Summary: The same changes that can help you lose weight and get more fit, can help you avoid cancer during your lifetime.
This website is dedicated to improving strength and losing weight. We all know that this journey to good health can be long and tedious for those of us that have the farthest to go. We are currently set up to suggest 6, 9, or even 12 months of dieting and exercising to get where you are going. If it takes you longer to get to your goal, so be it. We don’t care if it takes 10 years as long as your journey continues. The sweet spot of this journey is a BMI of around 20 – 21 for you. If you do not get to this promised land, it means you are still towing around some fat in that body of yours and it needs to come off. You will be bombarded with comments like “you are painfully thin” and “you look like death warmed over”, and “you are really serious about this, aren’t you?” Such comments should only set your jaw tighter to do this good thing for your body so you can have the best life possible from there on.
But I’m here for the cancer lecture
Well, as most of you know, the same strategy that can turn your obese body into a svelte exercise machine, can cut your cancer risk throughout your life down to a manageable level. When cancer risks per lifetime run at 50 per cent or so, then that is a huge benefit of this diet and exercise program. It sounds almost too good to be true that a healthy diet and more exercise can save your life from cardiovascular disease and cancer as well. How can that be?
The answer to that question is that in this particular country, the USA, we are harming our arteries and raising our risks for cancer by eating food that is not good for us and not getting nearly enough exercise. When we change those two problems areas around, we increase our chances of good health immensely.
What is cancer, anyway? Have we always been dying of cancer?
It would appear that cancer has come on with the industrial revolution of the last 200 years.
Cancer /ˈkænsər/ ( listen) (medical term: malignant neoplasm) is a large, heterogeneous class of diseases in which a group of cells display uncontrolled growth, invasion that intrudes upon and destroys adjacent tissues, and often metastasizes, where the tumor cells spread to other locations in the body via the lymphatic system or through the bloodstream. These three malignant properties of cancer differentiate malignant tumors from benign tumors, which do not grow uncontrollably, directly invade locally, or metastasize to regional lymph nodes distant body sites like brain, bone, liver, or other organs.
Ninety to ninety five percent of cancers in humans come from environmental factors and the rest are genetic. Your body’s cells reproduce themselves normally as needed by the body. Our chromosomes in the nucleus of the cells manage the job of reproduction and keep it under control. An accident can occur to the DNA of the chromosome and the orderly reproduction of the cells changes. The cells reproduce without control and a tumor forms that continues to grow and take on a life of its own. Some cancers tend to stay where they are and others have the ability to move throughout the body by sending malignant cells through the blood system to other body parts. The accident is caused when a mutation occurs within the chromosome. These mutations are facilitated in a variety of ways such as direct contact with a chemical, or by radiation striking the chromosome, or by elevated hormone levels, as in breast cancer.
What human situations are associated with increased cancer risk?
Here is a list of some of the more common cancer risks not necessarily in order.
- Smoking. This ugly habit causes about 30 percent of all cancers. It is on the rise around the world but not in the USA. Lung cancer is the most commonly linked cancer to smoking.
- Obesity. Increases risks for colon, breast (post menopausal), endometrium, kidney, and esophagus. (National Cancer Institute – http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=National+Cancer+Institute+Obesity+and+Cancer&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8
- Red meat and processed meats. The more it is cooked at high temperature, the more carcinogenic it becomes. Mostly involves esophagus and colon cancers http://health.usnews.com/usnews/health/healthday/071211/high-meat-consumption-linked-to-heightened-cancer-risk.htm
- Lack of exercise http://www.ecancermedicalscience.com/news-insider-news.asp?itemId=41
- Alcohol consumption. Where women are concerned there is no safe level in dealing with cancer. This is from the Million Women Study (Allen). Increasing alcohol consumption increased breast cancer rates proportionately by about 15 cases per 1000 women.
- Heavily salted and pickled food – stomach cancer
- Chemicals: asbestos causes mesotheliomas of the lung with a normal delay of many many years. The exposure is more dangerous among smokers. Asbestos fibers are not really chemicals. Benzene is a chemical that is carcinogenic at low levels. It occurs in exposure to gasoline, which contains one percent benzene as well as being in a multiple of other industrial products. The list of possible chemical carcinogens is in the thousands.
- Viruses: Hep b and c are definite causes of liver cancer, world wide. These are contracted by transfusions, shared needles, and unprotected sex. The human papillomavirus is sexually transmitted and causes anal and cervical cancers and is easily transmitted by oral sex.
Ok- Ok – how do I minimize my risk of cancer?
You can make groups out of the risk areas and look at them separately.
The food-beverage area.
Alcohol is a carcinogen. Population studies show this. Minimal exposure is less risk. More than two drinks daily becomes a significant risk especially where the body tissues touch the alcohol. That would be the mouth, esophagus, stomach and intestines especially colon and rectal regions.
Here is a note from the American Institute of Cancer with their suggested cancer fighting foods. These foods are also low calorie and will help you lose weight.
- Cruciferous Vegetables
- Dark Green Leafy Vegetables
- Grapes and Grape Juice
- Green Tea
- Whole grain
Does looking at this food list make you yearn for all the greasy, deep-fried foods we Americans love? Just think of all the people you now know or have known that have suffered through a lethal bout with cancer. Think of the biopsy, the surgery, the radiation, the chemo and then doing it all again and again. Then there is the hospice care, the extreme fatigue, depletion of finances and eventual death and finally the funeral. Check out the obituaries in the newspaper and see how many people your age are dying of cancer. I would rather spend that time eating foods that can give me an edge in not developing this dreaded disease in the first place. You choose your weapons at the grocery store, in your kitchen and at the dinner table.
The cancer fighting foods are the antioxidant containing fruits and vegetables that you already know about. Berries are fruits and contain lots of antioxidants. These protect against cancer and keep the immune system tuned up. However, if these foods are cooked to high temperatures, they lose their anticancer characteristics. Boiling is not so bad and deep-frying is the worst. Microwaving to warm food up is okay but cooking with the microwave is tough on the phytochemicals. High fiber foods protect the GI tract by cutting down the transit time leaving less contact between carcinogens in the lumen of the GI tract and the mucosa that does the actual digesting.
What about cooking? Thank you for asking. We are entering a grey area here. Cooking foods causes some changes at the molecular level that can be cancer friendly. The data on cooking meats is clear – the more they are cooked, the more carcinogenic they get. There are some less clear data that have been around for many years on the cooking of gluten, which is a protein, present in all grains but not rice. It appears that gluten becomes mutagenic as does meat, with cooking at normal baking temperatures. Does that mean it causes cancer in people? The data here is lacking but the lab data is worrisome.
“Our studies generally demonstrate increased mutagenic activity in grain foods with cooking time, but the exact composition of the food is important. For example, when wheat gluten (the protein in wheat seed) is heated alone at 210°C in a beaker, it shows a potent, time-dependent mutagenic response (Figure 9). Because breadsticks are high in wheat gluten, they also show some activity when heated normally and much higher activity when overcooked. In fact, the mutagenic activity of breadsticks cooked for double the regular heating time is 20% that of a hamburger fried 6 minutes per side at 210°C. In all cases, overcooking grain foods led to much higher mutagenic activity. Cooked garbanzo bean flour and the grain beverage powder, which we tested as purchased, had relatively high mutagenic activity. Cooked rice and rye flour (containing no gluten), on the other hand, showed no detectable activity, and rice cereal showed very little. Fried tofu (soy bean curd) was not mutagenic, and the measured level of activity in meat-substitute patties (which are made from vegetable proteins) after frying was about 10% or less than that of a beef patty cooked under the same conditions.”
Before you panic, check out the video putting the data and the Ames test in perspective. Mutagenic activity detected by the test does not mean that is will increase cancers in our bodies. It means that cooking gluten and adding it to a petri dish of bacteria facilitates the ability of those bacteria to mutate.
What does this all mean? Hamburger and Ice cream eating Americans are more at risk for cancer than people that eat rabbit food.
The Obesity issue by itself.
If obesity caused cancers of some tissues, we in the USA would be seeing some cancer spikes in our obese population. Obesity is associated with higher cancer rates in colon, breast (postmenopausal), endometrium, kidney, and esophagus. Between obesity and low physical activity, we can account for 20 to 30 percent of colon, breast, uterus, kidney and esophagus.
Colon cancer risks in the obese are related to high insulin levels or possibly insulin related growth factor.
Another pertinent factor is the difficulty detecting cancer in the obese due to the increased fatty tissue effect. Cancers tend to be more advanced when diagnosed in the obese population.
The connection between activity level and cancer incidence is well proven. The difficulty is knowing if the activity itself is preventive or if the activity level predicts obesity and the obesity predicts cancer. It may also be that active people care about their health and eat better as well, thus avoiding cancer related foods.
“Several plausible hypothesized biological mechanisms exist for the association between physical activity and cancer, including changes in endogenous sexual and metabolic hormone levels and growth factors, decreased obesity and central adiposity and possibly changes in immune function.”
Another article just looks at sedentary behavior: http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/19/11/2691.abstract
and comes to this conclusion:
“The literature review identified 18 articles pertaining to sedentary behavior and cancer risk, or to sedentary behavior and health outcomes in cancer survivors. Ten of these studies found statistically significant, positive associations between sedentary behavior and cancer outcomes. Sedentary behavior was associated with increased colorectal, endometrial, ovarian, and prostate cancer risk; cancer mortality in women; and weight gain in colorectal cancer survivors. The review of the literature on sedentary behavior and biological pathways supported the hypothesized role of adiposity and metabolic dysfunction as mechanisms operant in the association between sedentary behavior and cancer.”
So, if you sit in a chair most of your life will you get cancer? No. But if the cancer risk in your neighborhood is 50 per cent for your life, then you may well be at a higher risk than that due to your inactivity.
Ok – Ok – I got the food and obesity and inactivity data. What else do I avoid?
What to avoid in your neighborhood.
Here are just a couple of household chemicals that are suspected of causing disease in us from within our homes. So here you are, a person that is concerned about their family ingesting fluoride or chlorine from the city drinking water. You make the extra effort to bring home bottles of drinking water from the grocery store when you diligently shop for safe foods. You then read about BPA in the paper. You find out it is suspicious for causing breast and uterine cancer in women and lowered testosterone levels in men. No wonder your husband is losing interest in you and doing the dishes more often. You find out that you have to know a secret code to find the bottles that do not leach BPA. What ever happened to “better life through chemistry?”
So the evidence is mounting that BPA in plastics is to be avoided. Here is an article discussing which water bottles won’t leach BPA.
To be certain that you are choosing a bottle that does not leach, check the recycling symbol on your bottle. If it is a #2 HDPE (high density polyethylene), or a #4 LDPE (low density polyethylene), or a #5 PP (polypropylene), your bottle is fine. The type of plastic bottle in which water is usually sold is usually a #1, and is only recommended for one time use. Do not refill it. Better to use a reusable water bottle, and fill it with your own filtered water from home and keep these single-use bottles out of the landfill.
Unfortunately, those fabulous colorful hard plastic lexan bottles made with polycarbonate plastics and identified by the #7 recycling symbol, may leach BPA. Bisphenol A is a xenoestrogen, a known endocrine disruptor, meaning it disturbs the hormonal messaging in our bodies. Synthetic xenoestrogens are linked to breast cancer and uterine cancer in women, decreased testosterone levels in men, and are particularly devastating to babies and young children. BPA has even been linked to insulin resistance and Type 2 Diabetes. For more of the science on the effects of BPA on our endocrine system etc. see these studies: Environmental Health Perspectives Journal. Nalgene, the company that manufactures the lexan water bottles also makes #2 HDPE bottles in the same sizes and shapes, so we have a viable alternative.
How about looking at some pesticides?
In this paper they looked at Parkinson’s disease in relation to geographical exposure to paraquat and maneb. It does not look like either one causes Parkinson’s disease but they do in combination. This is what is so scary about chemicals. They do not belong in our bodies. You can test for their safety and be satisfied. Then we can find out years later that they are capable of combining with another chemical to cause disease in humans.
Generally, if a pesticide causes a problem, like death, in a pest, it can do the same to us at some point. Each of us carries about 70 chemicals in our bloodstream that does not belong in us. Your 70 chemicals will differ from my 70 chemicals because you have different exposure than I do.
It is best to limit herbicide and pesticide use around or in the house. If you walk on your lawn and track the chemicals in your house, they may be sealed in there forever. Take off your shoes when you come into the house, if you are stepping on dangerous chemicals outdoors.
There is increasing information about childhood cancers and pesticides. Some feel that the spike in childhood cancers is due to pesticide exposure. Here is a link to an abstract that talks about it.
Summary: Avoiding cancer in your lifetime is not always possible. What is possible is that you can improve your odds by doing a few simple things.
- Be thin for life
- Be fit for life
- Eat plants and fruits
- Don’t eat animals
- Don’t eat dairy
- Air out your home a lot
- Things around your home that smell like chemicals need to be avoided. If it smells bad, it probably is bad i.e. turpentine
- Wash off all purchased produce to reduce pesticide exposure
OK, Ok, I can’t stand this anymore. But, I am going to write down some things that I can do to lower my risk for cancer both for myself and my family.