Be physically active. The modern sedentary lifestyle, with most of our time sitting sitting (at work, commuting, in front of a TV or computer) is extremely unhealthy. Lack of physical activity is a contributing factor with many cancers. You don’t have to become a professional athlete, but do become more active. Dr. Weil recommends walking 45-minutes a day, five days a week. If you can’t do that at first, start with what you can and slowly work your way up to that goal. Also, if your work requires you to sit at a computer all day, take frequent breaks to stand up, stretch, walk around the office, go to the bathroom, etc.
Get adequate sleep. A long-term lack of adequate sleep compromises your immune system and plays a role in developing high blood pressure, heart disease, type II diabetes, and even several forms of cancer. Getting enough sleep on a consistent basis really is a must for your health. Think a minimum of seven hours of sleep every night. You may be able to “get by” with less, but you are harming your body’s ability to fight cancer and other diseases.
Drink plenty of water. Staying well-hydrated helps your body cleanse itself of toxins and helps your immune system function efficiently.
NOTE: Tim Gamble is not a doctor or other medical professional. Information provided in this article is not meant to diagnose or treat anyone, but rather is intended only as “food for thought” and general advice for healthy living. If you suspect you may have cancer, please consult with a medical doctor as soon as possible.
Foods that Harm, Foods that Heal (Book)
8 Indian Spices That Prevent Cancer (article in the India Times)
Top 12 Cancer-Fighting Foods (article by Dr. Josh Axe)
Dr. Andrew Weil (Website)
American Cancer Society (Website)