Cancer Prevention with Nutrition and Lifestyle

          Right now the US is ranked 2nd in healthcare…second from the BOTTOM! I am more thankful than ever to be trained in holistic health with the focus on prevention of illness and disease. Do you know that cancer is the second leading cause of death in the US currently, and will account for more than 25% of all deaths this year. The risk of developing cancer increases with age, and people older than 55 have a much higher risk of dying from cancer, but preventative measures should be taken into account long before then. Prevention can best be accomplished through nutrition and lifestyle. Research suggests that more than 50% of cancers can be prevented with simple dietary and lifestyle measures. The scientific study of cancer and nutrition is not 100% clear on how single nutrients and nutrient combinations affect a persons risk for cancer, since ‘cancer’ is a term used for over 200 diseases, but according to the available data, there are many effective nutritional and lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk of cancer at any age. The first and most effective step being cutting out sugar!

            The American Cancer Society (ACS) endorses reducing intake of red and processed meats while focusing on a plant-based diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole-grains. In cancer prevention, nutritionally, is it important to look at consumed calories, fiber, antioxidants, alcohol, and tobacco.  The data suggests that there is no strong connection between fat and cancer, however, regardless of fat intake, tumor growth looks to be inhibited with reduced calorie consumption.  As for the non-digestible dietary substance, fiber, more is better. Increasing fiber intake has beneficial effects on digestion, and increases elimination, thus increasing the bodies to remove toxins and waste, so a high fiber diet is recommended based on toxic excretion alone. Antioxidants, flavonoids, and other beneficial compounds found in plant-based foods have been shown to prevent cancer in many studies, particularly green tea, allium (garlic), turmeric, cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli and cabbage), and non-GMO soy. Although not one diet is considered to be best to prevent 'cancer', one should focus on a high-fiber, 100% organic toxic-free, whole-foods based diet rich in vegetables, beans, seeds, fruits, and fish.  One should also be sure to completely avoid high-fat, low-nutrient, sugary foods such as candy, sodas, and processed foods.

            As for lifestyle, avoiding both tobacco, alcohol, and chronic high stress have all been proven to reduce the incidence of cancer. Tobacco use as been proven to increase the risk of cancer exponentially. Lung cancer, which is almost entirely attributed to tobacco use, is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women, and accounts for more than 30% of all cancer deaths. Lung cancer survivor rate is vey low, at approximately 15%. Alcohol on the other hand has been linked to many various cancers, including breast, liver, laryngeal, and esophageal. It is thought the alcohol increases the rick of these cancers by affecting the liver and impairing its ability to metabolize harmful substances and endogenous hormones. Moderate alcohol consumption has also been shown to increase estrogen, which may be one reason it promotes breast cancer. The carbohydrates in alcohol cause insulin secretion which can increase cancer development. Chronic stress has been shown to lower the immune system. The body naturally produces immune cells (T lymphocytes) that fight bacteria, viral infections, fungi, and cancer cells. Elevated levels of adrenal hormones during stress response suppresses the body's production of T lymphocytes, weakening your whole immune system. Not only does stress worsen existing infections, you also become more susceptible to immune system related health problems too. Even if avoiding tobacco and limiting alcohol consumption are two easy lifestyle choices to prevent cancer, limiting stress may not be. Deep breathing, light exercise, yoga, massage therapy, and meditation are all great ways for the body to lower the chemicals related to stress, and restore the immune system.

        It is estimated that men have a 1 in 2 lifetime chance in developing cancer and women a 1 in 3. The development of many cancers is related to life-long diet and lifestyle choices, so it is never to early to start using preventative nutritional and lifestyle choices. I am a firm believer in parents teaching children to make the healthy lifestyle and nutritional choices early in life, to help them prevent their risk of cancer. Leading by example is a win-win for both parents and children in preventing cancer.

References

Copstead, L.E. & Banasik, J. (2013). Pathophysiology (5th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Saunders.

Pizzorno J. E. & Murray, M. T. (2013). Book of Natural Medicine (4th. ed.). St. Louis, MO: Churchill Livingstone.