The fear of cancer hangs over many of us like a black cloud. It can strike at the cruelest of moments and in the cruelest of ways. At times, it almost seems like a modern plague, something mysterious and deadly against which we have little defense. Yet it is estimated that over a third of the cancers diagnosed each year could have been avoided had the patient changed their lifestyle. Estimates vary of course, but even the most skeptical of experts accept that a few simple changes can dramatically reduce your risk.
Most people know that smoking can trigger lung, throat and mouth cancer. Even those who continue to smoke are at least aware of the risk. But surprisingly few realize that alcohol also increases their cancer odds. Oncologists frequently meet heavy drinkers who tell them that, though they knew their risk of heart disease and liver failure was high, they had no idea the same was true for cancer. Any plan to avoid cancer truly begins only when you stop smoking and drinking.
It is also important to minimize exposure to unnatural chemicals. Avoid pesticides by switching to organic milk, fruit and vegetables. And be wary of what you spray and wash your home with. Day to day we expose our bodies to a whole range of powerful chemicals, from air fresheners to bath foams, from insect sprays to washing up liquids. Try cutting down on such things. A detox may also be worthwhile, though these are best done under the supervision of an expert.
Keep your weight down, and take regular exercise. Exercise is useful in many ways. First, it keeps you slim. Second, it boosts the immune system, vital for keeping cancer at bay. And third, it lifts your mood, giving you the energy and motivation to keep up a healthy life.
Finally we come to diet. A healthy diet should be at the heart of any cancer battle. Many non-organic foods contain carcinogenic or hormone-disrupting pesticides, so begin by switching to organic meats and vegetables. Reduce your consumption of dairy produce, and make what you do eat organic and low fat. More generally, cut down on alcohol, salt and any processed or mass-produced food. Sugar is especially bad; in fact, cancer cells thrive on sugar. Fried, burnt and smoked foods contain free radicals and so also need to be avoided.
What should you eat? Fresh, organic fruit and vegetables and good quality protein should make up the bulk of your diet. According to the World Cancer Research Fund, if everyone ate five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day, cancer rates would drop by at least twenty percent. In the case of breast cancer, that figure rises to nearly fifty percent! Certain foods are especially good. Eat plenty of cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower, raw if possible.
And pack your cupboards with carotene-rich fruits and vegetables, especially carrots, spinach, parsley, watercress, cantaloupe melons and raw mangoes. The enzyme bromelain is another potent weapon as it helps dissolve the protein coating surrounding most cancer cells; pineapple and papaya are both rich in this enzyme. Lentils, almonds, brown rice and sunflower seeds all contain the anti-cancer minerals zinc and selenium, so incorporate these into your diet whenever possible. Be creative. For example, if you are having salad, mix in a little raw cauliflower, some carrot and watercress, cut up a little papaya and then sprinkle some sunflower seeds on top. Such a meal would provide a hefty anti-cancer punch!
As can be seen, we are not helpless in the face of cancer. With a few simple changes, you can hugely reduce your risk. Give up the cigarettes and alcohol, switch to organic meats and vegetables, reduce your exposure to chemicals and pollutants and replace sugar and junk food with a diet rich in fruit and vegetables. If you make such changes, and if you stick to them, you could more than halve your chance of developing the disease.