13 Steps You Can Take to Prevent Cancer

By Dr. Ben Kim

The purpose of this article is to outline 13 ways that you can decrease your risk of developing any type of cancer. The following 13 ways to prevent cancer are presented in no particular order:

1. If you are going to be sexually active, be in a mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who is not infected by human papilloma virus (HPV)

Genital HPV infection is a sexually transmitted disease that is caused by the human papilloma virus. There are actually more than 100 strains of the human papilloma virus, some of which can lead to cancer of the cervix, vagina, vulva, anus, or penis.

If you are sexually active and are not in a mutually monogamous relationship, I recommend that you learn more about HPV through various online resources. A clear and simple outline on HPV can be found at the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention website.

I encourage women who belong in this category to have a Pap test on an annual basis. I believe that Pap tests can be extremely useful for sexually active women who have had multiple partners or a partner who has had multiple partners because surgical excision of pre-cancerous and cancerous cells of the cervix is one of the safest and most effective procedures performed by the medical profession. I have worked with dozens of women over the years who have benefited from this procedure.

2. Eat lots of plant foods, mainly organic vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and fruits

Plant foods provide an abundance of antioxidants and fiber, both of which are known to reduce the risk of developing several different types of cancer.

Vegetables and fruits reduce the risk of developing cancers of the lung, stomach, esophagus, and larynx, while legumes and grains may help to reduce the risk of developing cancers of the stomach and pancreas.

There are five major groups of cancer-fighting compounds in fruits and vegetables: isothiocyanates, indols, cumines, phenols, and flavones.

The most powerful cancer-fighting vegetables belong to the cruciferous family, the most common of which are:

  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Mustard greens
  • Kale
  • Cauliflower.

A perfect cancer-fighting salad looks something like this:

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Bell peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Chick peas
  • Kidney beans
  • Avocado
  • Carrots

3. Stay away from sugar

A study published in the February 2004 edition of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute points to a strong association between a diet high in sugar and the risk of colorectal cancer in women.

There are too many published studies on the relationship between sugar intake and cancer to list them all in this article. If you want to learn more about sugar and cancer, a good place to start is here: Glycemic Modulation of Tumor Tolerance.

4. Learn how to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy oils

The healthiest oils are extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil. Oils that should be avoided whenever possible include corn, cottonseed, sunflower, and safflower oils. To learn more about healthy vs. unhealthy oils, view: A Guide To Choose Healthy Oils.

5. Beware of electromagnetic fields and ionizing radiation

In an early draft of a report issued in the spring of 1990, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States recommended that electromagnetic fields (EMFs) be classified as a class B carcinogen - a probable human carcinogen. Unfortunately, by the time that the EPA released the final draft of this report, the words "class B carcinogen" were nowhere to be found.

Despite their change of heart on electromagnetic fields, the EPA did include the following in their report:

"In conclusion, several studies showing leukemia, lymphoma and cancer of the nervous system in children exposed to EMF's, supported by similar findings in adults in several occupational studies also involving electrical power frequency exposures, show a consistent pattern of response that suggest a causal link."

There is plenty of evidence in the scientific literature that has me convinced that electromagnetic fields can be a significant cause of cancer. If you want to learn more about this topic, a good place to start is here: Electro-Magnetic Pollution and Health in the Workplace.

X-rays, mammograms, and other forms of ionizing radiation are also capable of causing cancer. Dr. Jon Gofman's findings on ionizing radiation are summarized here: Points to Consider Before Taking Another X-Ray.

6. Don't use oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapies

Oral contraceptives (combinations of estrogen and progestin used to prevent ovulation) increase a woman's risk of developing breast and liver cancer. Oral contraceptives also increase a woman's risk of experiencing a heart attack or stroke and developing a serious blood clot.

Estrogen-based drugs that are used for symptoms of menopause are associated with an increased risk of developing cancer of the endometrium and possibly the breast.

7. Strive to maintain your optimal weight

Obesity is an established cause of both endometrial and post menopausal breast cancer. Obesity is also strongly associated with cancers of the kidney, colon, and rectum.

Reaching and maintaining your optimal weight is a simple matter of balancing the calories you consume and use each day. What's not so simple is overcoming any emotional stressors that may be getting in the way of you balancing these factors. This is a topic that we will look at in greater detail in future newsletters.

8. Be physically active

Daily exercise can help to prevent cancer through the following mechanisms:

  • Boosting your immune system
  • Preventing obesity
  • Decreasing estrogen levels
  • Decreasing insulin growth factor (IGF) levels - high IGF levels can increase your risk of developing cancer of the breast, colon, and rectum

9. Minimze your exposure to environmental toxins

Thanks to the industrial revolution, environmental toxins can be found in every part of our world. A clinical review in the February 2004 issue of the British Medical Journal suggests that up to 75 percent of all cases of cancer are caused by environmental and lifestyle factors.

It's impossible to avoid exposure to environmental toxins entirely, but you can strive to avoid the following everyday toxins through simple lifestyle choices:

  • Heavy metals - found in mercury fillings, treated wood, antiperspirants, vaccines, and factory farmed fish
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) - found in factory farmed fish
  • Asbestos - found in many building materials made before the mid to late 1970s
  • Dioxins - found in fat of animals that are factory farmed
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) - found in cosmetics, clothing that has been dry cleaned, air fresheners, paints, deodorants, and bug repellents
  • Pesticides - non-organic fruits and vegetables, factory farmed meats, and bug repellents

10. Strive to sleep soundly for 8-10 hours per day in darkness

Sound and regular sleep is essential to promoting a healthy circadian rhythm, which is intimately interconnected with your endocrine system and ability to prevent cancer. Recent studies have indicated that sleeping in complete darkness is essential to supporting an endocrine system that can suppress cancer development. For guidelines on how to promote deep, restful sleep, view: Nine Steps To Better Sleep.

11. Don't smoke tobacco, drink alcohol, or use any other recreational drugs

According to the Harvard Center For Cancer Prevention, approximately 30 percent of all deaths due to cancer in the United States can be attributed to tobacco use. And every day, we are learning more about how harmful second hand tobacco smoke is to human health. It's been more than 12 years since the Environmental Protection Agency classified tobacco smoke as a Group A carcinogen, for which there is no safe level of exposure.

Heavy alcohol use is strongly associated with cancer of the liver. Alcohol can interact with tobacco smoking to cause various cancers of the upper respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts. Finally, alcohol consumption is also associated with an increased risk of developing breast cancer. There's no way around it: alcohol should be avoided whenever possible.

Marijuana and cocaine use have been shown to increase one's risk of developing lung cancer.

12. Go easy on the salt

Heavy salt intake is associated with cancer of the stomach. All salt - including mineral dense sea salt - should be used sparingly.

13. Strive to be emotionally balanced

This last point may be the most important factor that determines your risk of developing cancer. Emotional stress is highly capable of causing every single health condition that we know of, all types of cancer included. I've said it before and I'll say it again: you can have the healthiest diet in the world and still develop cancer if you are not emotionally balanced.

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