Hearing the word “cancer” can make people cringe, which is understandable given how it can make a person suffer and even cause their untimely death. It is something people fear, but mostly we fear something because we don’t understand it. With that, let us take a look at cancer, especially the things you can do to prevent it.
Cancer is an abnormal growth of cells, which can invade or spread to other parts of the body. It may take place anywhere in the body. There are more than 100 types of cancer, with breast cancer being one of the most common in women and prostate cancer being one of the most common in men, followed by colon, stomach, lung cancer and many more.
Although knowing exactly why one person develops cancer and another does not is not possible, in the last decade research has found that most cancers are developed as a result of DNA damage, which is caused by our lifestyle and the environment we live in. And when we speak about lifestyle, we speak about the food we eat, the exercise we do (or don’t do) and the stress we are exposed to (boredom and loneliness fall under stress category).
Getting older is something that we cannot control, but our chances of having cancer we certainly can. As we get older, we are more likely to develop cancer simply because we have been exposed to different toxic substances and toxic circumstances for long periods of time. And even if we are not able to fully control our environment, we are certainly able to control how we respond to our environment and what we do with it. Once we learn to respect our body and mind and treat it as the most important investment of our life, age becomes just a number and it does not have to bring diseases, immobility, dependency, and pain.
One of the predictors of how fast we age, if we develop any of the chronic diseases, or how soon we die is the length of our telomeres. Telomeres are the caps at the end of each strand of DNA that protect the chromosomes. Shortening of telomeres is associated with ageing as well as with the development of chronic diseases, including cancer. However, research has also shown that this shortening of telomeres is strongly related to our lifestyle and that with the right lifestyle, shortening of telomeres can be counteracted by the cellular enzyme telomerase; we can grow our telomeres and therefore rejuvenate ourselves and protect ourselves from cancer and from dying prematurely. Telomerase activity can be increased by eating predominantly low-fat, whole-foods, plant-based diet, doing cardiovascular challenging exercises, and applying stress management techniques such as good night sleep and meditation.
What type of diet helps prevent cancer?
Research has shown that whole plant-based foods can help reduce your risk of developing cancer. For instance, a summary of 144 studies, published by an expert panel in 1997 by the World Cancer Research, revealed that consuming fruits and vegetables reduces cancer risk significantly. In fact, every year multiple studies show that whole plant-based nutrition and high fibre intake are associated with significant reduction of multiple cancers, including colon, rectal, and liver cancer.
The China Project (6500 participants) led by Dr. T. Colin Campbell showed that Chinese women who consumed mostly plants and very little of animal products had 40% lower oestrogen exposure throughout their lives compared to US and UK women. This of course was associated with much lower breast cancer incidence. He also showed an association between animal proteins and promotion of cancer growth. In our conversation, we agreed that there is a high possibility that the mechanism behind this phenomenon lies in the fact that despite the differences in shapes and forms between humans and animals, the genetic make up are almost identical (mouse up to 98%) and therefore our proteins’ structures can be also very similar. Consumption of animal proteins can contribute to major “confusion” in what proteins are ours and which aren’t and therefore in how to use them. And as we know proteins are part of cells’ mediating systems that are responsible for many cellular functions including the “shutting down” and “growing” of cancer cells.
Although the researchers still argue about what is better for us, a whole food plant-based nutrition or paleo diet, this argument today is not only obsolete but it is also borderline insane. Regardless what some focused on one question lab research or someone’s PhD has shown, today no one can deny the fact that as animal products consumption have been increasing, heart disease, stroke, and cancers rates, as well as premature ageing and number of deaths related to chronic diseases, have been increasing exponentially as well. Also, no one can deny that the quality of animal products has become so poor that most of us wouldn’t touch them if we would actually see where those foods come from and how they have been processed before arriving to our supermarkets. Unless the produce you buy is organic, all of the animal products you consume daily are loaded with antibiotics, hormones, and GMO’s, and they have very little to offer to keep you and your family healthy.
Most of us are also familiar with the fact that high fat and high sugar intake are associated with cancer as well. For example the study titled ‘Fat and Cancer’ found that the higher the fat intake, the higher the breast cancer rates, one of the most common and most devastating cancers among women. And what else do all fat and sugar-rich diets have in common? They all create unhealthy, tired, and overweight people. National Cancer Institute has identified obesity as one of the major factors contributing towards many cancers.
“Nearly all of the evidence linking obesity to cancer risk comes from large studies and despite some limitations of the studies designs, there is consistent evidence that higher amounts of body fat are associated with increased risks of a number of cancers. People who are overweight or obese are up to twice as likely as normal-weight people to develop: endometrial cancer, oesophageal adenocarcinoma, stomach cancer, liver cancer, kidney cancer, gall bladder cancer, and pancreatic cancer. Furthermore there is also an increase (10 – 40%) in developing; multiple myeloma, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and thyroid cancer.”
We don’t really need any additional studies to prove that we have to consume a large number of varieties of vegetables and fruits to be healthy because the evidence is everywhere around us. In all the poor countries where the population doesn’t have the money to eat animal products and junk food daily, cardiovascular diseases, cancers and the rest of the chronic diseases almost don’t exist. In the past, when we (UK & EEU, US, Gulf – countries) consumed up to 96% of plant-based foods, chronic diseases didn’t exist either.
Dan Buettner has spent most of his life researching, together with various universities and governments, the so called; Blue Zones – the lifestyle that leads to longevity. The Blue Zones are the areas around the world where people live the longest, and it has nothing to do with their genetic make up. Their health, vitality, and longevity is clearly related to what they eat, how much they move, and how happy they are. And after decades of research, the whole food plant based diet has been clearly identified as health promoting, slowing ageing processes, and life-prolonging. The question if a small amount of dairy, eggs or fish is harmful for us is irrelevant in this case, and it should be left for each individual to decide for themselves.
What about paleo diet? No-one really knows! “Paleo people” lived only until they were thirty years old, and not a hundred, so we don’t really know if we can survive a hundred years in great health on a paleo diet, but we do know that you can on a whole food, plant-based nutrition. So if you survive a hundred years on a Paleo diet, please let us know as this would be of interest to many scientists.
None of us can live healthily life without exercising, regardless if we are slim or overweight. However, being overweight is a risk factor on its own — it substantially increases our risk of cancer. In the UK, more than half of the adults are overweight, in Saudi Arabia 70% of women are overweight, and in the US almost 70% of the population is overweight and >30% of the population is obese (BMI>30). One way to maintain healthy weight is to exercise regularly. Moreover, a review published in the International Journal of Clinical Practice as well as UK’s National Health Services reported that regular exercise can reduce your risk of over two dozens of physical and mental health conditions, including cancer. In fact the NHS page with the title “Benefits of exercise” starts with the sentence: “Step right up! It’s the miracle cure we’ve all been waiting for. It can reduce your risk of major illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer by up to 50% and lower your risk of early death by up to 30%…”
It’s medically proven that people who exercise 150 minutes moderately or 75 minutes intensely per week, have:
- up to 50% lower risk of colon cancer
- up to 20% lower risk of breast cancer
- up to 50% of lower risk of cancer recurrence after receiving treatment
Additionally, they have:
- 30% lower risk of early death
- up to 35% lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke
- up to 50% lower risk of type 2 diabetes
- up to 83% lower risk of osteoarthritis
- up to 68% lower risk of hip fracture
- 30% lower risk of falls (among older adults)
- up to 30% lower risk of depression
- up to 30% lower risk of dementia
Tobacco products and second-hand smoke contain chemicals that damage the DNA. As such, it would not come as a surprise that tobacco use is a leading cause of cancer and death from cancer. Smoking increases the chances of developing most of the cancers. But the types of cancer particular strongly associated with tobacco use include lung, larynx, mouth, oesophagus, throat, bladder, kidney, liver, stomach, pancreas, colon, and rectum. Those who use smokeless tobacco, such as chewing tobacco, have greater risk of getting cancers of the mouth, oesophagus, and pancreas.
Thus, it goes without saying that quitting smoking and any form of tobacco use is one of the most important lifestyle changes you can make to lower your risk of developing cancer as well as many other chronic diseases.
According to Cancer Research UK, drinking alcohol increases the risk of cancer whether you drink it all in one go or a bit at a time. Alcohol even in small amounts is a toxin; however, within certain limits (1-2 units per day) our liver is able to neutralise it. Anything beyond that is associated directly or indirectly with more than 220 health problems, including cancers. Taking into consideration that large number of western diet consumers suffer, without knowing it, with “fatty liver”, their ability to process alcohol sufficiently is likely impaired. Drinking alcohol puts any of us at a greater risk of developing cancer of the mouth, throat, larynx, stomach, bowel, liver, and breast.
A 2014 study found that binge drinking, which is defined as a pattern of drinking that brings an individual’s blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 grams percent or above, has a negative impact on histones (they protect the DNA strand and help it to function properly) by changing the correct binding of DNA. This results in unnecessary replication in the copied structure, which then initially causes inflammation and damage to the cells as they form, and eventually lead to more severe diseases, such as liver cirrhosis and different cancers. Alcohol can also cause highly reactive molecules, called Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), to be produced in our cells. These molecules can damage directly the DNA, which could also cause cancer to develop.
Thus, limit your alcohol intake. According to the NHS guidelines, men should avoid drinking more than 14 units of alcohol in a week and women more than 7 units. They also recommend to have several alcohol-free days every week or even better go tea – total.
To sum up, as much as we all like to blame polluted environment and stress for our health problems, we also can take control of our own health and reduce our risk of having cancer by making positive lifestyle changes. Following a plant-based diet, exercising regularly, increasing your emotional intelligence, giving up smoking, and limiting your alcohol intake can hugely improve your chances of being healthy, being young, and living long. Make the necessary lifestyle changes today, start enjoying a better quality of life in general, and STAY CANCER FREE!