We used to call it the “Big C.” The word cancer put fear into our hearts!
Cancer is a group of diseases, not one particular kind. It is characterized by the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells in the body. This unchecked growth can lead to death. The treatment is directed at removing or stopping the spread of these malignant cells.
We know a lot more about cancer prevention and see cure as expected in most cases, though not nearly all.
The cause of cancer is not always known but the risk factors are more clear. Many are modifiable through lifestyle changes.
As of January 2016, there were 15.5 million people with a history of cancer and still alive (survivors). Cancer remains the second leading cause of death in the US after heart disease.
The evidence that we should put into practice the latest recommendations has been called by experts and researchers to be “compelling.” That is a pretty serious word in the scientific community and not used lightly.
The American Cancer Society estimates that at least 42% of newly diagnosed cancers are preventable with lifestyle behavior change.
Some of these recommendations we have heard for many years over and over again. But, when will we take heed and begin to actually make the necessary changes for our overall health and in particular, to prevent cancer?
These are admittedly simple steps that we can all begin taking toward health.
Family caregivers can encourage and intervene to help their senior loved ones adopt some of these guidelines for a healthier lifestyle. You are never too old for health!
Latest Cancer Research
Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer: A Global Perspective report produced by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) is described as the most comprehensive scientific report to date.
Here are their key findings:
- Being overweight or obese is a cause of 12 cancers. There appears to be an overwhelming link between body fat and cancer.
- Drinking alcohol is a cause of six cancers, even one glass of alcohol a day can increase your risk of getting some cancers.
- Physical activity can help protect you from 3 cancers and also helps you manage your weight. Activity can give powerful protection against cancer development.
- Healthy eating can reduce cancer risk as well as aiding weight management.
- Lifestyle factors can also impact survival rates after a cancer diagnosis including the effect of the cancer treatment.
Caregivers’ Tips for Cancer Prevention
Here are the latest guidelines for prevention backed by scientific evidence that we can all follow – caregivers and seniors.
AICR/WCRF Cancer Prevention Recommendations:
- Maintain a healthy weight – stay within the healthy range and preferably at the lower end of the Body Mass Index (BMI) chart range and avoid weight gain in adult life. Body fat triggers hormones that can produce cancer growth.
- Become and stay physically active – walk more, sit less every day. Exercise of 150 minutes of moderate activity a week can help keep hormone levels in check. Sitting for extended periods can increase cancer risk so get up every hour for a walk.
- Eat a diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans – plant foods rich in fiber and nutrients reduce the risk of cancer. Plant foods also contain phytochemicals which protect cells from damage.
- Limit fast foods and other processed foods which are high in fat, starches or sugars – also helps manage weight.
- Limit red and processed meat – eat only moderate amounts of red meat, pork and lamb and limit processed meat. More than 12-18 ounces of red meat (considered a moderate amount) shows convincing evidence of increasing colorectal cancer risk.
- Limit sugar sweetened drinks – choose water or unsweetened drinks. Helps with weight management.
- Limit alcohol consumption – despite potential protective effect against heart disease, evidence is clear that alcohol in any form is linked to cancer.
- Do not use supplements for cancer prevention – a healthy diet and other lifestyle factors are more beneficial. Some high dose supplements can increase risk for cancer.
- Breastfeed your baby if you can – evidence that breastfeeding can protect mother against breast cancer.
- After a cancer diagnosis and treatment: follow these recommendations.
Fighting to Prevent Cancer
Prevention is the first step to fight cancer. These lifestyle changes are imperative for our health.
Avoiding smoking and time in the sun unprotected are also ways you can reduce your risk of cancer.
It is also vital to participate in early screening tests to detect cancer and get treatment for a cure.
We can’t prevent all cancers, but given the devastating effect they can have, both on those afflicted and their loved ones, we should do all we can for prevention and early screening to get treatment to be survivors.