Health - General
By: - at September 21, 2013

Top 15 Ways to Prevent Cancer

Cancer is a scary disease in the public eye, something that comes as a sudden and surprise diagnosis and that doubles as a death sentence. But that image of the looming, terminal cloud is no longer an accurate one with modern medicine. Many cases are survivable, and many more preventable. Research and technological advances have made cancer a much better understood phenomenon. You may already be aware that cancer is out of control growth due to cellular damage that occurs from a multitude of factors, some from your environment and some may be hiding in your own DNA.

Cancer Cells
cancer cell

While thereís not much you can do about your genetic propensities, there are definitely ways to shift your lifestyle that will keep you in tip top shape down to the molecular level.

15)  Get Regular Medical Care
So this is less about preventing cancer from occurring and more about catching it early, which is just as important to your health. Screenings, exams, and even self-examinations are all part of the comprehensive care needed for early detection and optimal treatment of cancer. For instance, the American Cancer Society encourages women to begin monthly self-examinations, which includes palpating your breasts to understand their natural topography and to be able to note changes in consistency, appearance, location, and size of any lumps.

breast cancer concept

Being able to report what you regularly feel to a doctor will help them assess whether something needs to be checked out further.

Mammography Test
Mammography Test

At 40 and beyond, mammograms are recommended. Additionally, everyone is advised to begin colorectal screenings at age 50. Women as young as 21 are advised to screen for cervical cancer through PAP tests. Men are advised to talk to their doctor around middle age to determine if prostate screenings are necessary. These procedures can seem invasive and uncomfortable, but early detection is still a key to success in the treatment of cancer and prevention of its metastasizing in your body, leading to a more serious diagnosis.

14)  Get Immunized
These are fairly specific vaccines in this case to guard against hepatitis B and some types of human papilloma virus (HPV). Hepatitis B is a virus that, among other things, causes extensive liver damage. This damage can lead to liver cancer. Any adult can obtain the vaccine if they choose, but it is recommended most for high-risk individuals who are likely to come in contact with infected fluids. These include: health care and public safety workers, non-monogamous sexually active adults, those who engage in unprotected sex, people with sexually transmitted infections, and drug users who share needles.

Get Immunized

Human papilloma virus can be transmitted several ways depending on its type, but the most worrisome strains are those contracted primarily through sexual contact. They often cause recurrent cases of warts and lesions on genital areas in both sexes, though some instances of the disease are completely silent, or asymptomatic. The HPV vaccines are most recommended for teenage girls and young adult women, but as the types of HPV that cause cancer are likely to cause precancerous anal lesions and genital warts in males as well as females. The vaccine is available to anyone from age 9 to 26.

13)  Pick an Experienced Doctor
There is something to be said for young, new doctors that are passionate about their field and handily up-to-date with the latest word in medicine. But for things like cancer, it sometimes pays to go old school. Older, experienced doctors have had more opportunity to learn detection methods first hand, and they generally conduct examinations of possible signs of cancer in a thorough, pragmatic way. Those new to the profession can easily miss unusual or anecdotal symptoms of cancer that textbooks may leave out, but time in the profession has made plain as something to suspect and further test. Further, established doctors will have a more expanded network in the area, and be able to advise you on your options for a specialist or treatment center that will best be able to help you should the need arise.

experienced doctor

While this is less important in a GP, when you choose a radiologist for those screenings and tests, definitely keep these ideas in mind. The University of California showed in a study that doctors with 25 years of more experience gave fewer false positives and pinpointed results more accurately than those with less under their belt. While the younger ones need the practice to improve, this is your health, after all.

12)  Spend More Time with Friends
Prostate cancer carries a particular marker for its probably development: PSA, or prostate specific antigen. The State University of New York recently found that men who donít maintain satisfying relationships with a support network of friends and family and who are involved in high stress work usually have high levels of PSAs. While no direction correlation is made between satisfying contact and lowering of PSAs, think about the fact that high stress levels with no outlet to lower them also lead to cellular damage from a variety of other hormones including cortisol, which is an indirect culprit behind weight gain and sleeping problems.

active seniors

Long term stress can also increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. Adding all these factors together, thereís no reason not to make that trip with your favorite fishing buddies, or surprise your spouse with a get-away weekend. Or even both! Life is short, even when you can manage to stay cancer free.

11)  Donít Top Off Your Gas Tank
This one comes to you courtesy of the EPA, whose job it is, among other things, to evaluate potential carcinogens arising from environmental conditions, including consumption and use of fossil fuels. That extra shot of gas when you fill may round out your bill nicely, or ensure you really get that full tank youíre after, but is it really worth the risk of developing cancer?

gas pump

You might think the worst that could happen is a little spillage, but bucking the machineís automatic shut off increases your risk because it overrides a variety of modern safety controls, including the pumpís fuel vapor recovery system. Gasoline contains hundreds of petrochemicals that are only organic in their chemistry, not their health status. The present hydrocarbons are volatile, which is why you want them for fuel in the first place, and can easily react with the air around you and with your body when you inhale them. According to Air Pollution Control in Vermont, breathing in those vapors too often can cause kidney and blood damage, development disorders, and - you guessed it - cancer. Add this into the fact that gasoline vapors from misuse of pumps at filling stations contributes to air pollution and malfunction of pumping stations, and you have plenty of important reason to practice good citizenship and obey pump etiquette.

10)  Buy Organic
Organically grown foods, on the other hand, are extremely safe, and as good a way to prevent cancer as certain organic molecules can cause cancerous cells. Many people already buy organic produce to avoid contact with pesticides or out of fear of GMOs - genetically modified organisms, usually crops. GMOs are controversial, and, just because they are regulated and approved by federal authorities, does not clear them in the publicís eye. They have a relatively short agricultural history and no assurances as to their safety. Could something that is genetically engineered cause cancer? The jury is still out, and thatís why for now, some people just arenít biting. Shoppers know the compounds in pesticides stay viable for a long time and increase in potency with their continued consumption. Itís a case of better being safe than sorry.

buy organic foods

Additionally, animal products that arenít organic may still have traces of antibiotics or contain growth hormone. Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone or rBGH has not been definitely proved to cause human abnormalities, but it does cause an increase in udder infections in the cows that are administered this hormone. The hormone itself only appears in animal products in small quantities, but the possibilities of harm have consumers worried, particularly as anything that could speed growth and development. RBGH has the potential to set off a wild chain reaction of growth seen in cancer cells. Once again, youíre out of proven waters here, so use your best judgment.

9)  Avoid Dry-Cleaning
There are greener solvents to use in the dry-cleaning process, such as carbon dioxide, but many dry cleaners still use perchloroethylene or PERC for short. PERC is excellent for dissolving stains and preserving delicate fabrics. The problem with the solvent is that it is volatile and dangerous, particularly to the workers having to breathe it in constantly while on the clock. In 2008, at the EPAís request, the National Academy of Sciences reviewed the health risk of PERC, and found it "likely" to be a carcinogen, or cancer causing agent, as well as a nerve agent that could cause brain damage with prolonged exposure.

dry cleaning

What is the danger to consumers? Not all the traces of PERC stay behind at the dry cleaners. PERC has been found in clothes cleaned in another manner since their last dry cleaning, in soil and air samples, and many other places in the environment it doesnít belong. While this is partly due to PERCís use in other industrial applications, if you can find a way to avoid this chemical, you should do so.

8)  Take a Calcium Supplement
While conclusive causation has not been established, in 2007, the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research published an exhaustive review of the latest research concerning the relationships of cancer with food consumption, nutrition, and other physical factors. This organization agreed with a recent Dartmouth study that found proper intake of calcium corresponds to fewer instances of colon polyps, which are the precursors to colorectal cancer.

calcium supplement

Calcium also builds bone mass, and in post-menopausal women, there could also be a relationship between taking calcium supplements with vitamin D and a lower instance of all cancers. Considering calcium plays an important role in everyoneís skeletal, muscular, and even nervous system, shouldnít you keep on drinking your milk?

7)  Indulge in Garlic
Garlic has been touted for some time as a natural way to guard your heartís health and improve your physical well-being. Through common anecdotal cases, some individuals with heart disease and diabetes have found garlic to be a great way to lower their cholesterol. Garlic, onions, and scallions have been highly prized culinary herbs for a very long time, and with the latest findings, arenít likely to leave our tables any time soon.

Fresh Garlic

Onions are high in vitamin C, and all onion, garlic, and scallions are rich in bioflavonoids that are known to stimulate the bodyís natural immune responses, and may fight against cancer.

6)  Eat Selenium Rich Foods
This might be the best reason to save your pumpkin seeds - or maybe youíd rather toast Brazil nuts. Either way, foods that are high in selenium appear to be cancer fighters. While research results from studies of the effects of selenium on some types of cancer, such as liver cancer, remain inconclusive, the National Institutes of Health have released studies that show a pronounced reduction of incidence of cancer among individuals with elevated selenium intake. The most interesting impact of dietary selenium might be in the area of prostate cancer, which is found to have the strongest correlation in reduced risk with increased selenium intake.

Pumpkin Seeds

Selenium is found in many tasty foods considered delicacies, from the aforementioned nuts and seeds to shellfish, salmon, sunflower seeds, shrimp, and even bacon. Selenium deficiency, meanwhile, hasnít been proven to increase risk for cancer, but it does affect joint health, and lead to weak hair and fingernails. Thatís why selenium is something you should go a little nuts over.

5)  Watch How You Grill
Remember the compounds from the gasoline vapors? Hydrocarbons are an integral part of modern life, but they are not always our friends. In particular, two types of organic compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) can cause irreparable damage when consumed in large quantities. Youíll find HCAs and PAHs at their highest levels in fatty meats that have been cooked to well-done or burnt on the grill. They come from fats and juices that seep out of cooking meat and fall into the fire, causing it to flare up and belch smoke. While some feel this improves the flavor, it also speckles your burgers and brats with carcinogens.

Grilling by itself is still a very healthy way to prepare foods, so you donít have to give it up so much as you might have to change a few habits. If you choose leaner meats or trim away excess fat before grilling, you can prevent some of the drippings that will create the problem, for instance. Flipping more frequently can also stop HCAs and PAHs from building up in meat. The American Institute for Cancer Research also found that marinades can act as a barrier between your meat and carcinogenic compounds from the fire, and recommends marinating meats for 30 minutes, or applying thick sauces. Make sure to stock up on your favorite BBQ.

grilling steak

The Institute also recommends shortening grilling time to shorten exposure to HCAs and other compounds. Brown meat in a pan or partially cook it in a microwave to accomplish this, just letting the grill do the finishing touches. Additionally, stick with thin cuts of meat, and meats that cook more quickly like fish, or even non-meat products like veggies and fruit. You can also keep your grill at a lower setting, and put not just your veggies but your meats as well on perforated foil to keep the incidence of splash back down from the flame. Above all, always clean your grill after use to avoid a buildup of harmful compounds ready to strike your next meal.

4)  Steam Vegetables to Preserve Nutrients
While many experts will tell you that steaming vegetables means not microwaving them, that isnít necessarily true. The point here is balance the amount of liquid you use, and preferably to use a glass or ceramic vessel made of nonporous molecules that wonít heat along with your cooking. Steaming vegetables preserves the most nutrients, far more than boiling or heating dry. Boiling often leaches nutrients, the Health Beat at finds, particularly delicate compounds like glucosinolate in broccoli that holds cancer-fighting properties. While nutrient rich boiling water can be used for soup stocks to retain value, some of the nutrients will simply be lost in the cooking process. In microwaving, allowing the microwaves to directly rotate the molecules of water within the veggie itself to heat your food is likely to do the same thing, encouraging breakdown and leaching of important nutrients that are then vaporized.

But steaming vegetables - whatever your heat source - allows the friction of heat to build up in the surrounding water and then work on the food to raise its temperature. In this way, the least amount of damage is caused to the produce, particularly the dark leafy greens so prized for reducing risk of cancer and other diseases.

Peas in a steamer pan

The only healthier way to eat your veggies? Straight up raw! And you can take in more than you know that way. Eating veggies raw is the only way to make sure that you are getting the entirety of the nutrients present in whatever vegetable you are eating. For instance, many consider spinach to be much more flavorful and palatable in raw form, when tossed in salads as if it was a lettuce.

3)  Be Fit
You knew this would be on here somewhere. Staying active to reduce cancer risk has been all over the news for nearly ten years, but too many people have a habit of downplaying how important this really is, not just for cancer prevention, but overall health. Itís easy to make excuses and find ways to simply not exercise. If youíre trying to avoid cancer, thereís no avoiding exercise in that exercise is one of the most important prevention methods for all types of cancers. 

be fit - exercise

First, sufficient physical activity and a healthy diet are key players - outside of genetics - in keeping weight in a healthy, manageable range. Obesity has been increasingly linked to a variety of health disorders, and cancer is among them. Carrying around a significant pudge causes extra work on bodily systems, affects metabolism, and can alter cellular metabolic processes, as many studies have indicated. Further, fat in the wrong places can make some signs of cancer, like unusual lumps or other evidences of tumors, more difficult to detect. Extra weight also affects hormone levels and the efficiency of cancer-fighting agents we do take in from our environment. But even if your weight is on target and healthy for you, regular exercise can still provide you with a myriad of health benefits related to cancer prevention. Physical activity helps regulate insulin and other metabolic hormones, even stress hormones. It also has a great effect on bowels, reducing inflammation in them and allowing foods to move more quickly through them, shortening the time that certain colorectal inducing toxins rest in that area. Itís never too early or late in life to reap these benefits. Most experts recommend 150 minutes of activity a week for adults, and this can be in intervals as short as 10 minutes.

2)  Get Moderate Sunlight, but Don't Overdo It
You probably also knew this would be on here, too. Hey, itís proven science. The harmful UV rays of the sun are streaming down on in ever increasing quantities as the ozone thins. Luckily, the push for green living and environmentally friendly advances might someday turn the tide. In the meantime, you have to live with the fact that big ball of life-giving light is also nuking you as well. A multitude of studies have proven UV light damages skin cells - deep down below the layers you see - and that breaks the cellsí DNA. This can lead to molecular errors that could develop into cancer. Even being careful to tan instead of burn doesnít help you too much, as that dark pigmentation of a tan is your body over actively producing melanin in an attempt to halt the damage. Itís still a sign youíve been detrimentally affected.

woman out in the sunlight

A few minutes in the sun each day will not hurt you. In fact it is recommended that you at least get some sun exposure for vitamin D, which will greatly help you to prevent cancer. However, if youíre going to go out for a long period of time, stay as covered as possible and wear a hat. And yes, you need sunscreen. The most common advice for applying sunscreen is early and often, with an optimal SPF of 45. No matter how high your SPF is or how waterproof, it will wear off and need to be reapplied in a few hours, liberally. A common measure of how much to use is the average adult should be covered with enough sunscreen to fill a shot glass.

1)  Ketogenic Diet
Ketogenic diets have been used for weight loss in a similar way to Glycemic Index diets. They have also been used to treat epilepsy in children. Researchers working to understand the mechanisms behind this connection between ketogenic diets and brain function discovered the possibility of suppressing brain tumors as well.

While research is still pending - like many well-known and popular cancer prevention measures - ketogenic diets as a way of preventing cancer and even treating some forms of cancer are thought to work on a very simple principle: with the diet, you starve the cells of the resources they need to thrive as cancer agents. In this case, the primary cellular food being restricted is glucose, as a ketogenic diet requires a low carbohydrate, high protein consumption. Sugars - found in carbohydrates - are the main fuel source that is translated to glucose by the body. By restricting glucose, the body shifts what stores it does have to healthy cells to continue metabolic function, leaving nothing for the hungry cancer cells that have ramped up their metabolisms to over populate areas with tumors. Additionally, ketogenic diets emphasize the consumption of high amounts of beneficial fats that provide fuel to healthy cells, and avoidance of poorer fats that encourage metabolic irregularities and tissue build up that can lead to cancer.

Typical Ketogenic (low carb) Diet Meal - Avocado Salad
Ketogenic meal - Avocado salad

"Ketogenic" comes from the idea of the making of ketones, or small protein molecules present in a body that is running on a lean metabolism. Generally, the highest amounts of ketones are found in a body that is in need of more nutrients, such as an athlete after a workout or someone who hasnít eaten in a few hours. While this used to be considered a non-healthy state, many are now wondering if you might be designed to more efficiently run on less instead of more.

Final Thoughts
Preventing cancer is never a 100 percent sure thing, but there are a lot of measures we can take to reduce our individual risks and improve our chances of not just avoiding this disease, but improving our survival should we develop a malignancy. Incorporating all the latest information on cancer prevention and early treatment to create a healthier, cancer free lifestyle might feel overwhelming, but remember to take things in small steps. Each little change you make is one more impact youíre having on your health, bringing you one lost risk factor closer to your goal.





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