Tip of the Week
3 months ago I lost my Father-in-Law to pancreatic cancer at the age of 60, and 4 years ago, I lost my Mom to colon cancer at the age of 46. Cancer is becoming an increasing problem all over the world. It has touched my life closer than I wanted, but in away, it has been a blessing. I have learned more about cancer than I ever wanted to know, but this knowledge has allowed me to change the way that I live and eat. I feel like the knowledge that I have gained will hopefully benefit my children, and maybe inspire you to learn a little more too.
What is cancer? Cancer is a disease defined by a normal cell mutating and multiplying out of control. The best way I have heard it explained, is that cancer is like rust. Once a piece of metal begins to get rusty, it takes no time at all for the rust to spread and destroy the original piece of metal. That’s what happens to a healthy cell. It mutates, then spread to other healthy cells. Left untreated, it (the cancer) will take over and eventually kill its host (the person).
According to the National Cancer Institute, 80% of all cancers are caused by factors that have been identified and can potentially be controlled. Colon, breast and prostate cancers are believed be linked to an unhealthy diet. People with these cancers typically have diets that are high in meat and fat.
In parts of the world where more whole grains, fruits, beans, veggies and nuts are eaten, cancer rates are much lower. Many of the foods that are considered healthy – such as fruits, veggies and grains - offer antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, etc. Animal products, on the other hand, are thought to release carcinogenic compounds and are believed to increase cancer risk. I am not suggesting becoming vegetarian, but limiting the amount you consume is a good start.
An important thing to note is cancer and the Latino community – just as the Latino population is growing, so are its’ cancer rates. Latina women in particular have a lower survival rate for breast and cervical cancer than Whites. To learn more about how cancer is impacting the Latino community, see the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Facts and Figures for Hispanics and Latinos 2009-2011.
So, what can you do to decrease your chances of getting a cancer?
Cancer Prevention Tips
First, educate yourself and know your family history. If someone in your family has or had cancer, you NEED to know so that you can get checked. My Mom died at 46, but they believed she began to develop polyps in her early 30s. It takes polyps 5-10 years to become cancerous. So, had she been checked early on, they could have removed these polyps and she may still be here. She’s not, and now I know what I need to do. Get checked in my early 30s – not when the standard 50 year-old check is recommended.
Second, you can change and/or improve your diet. Like I mentioned earlier, diets rich in grains, fruits, beans, veggies and nuts are good diets! The less that these foods have been processed - cooked, peeled, mixed with other ingredients - the better they are for you! These types of food are also high in fiber. A diet rich in fiber is key because it helps keep your digestive system clean. Fiber is also found in whole grains, but it’s not found in meat, dairy and white rice…..or most desserts! For additional ideas on how to incorporate fiber and more fruits and veggies into your diet check out this helpful article posted by the folks at Helpguide.org.
Third, incorporate more cancer fighting foods into your diet. Have you heard of the Mediterranean Diet? It is a diet that contains many anti-cancer foods. Check out this website for a full view of what this diet consists of. Also, here is a table with some cancer fighting foods that can easily be incorporated into your life.
While there is no known singular cause to cancer, the best thing you can do to prevent it by knowing some of the “assumed” causes, and be proactive with them. Don’t smoke and minimize alcohol consumption. Eat a diet full of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and don’t add too much additional fat. Stay active and maintain a healthy weight. Bottom line, an overall healthy lifestyle may prevent cancer, while additionally helping prevent heart disease, obesity, and many other health complications.