I am at it again, ranting about cancer and the fact that we continue to “wage war” on this disease but yet, what are we accomplishing?
It’s the time of year when we will once again, Stand Up to Cancer, watching on all networks as celebrities in their designer tee shirts ask us to donate to groundbreaking research to end cancer. Again.
Since its founding in 2008, this organization has raised more than $500 million for cancer research which is said to have brought five new treatments to market (yes, you read right, they say…and I quote…”to market”). As the 10th anniversary approaches and the telethon to end all telethons runs across all networks, let’s see where all this groundbreaking research has gotten us.
And before you comment that I’m a wet blanket, I will say that I completely appreciate the effort and the heart all of these celebs put into the cause, appealing to us to help. I do. I admire all the brilliant scientific minds working against the clock to find a cure (as though big pharma companies will let that happen).
According to the National Cancer Institute, the rates of cancer seem to be dropping by about 1% each year, which is a bit surprising considering all the research, clinical trials and other forms of early detection and treatment options. Survival rates for all cancers of any site in the body hover around 66%. In 2018, there will more than 1.7 million new cases diagnosed and about half of those people will die.
Cancer treatments are brutal. I wish there was a gentler way to say it but there isn’t. Anyone who has had treatments can attest to that. And yes, there are drugs now to mitigate some of the side effects of these disfiguring and toxic treatments, but man, it’s a tough road to walk.
We’re told that early detection is key to survival and that’s true. What makes me sad and frustrated is that as experts see themselves losing the battle to cure cancer, they are instead devising methodologies for us to live with cancer instead of curing it. Wait…what? That’s the best they can offer us?
Brave people fight the good fight against this modern plague every day, from doctors and researchers to patients and their families. They fight for their lives and work to find a cure. I applaud their work.
What are we missing?
In my view, if we really want to stand up to cancer, we have to prevent it. We have to stop waiting for the diagnosis. We must become proactive participants in the fight to prevent this disease. It’s the only way we will find our way out of this.
And how exactly do we prevent cancer? Well, just like treatment options, there’s no guarantee that we can. We live in a world of compromised food, polluted air, water and soil and we live overly stressful lives. But just like choosing the best insurance policy you can afford, taking steps to prevent cancer can prove to be your best insurance yet.
I did a ton of research (with no multi-million dollar grants) to come up with the best tips for preventing cancer. Some of them you will know and maybe even make a part of your lifestyle already.
I can’t believe I still have to say this one, but quitting smoking (or never starting) is the best thing you can do for your health. Within 10 years of quitting, the risk of dying from lung cancer is cut in half. If you don’t smoke, you’re ahead of the game but try to avoid smoke without making yourself nuts since no amount of second-hand smoke is safe.
Get to your ideal weight and stay there
A healthy body weight is one of the most important things you can do to prevent cancer. Not everyone is a natural size 2 but every single one of us knows when we are carrying around more of us that we should be. So find the weight that’s healthiest for you and work to get…and stay there.
Eat well and cook at home
You know this one is the big one for me. Cooking real food and eating at home is your greatest asset in the fight to maintain wellness and prevent disease. Sure, we all love to eat out and vegan junk food is everywhere it seems and it’s no better for our health than conventional junk food. And eating out ensures only one thing: that you will eat more calories, fat, sugar and salt than you might want.
You have to get back to the kitchen and cook whole grains, beans and seasonal vegetables if you want to maintain robust wellness, prevent disease…or regain your health.
The fiber in whole grains has been shown to reduce the risk of digestive cancers. The nutrients in vegetables and fruit turn your body into one giant hazmat suit, warding off disease. And beans? Their protein keeps you big and strong without any saturated fat to slow your roll and increase your odds of cancer.
New research shows a direct link between processed meats and cancer. Studies reveal that chicken can be linked to every single food-borne illness (every single one).
Enough with the animal food already.
You might be thinking that you don’t eat animal food so you’re ok. And while you’re way ahead of the curve here, think about added sugar too. Experts at MD Anderson advise that while refined sugar does not, in fact, “feed” cancer cells, it does aid in suppressing immune function and causes weight gain, both of which increase your risk of developing cancer. Opt for complex carbohydrate sweeteners to feed your sweet tooth.
Get off the couch
Experts tell us to shoot for 30 minutes of daily activity, activity that gets your heart pumping each day to help prevent cancer. I’m not sure that’s enough. 30 minutes of activity out of 24 hours seems like such a tiny drop in the bucket. We need regular, vigorous exercise where you work up a sweat.
Research also shows that too much sitting is like the new smoking and increases our risks of cancer. If you have a job or a life that involves a lot of sitting, take frequent, short breaks from sitting and move around. Our rule is simple: for every hour you sit, walk around or stand or stretch for 10 minutes. You’ll thank me.
I know we live in challenging times and some days you just feel like a stiff drink, but drinking alcohol increases your risk of developing cancer, any type; any amount. If you’re an occasional social drinker, don’t sweat it, but remember the less alcohol you drink, the more you reduce your risk of cancer.
Here comes the sun
This one bums me out. I am always honest with you so I must confess that I am weak in this category. I love feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin. I know better and although I do wear sunscreen (most of the time), here is sage advice we should all heed. Stay in the shade during the peak hours of sunlight; wear protective clothing, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses and apply sunscreen properly and often. And don’t even think of using tanning beds! As the experts say, tanned skin is damaged skin (as much as we might love how it looks).
This is the part where I am supposed to tell you to get screened as we are advised. That, my loves, is a decision only you can make for yourself and your own wellness. If it makes you feel better, do it, but not out of fear. Screenings are meant to diagnose and inform your decisions about your healthcare. Your call.
Conclusion? Lose weight. Eat your whole grains and vegetables. Reduce salt. Cut out fatty animal products and refined carbs. Don’t smoke. Exercise daily. That’s how you prevent cancer. It’s not new news. It doesn’t make for sexy headlines that increase your click rate and likes.
It certainly won’t make an entertaining telethon, but it works.