October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Pink is everywhere from the NFL field to Walk for a Cure events. The idea is to raise awareness of breast cancer, remind women to get their mammograms, and to raise money to find a cure. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States (lung cancer is #1).
Cancer kills more people worldwide than Aids, malaria, and tuberculosis combined. According to the American Cancer Society, men in the United States have a one in two probability of developing cancer in their lifetime and women have a one in three probability of developing cancer. More than 1.6 million Americans will receive a cancer diagnosis in 2013. According to the Rockford Health Council’s 2010 Healthy Community Study, Winnebago and Boone counties, like the national statistics, reports cancer is the #2 cause of death in the region and is responsible for 24% of all deaths (2007). Nearly all of us have lost a friend or family member from this pervasive disease.
There is hope. More and more lives are being saved. Survivorship is increasing in part to more advanced treatments and new imaging technology. Millions of dollars continue to be spent on research to find a cure.
We, as individuals need to do more. Our health system is designed to be reactive – we get sick, we go to the doctor. What if we took a proactive approach to this disease and do our part to reduce the risks of getting many forms of cancer? According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, 38% of all breast cancers are preventable. Three out of every five new cases of endometrial cancer could be prevented, 45% of colon cancers are preventable, and 47% of stomach cancers. How? By improving our lifestyle. The American Institute for Cancer Research reports one third of all cancers are preventible if we do three things (I would add don’t smoke) –
1. Maintain a Healthy Weight – Our fat cells are not dormant. They produce estrogen which promotes cancer cell growth.
2. Eat a Healthy Diet – Focus on eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans and legumes. Limit the consumption of red meat, avoid processed meats (bacon, hot dogs, sandwich meat, sausage), and sugar. Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, kale, cabbage), apples, berries, green tea, whole grains, beans and legumes, dark leafy vegetables, ground flaxseed, and walnuts are foods that fight cancer. Focus on whole foods and stay away from processed foods which are full of sugar, fat, salt, and additives. They do more to promote disease than prevent disease.
3. Keep Moving – Get 30 minutes of exercise a day. Not only is exercise good for overall health, daily activity keeps our hormones in check and helps keep a healthy immune system and weight.
Your health is not completely dependent on your doctor. Let’s not wait to get the diagnosis. Be proactive. We need to fight cancer on all fronts – through research, treatment, and prevention.