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Archive for February 17th, 2014

Cancer—the dreaded C word. The thought chills us with the realization of our mortality. What is this frightening disease? Cancer results from the malfunction of genes that control cell growth and division. Most cancers aren’t strongly linked to heredity, but some like colorectal, breast, and prostate are. Most cancers result from damage to genes occurring during a person’s lifetime. It may take ten years or more to detect the effect of factors causing mutant cells.

What if you could avoid getting cancer? February is Cancer Prevention Month. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, Americans can prevent one-third of the most common cancer cases by changes in diet, weight, and physical activity. That translates into 374,000 people annually who could go cancer-free with those changes. Next to tobacco use, which estimates say will cause 176,000 deaths in 2014, changing your lifestyle could keep you from getting cancer.

Anyone can develop cancer. No one is immune and the risk increases with age. About seventy-seven percent of all cancers occur in people fifty-five years of age and older. Researchers expect diagnosis of about 1,665,540 new cancer cases in 2014, and that figure excludes some precancerous conditions. Likewise, they expect 585,720 Americans to die of cancer in 2014. How can you keep from being a statistic?

The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends the following:

  • Maintain a healthy weight. We hear this over and over. Are we listening? The ACS suggests being as lean as possible throughout life without being underweight. If you are obese or overweight, losing even a small amount has health benefits. Reduce high-calorie foods and beverages, and use up unneeded calories with increased activity.
  • Adopt a physically active lifestyle. The ACS suggests 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. Don’t forget the children. They need at least one hour of exercise daily with more intense exercise at least three days each week. Avoid being a couch potato or spending too much time at computers or other sedate activities. Make it a point to get up and move. Even small amounts of exercise help. Physical activity may reduce risks of breast, colon, endometrium, and advanced prostate cancer. Physical activity also seems to improve the quality of life and reduce mortality for those who already have cancer.
  • Consume a healthy diet. If you have followed this blog, you know that’s what it’s all about. Lest I sound like a stuck record, the ACS makes the following recommendations.
    • Choose foods and beverages in amounts that help achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
    • Limit consumption of red meat and processed meat.
    • Eat at least two and one-half cups of vegetables and fruits daily.
    • Choose whole grains instead of refined-grain products.
    • Limit alcoholic beverage consumption. Drinking alcoholic beverages increases risks for cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, colorectal, breast, and possibly pancreas. Men should limit drinks to no more than two per day while women shouldn’t drink more than one a day. As little as a few drinks per week may slightly increase the risk for breast cancer in women.

 To find out how much you know about cancer, try the quiz at this link. And tune in next week for nutritional claims related to cancer—what you can trust and what you should ignore. Your health is too important to snub warnings. Improve your chances of avoiding cancer.

 

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