NOTE: All blog postings on the AFWC website are intended for purely educational purposes and not as personalized medical advice. We advise you to speak with a healthcare professional before making any health or lifestyle decisions.
For many of us, cancer is one of the most fear provoking health challenges we have to face in this life. And this is no surprise, considering its association with pain and disability, extremely toxic therapeutic interventions and worries about recurrence. The field of oncology involves the warriors at the forefront of this battle and we honor and recognize their heroic efforts dealing with this terrifying disease.
But cancer, in my book, is one of those situations where the proverbial ounce of prevention is worth several tons of cure. Medical science continues to gain ever deeper understanding of the process that leads to cancer and with that gives us ideas as to how to avoid cancer.
We need to start by acknowledging that the term “cancer” has a multitude of meanings to people and is in fact a vast array of manifestations. For the sake of simplicity we will use the term to refer to uncontrolled cell growth that has the potential to invade other tissues of the body.
Cancer is really a disease of our genes. We may think this means we have inherited the problem from our parents but studies suggest that 5-10% of cancer is due to inheritable cancers. What is the other 90%? – It is the stuff to which we expose our genes- the environment. More about that in just a moment. At this time, we are unable to change those genetic risks other than recognizing who is at greater risk. For example a woman with a first degree relative with breast cancer has a 2 fold increased risk and with 2 first degree relatives with breast cancer a 5 fold increased risk, women of Eastern European Jewish descent have a dramatically higher risk of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes which in turn translate into an 80% chance of breast cancer. These women need to practice vigilance and be proactive about screening for cancer.
For most of us, cancer is the end result of the failure of our genetic repair systems. Over the decades of our lives we endure and repair damage to our DNA, but with time the damage can accumulate. Our cells handle literally 1000s of DNA “hits” per cell every day and efficiently handle those “hits” for the most part. At the end of our DNA strands is a section known as a telomere which maintains and repairs our DNA. These are regulated by the enzymes known as telomerase. Much research and speculation is now under way to fully understand the mechanism of telomerase and who to keep the system functioning. That discussion is beyond the scope of the note. Suffice it to say this is an area rich with promise and already gives us some guiding principles to reduce our risks of cancer by protecting the activity of our telomerase enzymes.
So, there are several basic ideas we can derive from the research on basic science and epidemiology.
- Focus on a diet based primarily on plant based foods.
- Make an aggressive effort to avoid environmental toxins.
- Maximize your body’s detoxification systems.
- Avoid tobacco in any form.
- Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all.
- Maintain a healthy weight and be physically active daily.
- Prepare and store foods safely.
- Protect your skin from the sun
- Get immunizations that reduce risk of cancer.
- Avoid high risk behaviors.
- Do cancer screening studies.
Over the next several blogs I will discuss each of these in greater detail to give you the tools to take charge!