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UnityPoint Health - John Stoddard Cancer Center

Cancer Prevention

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Cancer Prevention 

Much of our discussion will include nutritional information to reduce body fatness but it’s important to keep in mind the following topics: tobacco use, alcohol, physical activity and the interaction of the mind and thought patterns and their influence on health and disease states including cancer.

There are currently 14 different cancers that have been linked to increased body fatness as discussed in a previous episode. Thus, any discussion of cancer prevention must include how to achieve or maintain a normal BMI.

Current recommendations include:

1) Keeping your weight and waist circumference within a healthy range throughout life. That’s a BMI between 19 and 25 and a waist circumference shorter than 34 inches in women and 40 inches in men.                                                                       

2) Eliminate ALL sugary and artificially sweetened drinks. These lead to severe metabolic abnormalities, weight gain and increased body fatness.  

3) Eliminate all fast and processed foods high in processed fats, starches and sugars. This includes fast foods, many pre-prepared dishes including frozen meals, snacks, bakery foods, desserts and candy.                                               

4) Eat whole, natural food, including 5-7 servings of vegetables per day, mostly non-starchy, no white potatoes or corn. Eat a couple servings of fruit (berries are best), two servings of raw tree nuts, small amounts of pasture raised animal products. Also include six ounces of meat or whole fat dairy such as plain, unsweetened yogurt or hard cheese.  Free-range eggs are also a great source of nutrition.  Limit all grains, particularly gluten containing grains and legumes.  Most grains are rapidly converted to sugar (glucose) and contribute to weight gain. 

5) Drink mostly water. Unsweetened tea and coffee are also OK.

That leads us to alcohol. Alcohol is a toxin and there is strong evidence that drinking alcohol is the cause of many cancers including cancers of the mouth, pharynx and larynx, esophagus, liver, colon and rectum and post-menopausal breast cancer. The evidence shows that alcoholic drinks of all types have a similar impact on cancer risk. The current evidence supports that there is no threshold for the level of alcohol consumption below which there is no increase in the risk of at least some cancers.

It’s important to be physically active as part of everyday life. There is strong evidence that physical activity protects against cancers of the colon, breast and endometrium. Physical activity also helps to prevent excess weight gain and obesity. You should strive to achieve a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate exercise, walking three miles per hour each day with 2 days of weight training as well. Physical activity is also a great way to reduce stress.

Now let’s focus on mind-body interactions.  Current evidence links stress, behavioral response patterns and resultant neurohormonal and neurotransmitter changes to cancer development and progression. Stress management may modify hormone regulation and immunologic functions that potentially may influence the development of cancer. Managing stress through exercise, meditation, breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, autogenics training or guided imagery is an important part of cancer prevention. So take time to chill!

Also, our belief may influence the development of cancer. If we have a strong family history of cancer we may believe that we will also get cancer. But we now know that we are not subservient to the power of our genes. The belief that we may or may not acquire a disease can have a profound impact on the acquisition of the disease state.

Tobacco use  is simple and straight- forward. If you use tobacco of any kind, quit. If you have never used tobacco, do not start. There is absolutely nothing beneficial about tobacco use.