6 Best Strategies to Prevent Cancer (Updated 2020)

Most of us know Steve Jobs, Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther), Robin Gibb (Bee Gees), Donna Summer, 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. What do they have in common? They all died from 'cancer'.

Can foods and diet influence your risk of getting cancer? What types of foods reduce your risk and types that might increase your risk? What about vitamin and mineral supplements? Can supplements reduce your cancer risk or do they actually increase your cancer risk? Find out the answers below.

This article here is not to share the various theories related to cancer but to share practical preventive strategies that we could put into action immediately. There is comprehensive information about cancer here. 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 and how to give yourself the best possible outcome if you get cancer. I have filtered out all those unproven ‘internet noise’ out there in the virtual world and have summarized the overwhelming information out there into the following list of ‘actionable’ strategies.



What is Cancer?

Cancer is the name given to a collection of related diseases. In all types of cancer, some of the body’s cells begin to divide without stopping and spread into surrounding tissues. (National Cancer Institute).

Genetic changes that cause cancer can be inherited from our parents. They can also arise during a person’s lifetime as a result of errors that occur as cells divide or because of damage to DNA caused by certain environmental exposures. Cancer-causing environmental exposures include substances, such as the chemicals in tobacco smoke, and radiation, such as ultraviolet rays from the sun. As shown from the image below, environmental factors contribute up to 95% of cancers.

There are many types of cancer treatment. The types of treatment that you receive will depend on the type of cancer you have and how advanced it is. Surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy are the standard types of treatment for cancer. While your cancer specialist is focusing on staging your disease, the type of surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy, many people tend to lose focus on their nutrition. There is also a lot of confusion due to the overwhelming mixing of credible scientific information and marketing hypes available on the internet.

There are also many phoney “cancer treatment” with amazing claims but devoid of any scientific data to back them up, typical of health scams. Cancer is a life threatening disease and therefore many consumers fell prey to these phoney cancer treatments.

1. Good nutrition

When you’re healthy, eating enough food to get the nutrients and calories you need is not usually a problem. Most nutrition guidelines stress eating lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain products; limiting the amount of red meat you eat, especially meats that are processed or high in fat; cutting back on fat, sugar, alcohol, and salt; and staying at a healthy weight. But when you’re being treated for cancer, these things can be hard to do, especially if you have side effects or just don’t feel well.

Good nutrition is especially important if you have cancer because both the illness and its treatments can change the way you eat. They can also affect the way your body tolerates certain foods and uses nutrients.

During cancer treatment you might need to change your diet to help build up your strength and withstand the effects of the cancer and its treatment. This may mean eating things that aren’t normally recommended when you are in good health. For instance, you might need high-fat, high-calorie foods to keep up your weight, or thick, cool foods like ice cream or milk shakes because sores in your mouth and throat are making it hard to eat anything. The type of cancer, your treatment, and any side effects you have must be considered when trying to figure out the best ways to get the nutrition your body needs.

Therefore, nutrition is not an option or a desire but rather a basic necessity. That makes it all the more important reason to make nutrition as part of your overall strategy to fight the cancer battle. Do not give up. Many people with cancer have been cured or survived longer than those without cancer.

The following are the essential things you should know about nutrition and cancer.

Proteins

We need protein for growth, to repair body tissue, and to keep our immune systems healthy. When your body doesn’t get enough protein, it might break down muscle for the fuel it needs. This makes it take longer to recover from illness and can lower resistance to infection. People with cancer often need more protein than usual. After surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy, extra protein is usually needed to heal tissues and help fight infection.

Good sources of protein include fish, poultry, lean red meat, eggs, low-fat dairy products, nuts and nut butters, dried beans, peas and lentils, and soy foods.

Fats

Fats play an important role in nutrition. Fats and oils are made of fatty acids and serve as a rich source of energy for the body. The body breaks down fats and uses them to store energy, insulate body tissues, and transport some types of vitamins through the blood.

You may have heard that some fats are better for you than others. Choose monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats more often than saturated fats or trans fats.

Monounsaturated fats are found mainly in vegetable oils like olive, canola, and peanut oils. Polyunsaturated fats are found mainly in vegetable oils like safflower, sunflower, corn, and flaxseed. They are also the main fats found in seafood.

Saturated fats are mainly found in animal sources like meat and poultry, whole or reduced-fat milk, cheese, and butter. Some vegetable oils like coconut, palm kernel oil, and palm oil are saturated. Trans-fatty acids are formed when vegetable oils are processed into margarine or shortening. Sources of trans fats include snack foods and baked goods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil or vegetable shortening. Trans fats also are found naturally in some animal products, like dairy products. Trans fats can raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol; try to eliminate them from your diet.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the body’s major source of energy. Carbohydrates give the body the fuel it needs for physical activity and proper organ function. The best sources of carbohydrates – fruits, vegetables, and whole grains – also supply needed vitamins and minerals, fiber and phytonutrients to the body’s cells. (Phytonutrients are chemicals in plant-based foods that we don’t need to live, but that might promote health.)

Whole grains or foods made from them contain all the essential parts and naturally occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed. Whole grains are found in cereals, breads, flours, and crackers. Some whole grains, such as quinoa, brown rice, or barley, can be used as side dishes or part of an entree. 

Fiber is the part of plant foods that the body cannot digest. There are 2 types of fiber. Insoluble fiber helps to move food waste out of the body quickly, and soluble fiber binds with water in the stool to help keep stool soft.

Other sources of carbohydrates include bread, potatoes, rice, spaghetti, pasta, cereals, corn, peas, and beans. Sweets (desserts, candy, and drinks with sugar) can supply carbohydrates, but provide very little in the way of vitamins, minerals, or phytonutrients.

Water

Water and liquids or fluids are vital to health. All body cells need water to function. If you do not take in enough fluids or if you lose fluids through vomiting or diarrhea, you can become dehydrated (your body doesn’t have as much fluid as it should). If this happens, the fluids and minerals that help keep your body working can become dangerously out of balance. You do get some water from the foods you eat, but a person should drink about eight 8-ounce glasses of liquid each day to be sure that all the body cells get the fluid they need. You may need extra fluids if you are vomiting or have diarrhea. Keep in mind that all liquids (soups, milk, even ice cream and gelatin) count toward your fluid goals.

Vitamins, minerals and supplements

Supplement and cancer - An interesting and challenging topic. When it comes to vitamins and minerals it is confusing due to the many choices, claims and promises created by the healthcare supplement industry. While alluring claims and network marketing sell products, the products are not always suitable for cancer patients. 

The body needs small amounts of vitamins and minerals to help it function properly. Most are found naturally in foods. Vitamins and minerals help the body use the energy (calories) found in foods.

A person who eats a balanced diet with enough calories and protein usually gets plenty of vitamins and minerals. But it can be hard to eat a balanced diet when you are being treated for cancer, especially if you have treatment side effects that last for a long time. In this case, your doctor or dietitian may suggest a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement.

If you are thinking of taking a vitamin or supplement, be sure to discuss this with your doctor first. Some people with cancer take large amounts of vitamins, minerals, and other dietary supplements to try to boost their immune system or even destroy cancer cells. Vitamins and minerals alone are not sufficient to fight cancer. Remember, nutrition is not about vitamins and minerals but there are other important elements (e.g. protein, water etc.) as well. 

Clinical trials on vitamins and minerals are expensive and funding is difficult from the private sector. One high-profile example is the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention (SELECT) trial of a decade ago, which cost US$114 million and demonstrated no meaningful benefit. Exacerbating the problem is the lack of a strong business model: drug companies have little incentive to invest in trials of a product that is cheap and widely available.

Some of these substances can be harmful, especially when taken in large doses. In fact, large doses of some vitamins and minerals may make chemotherapy and radiation therapy less effective.

That said, here is a list of studies that have given hope to the cancer community:

Vitamin D - People who take vitamin D supplements may be less at-risk for developing late stage and even fatal cancer, new research from JAMA Network Open medical journal suggests.

CoQ10 - In one study (Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 1994;199(3):1504-8), two women with breast cancer were given fatty acids, antioxidants and 300 mg to 390 mg of CoQ10. After two to three months, mammograms showed no tumors or residual tumor tissue, indicating cancer regression. A review (J Clin Oncol. 2004;22(21):4418-24) in the Journal of Clinical Oncology that looked at how CoQ10 affected cancer treatment found it may help protect the heart and liver from toxicity during treatment.

  • Vitamin K2 - Interestingly, several studies have been done on vitamin K2 and certain types of cancer. Two clinical studies suggest that vitamin K2 reduces recurrence of liver cancer and increases survival times (Trusted SourceTrusted Source). Additionally, an observational study in 11,000 men found that a high vitamin K2 intake was linked to a 63% lower risk of advanced prostate cancer, whereas vitamin K1 had no effect (Trusted Source).

Quercetin - The safety and potential usefulness of quercetin for the prevention and treatment of cancer have been documented in both animal experiments and a phase I clinical trial.

Coffee - Based on data from a large observational study nested in a clinical trial, are in line with earlier studies showing a connection between regular coffee consumption and improved outcomes in patients with non-metastatic colorectal cancer. The study is being published by JAMA Oncology.

Can Molecular Hydrogen help with Cancer?

2017 -  A study (published in the Molecular and Clinical Oncology), evaluated the protective effect of hydrogen-rich water on liver function of colorectal cancer patients treated with chemotherapy in 152 patients. The hydrogen-rich water group exhibited protective effect against the chemotherapy related liver injury [R].

2019 - The first case report of hydrogen inhalation therapy in a patient with metastatic Gall Bladder Cancer was published by a team in China. The patient has gradually improved and has survived for more than 10 months (Onco Targets Ther. 2019).

In a review paper on hydrogen gas and cancer treatment, it was suggested that hydrogen gas may work alone or synergistically with other therapy to suppress tumor growth (Front Oncol. 2019).

In Japan, patients with stage IV colorectal cancer inhaled H2 gas for 3 h/day in their own homes and received chemotherapy. H2 gas improved progression-free survival and overall survival times (Oncol Rep. 2019).

In China, 82 patients with stage III and IV cancer (advanced cancer) were prospectively followed-up, after treatment with Hydrogen (H2) inhalation. No severe blood toxicity was observed. H2 Inhalation of H2 gas induced complete and partial remission in tumors of the 80 patients (Med Gas Res. 2019). Most of the cancer types are mainly solid tumors with 19 non-small cell lung cancer, 16 gynecological cancer, 11 hepato-cellular cancer, 10 breast cancer, 6 gastrointestinal cancer, 6 urological cancer and 8 other type of advanced cancer.

One clinical trial (NCT03818347) is now on-going to study hydrogen gas in cancer rehabilitation for multiple cancer types in China. 2 publications that are associated with this research data have been
published.

The first publication (Ann Palliat Med. 2019) was case reports of 3 nasopharyngeal cancer (NPC) patients with radiotherapy-induced hearing loss. This is the first study to show that, after treatment for nasopharyngeal carcinoma, hearing loss can be reduced using hydrogen-oxygen therapy.

The second publication (Med Gas Res. 2020), 58 patients with advanced non-small lung cancer were enrolled into 5 groups:
1) refused drug treatment (control group)
2) refused drug treatment (hydrogen therapy only)
3) H2 + chemotherapy, 
4) H2 + targeted therapy, and 
5) H2 + immunotherapy group.

After 16 months of follow-up, progression-free survival of the control group was lower than that of the H2-only group, and significantly lower than that of H2 + chemotherapy, H2 + targeted therapy, and H2 + immunotherapy groups.

Can antioxidant supplements help prevent cancer?

Many observational studies, including case–control studies and cohort studies, have been conducted to investigate whether the use of dietary antioxidant supplements is associated with reduced risks of cancer in humans. Overall, these studies have yielded mixed results (Source). Because observational studies cannot adequately control for biases that might influence study outcomes, the results of any individual observational study must be viewed with caution. 

Randomized controlled clinical trials, however, lack most of the biases that limit the reliability of observational studies. Therefore, randomized trials are considered to provide the strongest and most reliable evidence of the benefit and/or harm of a health-related intervention. To date, nine randomized controlled trials of dietary antioxidant supplements for cancer prevention have been conducted worldwide. Many of the trials were sponsored by the National Cancer Institute. 

Overall, these nine randomized controlled clinical trials did not provide evidence that dietary antioxidant supplements are beneficial in primary cancer prevention. In addition, a systematic review of the available evidence regarding the use of vitamin and mineral supplements for the prevention of chronic diseases, including cancer, conducted for the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) likewise found no clear evidence of benefit in preventing cancer (Source), published in 2013.

It is possible that the lack of benefit in clinical studies can be explained by differences in the effects of the tested antioxidants when they are consumed as purified chemicals as opposed to when they are consumed in foods, which contain complex mixtures of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals (Source). Therefore, acquiring a more complete understanding of the antioxidant content of individual foods, how the various antioxidants and other substances in foods interact with one another, and factors that influence the uptake and distribution of food-derived antioxidants in the body are active areas of ongoing cancer prevention research.

If your oncologist says it is OK for you to take a supplement during treatment, it may be best to choose a supplement with no more than 100% of the Recommended Daily Value (RDV) of vitamins and minerals.

If you want to take in more antioxidants, health experts recommend eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, which are good sources of antioxidants. Taking large doses of antioxidant supplements or vitamin-enhanced foods or liquids is usually not recommended while getting chemo or radiation therapy. Talk with your doctor to find out the best time to take antioxidant supplements.

For tips on how to boost your immune system and avoid illness, read, "Ways to Boost Your Immune System."
  
Safety considerations for nutrition, supplements and cancer

Many people believe that if they find a pill or supplement in stores, it is safe and it works. Remember, a 'natural' product does not mean its a 'safe product. Some poisons are also natural but they are certainly not safe.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) put out rules in 2007 to help ensure that supplements contain what their labels claim they do, but the supplement’s safety and its effects on the body are not addressed by any FDA rules. The FDA does not make manufacturers of these products print possible side effects on their labels. And the FDA cannot pull a dietary supplement or herbal product from the market unless it can prove that the product is unsafe. Stop taking the product and call your doctor right away if you have side effects, like wheezing, itching, numbness, or tingling in your limbs.

Tell your health care team about any over-the-counter products or supplements you are using or are thinking about using. Take the bottle(s) to your doctor to talk about the dose, and be sure that the ingredients do not interfere with your health or cancer treatments. 


2. 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.


3. 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 Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther) and 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. 


4. Achieve and maintain a healthy weight throughout life.

The American Cancer Society released guidelines in 2020 for reducing the risk of cancer.

The recommendations include the latest research on diet and physical activity, as well as policy and systems changes that reduce barriers to healthy living. The update focuses on increasing physical activity and developing healthy eating patterns at every age.

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.


5. 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-LSDMany 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.


6. Reduce Stress

I know, it’s not possible to remove stress from our daily lives; especially with the on-going pandemic. 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.

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 study published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation shows that stress hormones, such as adrenaline, can directly support tumor growth and spread.


Conclusion

In conclusion, the above are 6 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

Thank you for reading this article.

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