It is more effective to prevent disease than to treat it. As an oncology nurse I see the terrible suffering and heartache that cancer can bring to individuals and families and so I have put together some information that spells out what we can do now to prevent these devastating diseases. The recommendations for preventing cancer were taken from the President’s Cancer Panel 2008-2009 annual report: Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk and from the 2012 book “A World Without Cancer” by Margaret Cuomo, MD.
The President’s Cancer Panel found that the true burden of environmentally induced cancer has been grossly underestimated. There are nearly 80,000 chemicals on the market today and most have not been studied and the majority are unregulated. Exposure to environmental carcinogens is widespread and increases the national cancer burden. Toxins in our food, water and air increase health care costs, devastates lives and cripples our nation’s productivity. Approximately 41 percent of all Americans will be diagnosed with cancer and 21 percent will die as a result. Childhood cancers have increased by 0.5 percent annually since 1975. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in children.
◆ Filter home tap or well water to decrease exposure to chemicals. Carcinogenic agricultural fertilizers and pesticides have entered the water supply.
◆ Store water and food in BPA and phthalate-free containers. Microwave food in ceramic or glass only (never plastic).
◆ Choose foods that are grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers (when possible). Wash the residue off all commercially grown produce. If you eat meat choose free-range meat raised without antibiotics and growth hormones. Avoid processed, charred,smoked, cured and well done meats. Eat more fruits and vegetables and whole grains; a plant-based diet decreases cancer risk. Eat more fish. Drink green tea. Flavor food with turmeric (an Indian spice). Limit alcohol consumption; alcohol is a risk factor for cancer. Reduce sugar intake. Avoid foods high in trans fats.
◆ Avoid exposure to the carcinogen formaldehyde often present in plywood, particle board, carpet, draperies, furniture, permanent press fabrics, auto exhaust and tobacco smoke.
◆ Living near electric power lines (according to some studies) has increased the rates for childhood leukemia.
◆ Vitamin D (+ calcium) is protective against some cancers (and other diseases). Vitamin D reduces out-of-control cell division (a hallmark of cancer cells). It also promotes anti-inflammatory activity. Vitamin D3 is the preferred form; check with your doctor to discuss the vitamin D supplement level that is right for you.
◆ Avoid all tobacco products.
◆ Test your home for radon, a naturally occurring radioactive colorless odorless gas. Radon-induced lung cancer is responsible for an estimated 21,000 deaths annually.
◆ When possible limit radiation exposure from medical testing. Discuss lower exposure tests with your physician.
◆ Reduce electromagnetic radiation exposure from your cellphone by wearing a headset; text rather than talk; keep calls brief. Children should be discouraged from using cellphones.
◆ Avoid overexposure to ultraviolet light by wearing protective clothing and sunscreens with SPF of at least 30. Avoid exposure when sunlight is most intense. Check your skin monthly for suspicious moles and lesions. Avoid tanning beds.
◆ Choose cosmetics without parabens (a preservative) and phthalates.
◆ Maintain a healthy body weight. Obesity, diet and lack of exercise accounts for 30 percent of cancer in the United States. Adults require 2 ½ hours of aerobic exercise per week and children one hour daily.
◆ Discuss important screening tests with your physician (e.g. colonoscopy, Pap test, mammography.
◆ Avoid dry cleaners that use perchloroethylene (Perc), a likely human carcinogen. If you must use these dry cleaners, air out your clothes for several hours before placing them in your closet.
◆ Approach foods with GMOs (genetically modified organisms) with caution. Animal studies show GMOs alter immune function, initiate metabolic/cellular changes and generate an inflammatory response.
• To avoid bringing chemicals from the environment into the house, remove shoes prior to entering the house. When possible choose organic, safe products for your home and yard. Properly dispose of pharmaceuticals, household chemicals and paint.
Finally, contact your legislators and encourage them to support research on environmental causes of cancer and measures to reduce or eliminate environmental toxins. Request more nontoxic products.