Deaths from Cancer: What would be my advice?

We all know the recent deaths of Robin Gibb (Colo-rectal cancer), Donna Summer (Lung Cancer) and last year; Steve Jobs (Pancreatic cancer) were due to cancer. Other famous people whom we have lost to cancer are Farrah Fawcett, Eartha Kitt, Peter Jennings, Paul Newman, Patrick Swayze, Sydney Pollack, Michael Crichton, Bob Denver, Ted Kennedy, Jerry Orbach, Anne Bancroft, William Rehnquist, and Tony Snow, just to name a few.

If I were to turn back the clock, what would be my advice to these people? This article here is not to share the basics of cancer but to share about the preventive strategies that we could put into action immediately. There is comprehensive information about cancer here: http://www.cancer.gov/. I would not re-invent the wheel. The goal of this article is to summarize the relevant and practical points so that you could have your personal blue-print to prevent cancer. I have filtered out all those unproven ‘internet noise’ out there in the virtual world and have summarized the summaries in the following ‘action’ strategies.

#1: Quit smoking

If you are a non smoker, then your risk of cancer will be reduced. Smoking is by far the leading risk factor for lung cancer. In the early 20th century, lung cancer was much less common than some other types of cancer. But this has changed once manufactured cigarette became readily available and more people began smoking.

About 80% of lung cancer deaths are thought to result from smoking. The risk for lung
cancer among smokers is many times higher than among non-smokers. The longer you
smoke and the more packs a day you smoke, the greater your risk. You could download this article from the American Cancer Society for more information: Lung Cancer

On top of that, you should also try to cut down on your visits to places where people tend to smoke e.g. pubs etc. Passive smoking is just as bad.


#2: Having Good Dietary Habit

·         For those of you who do not use tobacco, one of the most important cancer risk factors that can be modified are body weight, diet, and physical activity. One-third of all cancer deaths in the United States each year are linked to diet and physical activity, including being overweight or obese, while another third is caused by tobacco products.

·         Although our genes influence our risk of cancer, most of the difference in cancer risk between people is due to factors that are not inherited. Avoiding tobacco products, staying at a healthy weight, staying active throughout life, and eating a healthy diet may greatly reduce a person's lifetime risk of developing or dying from cancer. These same behaviors are also linked with a lower risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.

·         Many consumers are also unaware that grilling some popular food items can produce cancer-causing compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs). For more information on foods that contain the highest concentrations of HCAs: http://www.cancerproject.org/media/news/fiveworstfoodsreport.php. HCAs, a family of mutagenic and cancer-causing compounds, are produced during the cooking of many animal products, including chicken, beef, pork, and fish. In January of 2005, the federal government officially added HCAs to its list of known carcinogens.

·         These are the summary recommendations from the ACS Guidelines on Nutrition Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention:
  • Choose foods and drinks in amounts that help you get to and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Limit how much processed meat and red meat you eat.
  • Eat at least 2½ cups of vegetables and fruits each day.
  • Choose whole grains instead of refined grain products.
  • Drink no more than 1 alcoholic drink per day for women or 2 per day for men.
·         Colo-rectal cancer is a type of cancer that Robin Gibb (Bee Gees) died from. Alice Bender, MS, RD, a nutritionist for the American Institute for Cancer Research, says the evidence on fiber and colon cancer, while mixed, is strong enough to make recommendations. “Our 2007 expert report looked at all the studies and concluded that foods high in fiber, not necessarily the fiber itself, can lower risk for colorectal cancer,” she tells WebMD. “We know that a plant-based diet rich in fruits, nonstarchy vegetables, legumes,    and whole grains is associated with a lower risk of a number of the most common cancers – colorectal, stomach, mouth, pharynx, larynx, and esophageal” Bender says. Read more: http://www.webmd.com/diet/fiber-health-benefits 11/fiber-  cancer.

#3. Achieve and maintain a healthy weight throughout life.

·         Avoid excess weight gain at all ages. For those who are overweight or obese, losing even a small amount of weight has health benefits and is a good place to start.
·         Get regular physical activity and limit intake of high-calorie foods and drinks as keys to help maintain a healthy weight.
·         Adults: Get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week (or a combination of these), preferably spread throughout the week.
·         Children and teens: Get at least 1 hour of moderate or vigorous intensity activity each day, with vigorous activity on at least 3 days each week.
·         Limit sedentary behavior such as sitting, lying down, watching TV, and other forms of screen-based entertainment.

You could check out on other benefits of exercise here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUaInS6HIGo

#4: Stay away from Carcinogens

·         Many people worry that substances or exposures in their environment may cause cancer. As part of the American Cancer Society's role in informing and educating people about cancer and its possible causes, this document provides lists of substances and exposures that are known or suspected to cause cancer. The lists below have been developed by two highly respected agencies – the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the US National Toxicology Program (NTP). Some related information is included on how these and other agencies and groups test and classify possible carcinogens. Read more here: List of Human Carcinogens

·         Heavy exposure at work to certain pesticides, dyes, and chemicals may increase the risk of getting cancer of the pancreas. Steve Jobs passed away due to pancreatic cancer. Though this may not be directly related to his pancreatic cancer, Steve confirmed his drug use (marijuana and LSD) during college days. Read more here: FBI-reports-Steve-Jobs-did-LSD. Many researchers agree that marijuana smoke contains known carcinogens, or chemicals that can cause cancer much like those in tobacco smoke. Read more here: marijuana and cancer.

#5: Reduce Stress

·         I know I know, it’s not possible to remove stress from our daily lives. However, it’s important to understand the role of stress on cancer progression. Scientists know that psychological stress can affect the immune system, the body’s defense against infection and disease (including cancer).

·         The body responds to stress by releasing stress hormones, such as epinephrine (also called adrenaline) and cortisol (also called hydrocortisone). The body produces these stress hormones to help a person react to a situation with more speed and strength. Stress hormones increase blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar levels. Small amounts of stress are believed to be beneficial, but chronic (persisting or progressing over a long period of time) high levels of stress are thought to be harmful.

·         Stress that is chronic can increase the risk of obesity, heart disease, depression, and various other illnesses. Stress also can lead to unhealthy behaviors, such as overeating, smoking, or abusing drugs or alcohol, that may affect cancer risk. 

·         Some studies have indicated an indirect relationship between stress and certain types of virus-related growths. Evidence from both animal and human studies suggests that chronic stress weakens a person’s immune system, which in turn may affect the incidence of virus-associated cancers, such as Kaposi sarcoma and some lymphomas.

·         More recent research with animals suggests that the body’s release of hormones into the blood in response to stimulation of the nervous system, can directly alter important processes in cells that help protect against the formation of cancer, such as DNA repair and the regulation of cell growth

·         It is difficult to separate stress from other physical or emotional factors when examining cancer risk. For example, certain behaviors, such as smoking and using alcohol, and biological factors, such as growing older, becoming overweight, and having a family history of cancer, are common risk factors for cancer.

·         Studies have shown that stress might promote cancer indirectly by weakening the immune system's anti-tumor defense or by encouraging new tumor-feeding blood vessels to form. But a new study published April 12 in The Journal of Clinical Investigation shows that stress hormones, such as adrenaline, can directly support tumor growth and spread.
·         For normal cells to thrive in the body, "they need to be attached to their neighbors and their surroundings," says the study's lead author Anil Sood from The University of Texas M. D, Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Cells that detach from their environment undergo a form of programmed cell death called anoikis. "But cancer cells have come up with way to bypass this effect—they avoid anoikis," Sood says. This allows cancer cells to break off from tumors, spread throughout the body (in blood or other fluid) and form new tumors at distant sites—a process called metastasis. So Sood wondered: Could stress affect anoikis? "It surprised us that this biology hadn't been studied before," he notes. "Stress influences so many normal physiological processes. Why wouldn't it be involved in tumor progression?"
·         Sood and his team first studied the effects of stress hormones on human ovarian cancer cell anoikis in culture. Cells that were exposed to stress hormones were protected from self destruction—meaning they could survive without being anchored to their surroundings. The stress hormone treatment activated a protein called FAK (focal adhesion kinase), which is known to protect cells from anoikis. Inhibiting FAK reversed the effects.

In conclusion, the above are 5 major strategies for you to reduce your cancer risk. The site from the American Cancer Society has comprehensive information on cancer. You could read more on cancer prevention by cancer type here: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/prevention

I will not discuss about cancer specialists here not because I think they have no role to play, but rather I hope you don’t need to see one. Thank you for reading this article.

Side Note: I would have advised Steve Jobs to take a back seat and allow others to be the CEO, just like Bill Gates with Microsoft. If I could advise Steve further when he was a teenager, I would have advised him to stay away from Marijuana.

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