Okay, so this Health Tip seems pretty important.

After a certain age, every person fears getting cancer (and believe me, doctors are just as fearful as everyone else!). Being told by a health care professional, “I’m sorry but the biopsy confirmed it. You have cancer,” or “We need to find you a good oncologist.”, that 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 recent issue now surfacing, and quite frightening, you may have read, is the puzzle just why younger and younger patients are being diagnosed with various dangerous cancers, especially gastrointestinal, breast, and brain. Here’s a recent article from the Washington Post, which I will summarize below plus add a few more from other sources:

  • Our constant exposure to environmental toxins; first from our dreadful eating habits, foods laced like murder weapons with additives, chemical, dyes, preservatives, ‘flavorings’, excess salt and sugar, banned in many countries but “generally recognized as safe”(GRAS) here in the U.S.
  • Other toxins in our air, water, cosmetics, even our paint and furniture.
  • Being overweight/obese increases cancer risks considerably. Although there is no established link between childhood obesity and cancer, most obese children remain obese throughout their lives.
  • Occupational exposure to environmental toxins (flight attendants/pilots; firemen; nail salon workers; night shift workers; rubber manufacturing jobs; construction and agricultural workers; mechanics; miners; long distance truckers.
  • Inactivity.
  • High alcohol use.
  • A high family history of cancer with a failure to perform the standard screening tests for cancer (mammograms, colonoscopies, PAP smears, etc.) or being in denial about persistent symptoms (a breast lump, vaginal/rectal bleeding, weight loss/fatigue, swollen glands, testicular masses, worsening headaches, etc.).

We could, of course, reduce our cancer rates considerably by teaching healthful eating in schools, banning junk foods and foods with dangerous additives, but we all know there are too many self-interest groups to make any real progress. The only real self-interest to prevent cancer is caring for “yourself” and “your family”.

But if you do hear the ominous, “I’m afraid it’s cancer”, 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” being spent 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 cancer are within you. It is an amazing test and has diagnosed early cancers in several of our patients. Unfortunately, out of pocket is about $950.

Fortunately, not too many people smoke these days, which was the big cancer killer a few decades ago. Bet you didn’t know that more World War II soldiers were killed by cigarettes than bullets.  Fortunately, CVS finally stopped selling cigarettes, and now Walgreen’s leads the pack as the largest pharmacy chain selling tobacco and carcinogenic junk foods. Patients with chronic lung disease can use Walgreen’s convenient drive thru window to pick up their inhalers and a couple packs of Marlboro Lite at the same time.

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 WholeHealth Chicago Basic Nutritional Program of:

  • Pure Encapsulations ONE <one a day> (a high potency multiple vitamin also containing cancer preventives selenium, lipoic acid, Co Q 10, lycopene)

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. Please read that sentence again with your lips moving.  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 Enviromental 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 when you are in your late nineties, and you’re biking around your retirement village, thinking, “Wow, here I am, almost one hundred years old! And all these years, I managed to skip cancer.” Of course, then don’t make a bad turn only to get crushed under the wheels of a semi.

Be well,

David Edelberg, MD


    Anchor Text thanks for the info

    Posted May 16, 2024 at 1:36 am

    Thank you for all this great information. I would love to know the reasons why behind some of these. For example: Why should women consume more soy? Is rare meat better than over cooked? Why? Are fried goods ok if they are done in the air fryer? Can you give examples of polyunsaturated vs unsaturated? Thank you so much it’s very helpful.

    Posted April 28, 2024 at 8:40 am

    Are there any studies you can recommend that one can participate in for those at high risk for cancer (i.e. family history) but are following a high fiber, legume-rich, leafy green diet?

    David Tenenbaum
    Posted April 23, 2024 at 8:41 am

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