Cancer prevention can be found in your refrigerator and in the gym
Even those with genetic predisposition can reduce risk
(HealthDay News) Much of the current cancer prevention research can be supplemented by what we already know.
One thing seems to fairly certain: a healthy lifestyle can help reduce your chances of getting cancer, even if you have a family history. People who have genes that predispose them to certain types of cancer may be able to reduce their risk of developing cancer by eating the right food and exercising, experts suggest.
"Between 27 and 49 percent of people think preventing cancer is impossible or highly unlikely," said registered dietician, Karen Collins, the nutrition advisor to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR).
But, she said the AICR has identified three steps people can implement that would dramatically affect their cancer risk: Eating a mostly plant-based diet; maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly. "The data is pretty clear that we can make a significant drop in the cancer rate with these three changes. We can prevent about one-third of cancers with these changes, and if you add tobacco prevention, which reduces about 30 percent of cancers, over half of today's cancers could be prevented," said Collins.
"Increased weight increases the risk of cancer," said Dr. Virginia Kaklamani, an oncologist who specializes in breast cancer at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago . "And, physical activity, regardless of weight, decreases breast cancer risk."
AICR recently issued a report, Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective . The report was prepared by a team of international researchers who reviewed more than 7,000 studies on cancer.
Major recommendations from the report include:
· Maintain a body mass index (BMI) between 21 and 23, and avoid gaining weight during adulthood. Although a BMI of up to 24.9 is considered normal, the lower end of normal is better for cancer prevention, according to the report.
· Exercise moderately at least 30 minutes a day. Brisk walking, or another equivalent activity is considered moderate exercise. Ideally, you should work your way up to 60 minutes of moderate exercise daily, or 30 minutes of vigorous exercise, suggests the report, which also advises limiting sedentary activities, such as TV-watching.
· Eat a healthy diet. That means your diet should consist of mostly plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The experts recommend avoiding sugary, processed foods and fast foods as much as possible. The report also advises limiting alcohol consumption to one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. And, red meat should be limited to no more than 18 ounces per week, according to the report. Salt consumption should also be limited and the report advises consuming no more than 2.4 grams of salt daily.
· Don't rely on supplements. The cancer-preventing benefits derived from nutrients are believed to come from foods, not from individual supplements. The AICR report advises against taking supplements.
Collins said it's important for people to realize that these recommendations aren't an "all or nothing" proposition. "Some people feel, 'I'm so far away from a healthy weight that I'll never get there, so why try?' But, every drop toward a healthy weight is a good move and it's worth it," said Collins.
And, she said, each healthy change you make tends to support another. "When you're active and at a healthy weight, eating choices become clearly, because good foods tend to give you more energy to be physically active," she said.
Kaklamani encourages people to make healthy changes, but cautioned that the 20 percent or so of women who have a family history of breast cancer to talk with their doctors about genetic counseling, because in addition to making healthy lifestyle changes, they may need to take more aggressive steps to prevent cancer. If you have a family history of other types of cancer, make sure your doctor knows about it, and ask if there are any additional tests available to assess your risk of developing that type of cancer.
On the Web
The American Institute for Cancer Research has more information on preventing cancer.
Karen Collins, M.S., R.D., nutrition advisor, American Institute for Cancer Research, Washington D.C.; Virginia Kaklamani, M.D., oncologist, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago, Ill.; Oct. 31, 2007 Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective American Institute for Cancer Research and World Cancer Research Fund
Publication date: February 2009
Serena Gordon, HealthDay Reporter
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