Wellness Path To Cancer Prevention 2024

Health Tips / Wellness Path To Cancer Prevention 2024

After a certain age, every person fears getting cancer (and believe me, doctors are just as fearful as everyone else!). Being told, “I’m sorry but the biopsy confirmed it. You have cancer,” or “we need to find you a good oncologist,” is a moment you will remember the rest of your life. As you leave the doctor’s office, utterly stunned, wondering “how long have I got?” and “why me?” or “what could I have done to prevent this?”

The “how long?” often surprises people. With new advances in treatment, cancer patients are doing quite well these days. According to the American Cancer Society, patients with all types of cancer are living longer than ever before.

The “what could I have done” issue and cancer prevention in general is a major failing of the health care system. “Serious money” in health care is in cancer diagnosis (scopings, scans, surgical procedures) and cancer treatment (surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy). Nobody profits (except the patient, of course) with nutritional and lifestyle counseling. Your health insurance rarely covers genetic testing, nutritional counseling and the newest cancer screening called Galleri, where one blood draw can determine if any of fifty cancers are within you.

Although Walgreen’s and CVS finally stopped selling cigarettes, 7-11 stores have the (dis)honor of being the largest purveyor of tobacco and carcinogenic junk food.

We actually do know how to prevent most cancers; we just don’t.

Here are basics:

  1. After a steady increase during the first half of the 20th century (cigarettes killed more U.S. soldiers in World War II than bullets), cancer started declining in the second half because of smoking reduction, mammograms and colonoscopies.There was also less exposure to significant carcinogens (cancer causing materials). Still, one person in three can expect to get cancer some time in their lives.
  2. Cancer cells are always being formed in our bodies, but in normal circumstances immediately are destroyed by our immune systems. Picture a cancer cell being formed, and then ‘zapped’, Star Wars style, into oblivion by your immune system. When some factor (advancing age, disease, certain drugs, our emotions) suppresses our immune systems, our risk for allowing cancer cells to multiply will increase. So maintaining a healthy immune system becomes a ‘given’ for your body to prevent cancer.
  3. Our exposure to chemical substances never designed to be in our bodies has increased to the point where scientists truly have no idea what’s dangerous and what’s not. Recently reported a study showing that the cells of people living in “green” areas aged more slowly than those in polluted areas.
  4. In summary, it is believed our bodies are being steadily challenged by known (or unknown) carcinogens. These accumulate in our cells because we never developed systems to efficiently detoxify them. Then, at some point, our ‘poisoned’ cells undergo change, somehow escape the watchful eye of the immune system and begin growing out of control. This is cancer.

Therefore, the formula for cancer prevention sounds fairly simple: avoid exposing yourself to cancer causing materials AND keep your immune system in its best possible shape.

If only life were that simple! 

If only we were certain what substances actually cause cancer and could ban them completely without ever caving into “economic interests”.

If only we knew exactly how to strengthen our immune systems and how to strengthen those systems that clear toxins from our bodies. 

Well, we do have some ideas. For example, we really don’t have a way to prevent all types of cancers (yet!), but we’ve made great strides with specific cancers. Most lung, colon and skin cancer can be avoided. But as far as preventing kidney or pancreas or brain cancer, we’re still in the dark.

What’s Your Risk of Cancer?

  1. Does cancer run in your family, especially among your first degree blood relatives? If you are from a cancer prone family, I would pay special attention to avoidance of all the carcinogens listed below and schedule the recommended screening tests (mammograms, colonoscopies, etc.) After age 50, consider the new Galleri test which can detect fifty types of cancers in your body well before any symptoms appear. 
  2. Do you smoke or chew tobacco or are you exposed to passive smoke? All three escalate your cancer risk.
  3. Do you have at least five servings of fresh fruit and vegetables, especially pesticide and herbicide free (organic) daily? Doing so will reduce your cancer risks considerably.
  4. Do you consciously avoid exposing yourself to direct sunlight for extended periods of time, especially if you are fair skinned? Everyone knows this reduces your skin cancer risks. Malignant melanoma can be brutal if it metastasizes.
  5. Do you consciously make an effort to avoid exposure to chemicals of any kind, especially food additives, chemical fumes, solvents, cleaning solutions? The dangers of these are totally understated by the food industry and the government.
  6. Do you consciously avoid ‘ultra-processed’ foods? A recent study showed that a diet high in these foods led to increased rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
  7. Have you made an effort to reduce the sugar and saturated fats in your diet?
  8. Do you exercise regularly to keep your body in shape? Many studies have correlated higher levels of physical activity with lowering cancer risk.
  9. Do you feel reasonably contented with job, family, relationships? 
  10. Does your workplace expose you to any known carcinogens, and if so, are adequate safety precautions taken to reduce exposure? 
  11. Did you know about the guidelines for cancer screening, like PAP smears, mammograms, skin and mouth examinations from the US Preventive Services Task Force? Note: Many physicians are unaware of these and those that are often disagree with their recommendations. 
  12. Are you taking nutritional supplements? A definite point of contention among physicians whether or not supplements prevent cancer.

In my opinion, the current American diet is so nutritionally depleted that many of us are susceptible to a variety of cancers simply by eating too many processed and ultra processed foods. The list below will help plug up the holes, so to speak, in your deficiencies.

These recommendations assume you are already on the Basic Nutritional Program of: 

Eating Right

The amount of data linking poor nutritional habits to cancer is staggering and continues to grow. With the exception of stopping smoking, no single step you take has such a potentially positive effect on cancer prevention than healthful eating. Nutritional habits are felt to contribute to cancer development in 60% of women and 40% of men. And yet 90% of Americans fail to eat the recommended amount of fruit and vegetable every day.

Here are some immediate steps for your next mouthful:

  • Have at least five full servings of fresh vegetables and fruit every day. I do recommend you purchase pesticide and herbicide free organic foods. The Environmental Protection Agency itself has stated that pesticides represent the major cancer causing chemicals we’re most exposed to.
  • Use only whole grains (avoiding food made with refined white flour). Although the studies are mixed concerning high fiber of whole grains and how it will help protect you from developing colon cancer, its opposite, refined white flour, has absolutely no health benefits, converts to glucose and increases diabetes risks.
  • Substitute chemical foods (like diet colas, processed foods, fast and junk foods) with their whole food counterpart. Fresh fruit and vegetable juice or green tea as your beverage, instead of sugary chemical soft drinks.
  • Avoid excessive grilling your foods on outdoor grills (the smoke contains cancer causing elements).
  • Dramatically reduce the saturated fat in your diet; replace with polyunsaturated fat.
  • If male, allow yourself one or two alcoholic drinks per day. If female, no more than one.
  • Eat lots of tomatoes and tomato sauce for lycopenes.
  • Really, really, really avoid refined sugar and sugar-y products.
  • Avoid fried foods; nitrate-containing foods (sausages, cold cuts); peanuts and peanut butter (unless organic); smoked foods.
  • Women should eat more soy-based products.
  • Eat less red meat (especially overcooked red meat) and eat more fish.
  • Use olive oil as your spread instead of butter or margarine.

I know these lists seem long but if you start practicing them, they’ll become second nature to you. Then, sometime in your late nineties, and you’re biking around your retirement village, thinking, “Wow, here I am, almost ninety! And all these years, I managed to skip cancer.” Of course, then don’t get crushed under the wheels of a semi.

Be well,

David Edelberg, MD

One thought on “Wellness Path To Cancer Prevention 2024

    Thank you for this tip. I’m curious about the inclusion of peanuts and peanut butter in the list of foods to avoid. Why is that?

    Posted December 5, 2023 at 9:19 am

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