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Proactive Cancer Prevention

General Facts About Cancer

  • Approximately 1 in 3-4 people will get some form of cancer in their lifetime.
  • Some people have genetic risk factors for cancer.
  • You can be proactive with your diet, supplements and lifestyle and reduce your risk for developing cancer.

What is Cancer?

Cancer is unregulated growth of a particular cell type . It usually starts out in one location, usually in a particular organ. If it spreads to other organs or to the bones it is called metastatic cancer.

Most Common Types of Cancer

  • Cancer of the breast, uterus and cervix in women
  • Cancer of the prostate in men
  • Cancer of the lung and colon in men and women

What Causes Cancer?

Cancer is usually caused by damage to DNA. DNA is the body’s template of instructions to let the cell know which proteins to make. The genes are contained within the DNA. If critical DNA is damaged certain cells can multiply without the normal restraints that would keep them limited. These cancer cells are different from other cells. They do not recognize or communicate normally biochemically with other cells. They can multiply beyond control.

What is the Role of Genetics in Cancer Development?

There are certain genes that seem to run in families that seem to increase a persons risk for developing certain cancers. It has been estimated that approximately 5-10% of all cancers are the result of a mutation(alteration) in a particular gene. These genes have certain names but can generally be called “susceptibility genes”. It is very important to recognize that having a susceptibility gene does not mean that a person will definitely develop cancer. It means that that person is at higher risk of developing a certain cancer than someone the same age without the gene.

Breast Cancer as an Example

Among Breast Cancer cases (BCs), how many are of predominant genetic origin? Approximately, 5% to 10% of BCs are hereditary and 15% to 20% occur in family clusters. In the latter case, environmental and cultural factors may coexist with genetic factors, inducing higher rates of BC in women of the same family. BC may occur in men, although with a very low incidence rate. The gene that is most well known for increasing the risk of breast cancer is the BRCA1 gene. If breast cancer seems to be running in a family women in that family can be tested for that gene. There is always an interaction of the genes with the conditions in the body and the things that a person is exposed to.

It has been recently been discovered that the risk of breast cancer for women who harbor mutations in the BRCA1 gene is significantly reduced among those who have breast-fed for a cumulative total of more than 12 months. The protective effects of breast-feeding seem to be much greater for BRCA1 mutation carriers than for women in general population. The breast feeding reduction in cancer frisk was recently reported in Reuters Health in an interview with Dr. Steven A. Narod from the Centre for Research in Women’s Health in Toronto told Reuters Health.

Genes are Not the Whole Story

Genes can start acting up in relation to triggering substances or conditions that may cause them to become active. They can be dormant for a long time or never become active if they are not exposed to certain conditions.

Cancer and Aging

Cancer risk increases as people age. There are many reasons for this. The cumulative exposure to chemicals and metals increases with age. A person's immune system which has a role in surveillance of the DNA for defects becomes less effective with age.

If a person develops cancer when they are over the age of 40 they can age very quickly. Part of managing and slowing the aging process is taking steps to decrease your risk of developing cancer. These will be discussed in the latter half of this article.

Environmental and Chemical Exposures

There are many things that might cause cancer and they are usually related to exposure to toxins in the form of certain chemicals, heavy metals, pollutants in the air and water and radiation. Exposure to certain bacteria and viruses can also predispose to cancer. The biochemical milieu of the cells is also very important and may be quite related to hormones and other internal cellular exposures that a persons body is producing. Cancers linked to environmental causes make up at least 80 percent of all cancer cases, according to a second new report by the National Cancer Institute, this one published with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in the US. Environmental causes include exposure to agents in the air and water as well as lifestyle factors such as smoking and diet.

“Most epidemiologists and cancer researchers would agree that the relative contribution from the environment toward cancer risk is about 80-90 percent,” said Aaron Blair, Ph.D., the chief of the Occupational Epidemiology Branch in NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics. “There is very solid evidence that environmental factors are the major cause of cancer,” he said.

Preventing Cancer

You can be proactive and take a number of actions to prevent cancer.

Action #1: Stop smoking if you are a smoker. Smoking greatly increases a persons risk for lung and other cancers as well as increases the risk for heart disease. If you are a smoker seek the help of your physician to get into a program to stop your unhealthy habit.

Action #2: Exercise aerobically 5-6 days a week according to the Truestar guidelines for exercise. Aerobic exercise done 5-6 days per week for 30 minutes in your training heart rate zone has been shown to decrease risk for certain cancers but especially cancer of the colon.

Action #3: Do the cancer screening behaviors suggested by your doctor. This includes pap smears, mammograms and breast self exams for women and testicular self exams for men. Both men and women should do screening for Colon Cancer. This includes stool exams and fiber optic scopes of the colon. Virtual colonoscopies can be done to screen for cancer and genetic tests that can be run on the bowel movements are becoming more cost effective and more available.

Action #4: Choose organic foods. Organic foods are less likely to have heavy metal and pesticide contamination. They also will likely be tastier and have more mineral content. Do this by the following suggestions:

  1. Choose organic fruits and vegetables when possible.
  2. Choose free range eggs and chicken when possible.
  3. Choose grass fed, free range beef when choosing beef.
  4. Avoid nonorganic strawberries as they have the highest content of pesticides of any fruit

Action #5: Eat from a variety of colors of fruits and vegetables every day. The phytochemicals in colorful (green, orange, red, purple, etc.) fruits and vegetables have may beneficial properties.

Action #6: Try and eat daily from the cruciferous family (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussel sprout or cabbage) as these veggies have special biochemical(phytochemicals that help decrease damage to DNA.

Action #7: Limit your intake of plastics. Try to avoid using thin plastic clear bottles as the plastic may leach out into the water. Do not leave plastic food containers in a hot car. Do not microwave with plastic.

Action #8: Limit your use of perfumes and makeup. If you like these than go to a health food store to see which brand is considered the healthiest of makeup. Limit products that have sodium lauryl sulfate. Avoid antiperspirant as there is aluminum in it.

Action #9: Avoid mercury amalgam fillings. Mercury has toxic properties which vary from person to person but in general it should be avoided.

Action #10: Avoid exposures to pesticides, herbicides, on your own property and others properties including golf courses. Buy environmentally safe materials to clean your home and to wash clothes with.

Action #11: Do green remodeling or move into a green built home with special features for indoor air quality. Use low VOC paints , sealants etc. to avoid exposure to toxins in the air that can adversely affect your lungs and immune system.

Action #12: Avoid food additives and colorings whenever possible. Avoid Nitrates and Nitrites in lunch meats.

Preventing cancer is very important for your health, quality of life and longevity. You can be involved on a personal level as indicated in this article and you can also get interested in the quality and regulation of the food air and water supply, fertilizers, and environmental waste disposal in your community and country. Making small changes each week can make the actions more manageable.

References
1. Michael Murray et all How to Prevent and Treat Cancer with Natural Medicine 2002 Riverhead Books
2. Levin B. Colorectal cancer screening: from fecal DNA to virtual colonoscopy. Program and abstracts of the 95th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research; March 27-31, 2004; Orlando, Florida.
3. Levin B, Smith RA, Feldman GE, et al. Promoting early detection tests for colorectal carcinoma and adenomatous polyps: a framework for action: the strategic plan of the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable. Cancer. 2002;95:1618-1628.
4. Levin B, Brooks D, Smith RA, Stone A. Emerging technologies in screening for colorectal cancer: CT colonography, immunochemical fecal occult blood tests, and stool screening using molecular markers. CA Cancer J Clin. 2003;53:44-55.
5. Vitamin d Analogs in Cancer Prevention and Therapy (Recent Results in Cancer Research, 164)
by J. Reichrath, W. Tilgen Hardcover: 432 pages Publisher: Springer-Verlag; August 1, 2003
6. Reuters Health
July 30, 2004 Reference7. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2004;96(14):1094-8