Three Strategies for Cancer Prevention
By current cancer statistics, one in two men and one in three women can expect to receive a cancer diagnosis at some point in their lives. While this might cause some to adopt a fatalistic outlook, it is stated here to inspire you to utilize evidence-based strategies to reduce your individual risk of cancer.
- Watch your weight. Obesity is epidemic in this country. A link between obesity and several cancers has been found. These include postmenopausal breast cancer, as well as cancers of the colon, uterus, stomach, kidney and pancreas. New data indicate a possible link with ovarian and gall bladder cancers as well. There are several factors that account for this cancer risk. Fat tissue is known to produce excessive amounts of estrogen and high levels of estrogen have been associated with risk of breast and uterine cancer. Additionally, obese individuals have been shown to have increased levels of insulin in their blood-a condition known as hyperinsulinemia or insulin resistance. This hyperinsulinemia may also promote the development of certain cancers. While it is a daunting task for many to lose weight and maintain that loss, keep in mind that even small incremental changes can elicit health benefits. Keeping a food diary for a week can be a helpful strategy for understanding your own particular challenges with food consumption. Understanding your own patterns of eating is an important first step to changing harmful eating behaviors. Also, it is important to understand that your body requires fewer calories as you lose weight, and to adjust your caloric intake accordingly. For weight loss and maintenance strategies that have worked for others, please visit the National Weight Control Registry.
- Stay active. Physical inactivity has been shown to be a risk factor for both colon and breast cancer. Studies have demonstrated that among breast and colon cancer survivors, those who are physically active have lower rates of cancer mortality. In addition to lowering cancer risk, it is known that a combination of aerobic activity and strength training is associated with lower risk of comorbidities such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and diabetes. For those who abhor organized exercise, data from the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention Study II demonstrated evidence that simply reducing the amount of time spent sitting each day also decreases cancer risk. If you are currently inactive, the American Institute for Cancer Research recommends these initial strategies: ADD 30 minutes of physical activity to each day, SUBTRACT more and more of your TV time each week, and for those who are already engaging in moderate activities, EXCHANGE these for more vigorous exercise twice a week.
- Eat well. When faced with the possibility of a cancer diagnosis, many turn to supplements, searching for the elusive “silver bullet.” Unfortunately, there is no supplement that can take the place of the nutritional value found in eating whole foods in season. One should strive for a mostly plant-based diet, getting at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily with a good variety of color. Buying organic produce is not essential, but rather, purchase fresh produce in season whenever possible and otherwise, purchase frozen. For more information and helpful hints on eating for cancer prevention, please visit the American Institute for Cancer Research.
If you would like to learn more about cancer prevention, treatment, or survivorship, visit the Bon Secours Cancer Institute to learn how our expert care team members combine the science to cure with the art of compassion.
By Mary Baker, MSN, RN, FNP-C, AOCNP, CBEC, CBCN
Medical Oncology, Cancer Survivorship
Bon Secours Virginia Health System