February 23, 2011

Five Strategies for Cancer Prevention. ~Jeannine Walston

Impacting human lives, the numbers are overwhelming. Current statistics indicate that approximately one in two American women and men will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. That could be you or someone you love dearly. Maybe it already is.

Lots of buzz exists about cancer prevention. What can be done to avoid the big “C”? Specific strategies to prevent cancer do not offer guarantees, but they reduce cancer risk.

Instead of raising the fear factor to avoid cancer, a more empowering, inspiring focus is to incorporate lifestyle strategies to feel better and live more fully. Since these strategies may reduce cancer rates by at least half, and support improved survival in cancer patients, give yourself the gift to follow these steps toward optimal wellness.

1. Diet

Understanding what to eat and what not to eat is essential to reduce cancer risk. Your diet directly impacts your potential for cancer. Some foods promote cancer cell growth and others kill cancer cells. Good nutrition supports your entire body and even positively influences your genes.

What is the good stuff? Some of the best foods to reduce cancer risk include daily consumption of organic vegetables, fruits, garlic, onions, herbs and spices, oils, nuts, seeds, whole grains, mushrooms, and even fish without heavy metals. Improving your diet will help you thrive with the support of healthy, anti-cancer foods.

While adding nutritious tasty bites, as you learn about diet and cancer make sure that you eliminate the bad stuff. Foods to avoid because they are associated with health problems such as cancer include trans fats, saturated fats, omega-6 fatty acids, sugars, and animal meats.

2. Eliminate Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is strongly associated with cancer and other diseases. How does this work? People can experience both acute and chronic inflammation. Acute inflammation forms to heal swelling, irritation, redness, and pain when there is an injury such as a bruise or cut. The damaged area attracts immune cells producing inflammatory chemicals to kill toxins and stimulate repair. The inflammatory chemical production usually ceases when the tissue is restored.

Sometimes the inflammatory response does not stop when the body has the perception of an ongoing threat. The continued inflammatory panic creates a hostile environment. A chronic state of inflammation causes a confused and ultimately harmful immune response. The result is an environment that supports initiation and fuels cancer.

What supports chronic inflammation in the body? Inflammatory offenders include unhealthy foods, not enough sleep, too much weight, stress, smoking, alcohol, pollution, and exposures to other toxins. These lifestyle stressors should be avoided.

What reduces inflammation? Healthy foods, certain supplements, relaxation, exercise, body-mind-spirit balance, avoidance of environmental toxins, and other strategies eliminate inflammation associated with health problems.

While high inflammatory levels increase cancer risk and poorer cancer prognosis, low inflammatory levels reduce cancer risk and improve survival in cancer patients. Consider testing inflammation in your body. Talk to a qualified health care provider and learn about measurements such as high sensitivity C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood that rises in response to inflammation. Learn more about inflammation and cancer to turn down the heat and extinguish the fire.

3. Sleep

Sleep is the body’s natural resting state for body, mind, and spirit. Necessary to rejuvenate and function optimally, quality sleep is critical to major functions for repairing and restoring health.

Abnormal sleep creates havoc instead of harmony. A lack of quality sleep disrupts the circadian rhythms that control the body’s biological clock, biorhythms, and melatonin production. These rhythms control metabolism and cellular functions within 24-hour activity patterns. Ongoing, abnormal sleep patterns are associated with health problems such as cancer.

What constitutes optimal sleep? Research suggests that healthy adults need between 7 and 8 hours of quality sleep nightly. Some people need more. Tune into what you need and incorporate strategies to support quality sleep. Use low light during hours before bedtime, transition into sleep without electronics and intense cognitive activity, go to bed when you naturally want to, and sleep in complete darkness to support melatonin production and your biorhythms.

4. Exercise

Along with rest, the body is born to move. Without movement, people are stiff and stuck not taking steps toward their full potential. Movement can raise energy levels and provide many physical benefits, including reduced cancer risk. Studies indicate that exercise helps prevent obesity that is a major cancer risk factor, provides health benefits against chronic diseases associated with cancer, and produces many benefits for cancer patients.

How much do you exercise? Consider moderate-intensity physical activities for at least 30 minutes on 5 or more days weekly or vigorous-intensity physical activities 3 or more days weekly for at least 20 minutes. If you use weights, add 8 to 10 strength-training exercises with repetitions twice weekly. Incorporate practices where you thrive such as dancing, yoga, hiking, and whatever other forms of movement that you love.

5. Clean Environment

With nearly 80,000 chemicals on the market today considered potential environmental carcinogens, steps must be taken to safeguard against contaminants. In 2010, the U.S. President’s Cancer Panel published a report, Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now, emphasizing failed attention and regulations to environmental contaminants as well as massive neglect for addressing cancer prevention and cancer control through environmental causes of cancer.

Now is the time to reduce exposures to toxins. Create a healthier environment using non-toxic products for personal care, household cleaning, water and air purification, as well as protection against other everyday exposures. Make your environment clean and green.

Although cancer prevention is not a guarantee, incorporating these lifestyle strategies reduces your cancer risk. These steps and priorities support your vitality. Choose self-care. Embrace change in areas of your life that need improvements. What will you do right now for yourself?


Jeannine Walston is co-founder and Executive Director of EmbodiWorks, a non-profit organization focused on creating a better world by providing definitive, reliable educational resources and supporting advocacy focused on integrative cancer care to reduce cancer risk and improve cancer related survival, quality of life, and whole person health care. She has extensive experience in cancer education and advocacy, health care policy, and both conventional and integrative cancer care through work in the U.S. Congress, government agencies, cancer non-profit organizations, and health care practices.

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