Monday, September 5, 2011

Cancer Prevention: the DOs and DON'Ts

Cancer… We get terrified just by saying or hearing the word. It is that sneaky disease that often comes unannounced and makes changes in a person’s body without them even noticing. It is that illness that knocks on one’s door and comes in uninvited.
Nowadays, medicine has improved. Cures for cancer are being developed and a slight decline in deaths due to cancer has been seen. However, prevention remains the preferred way to deal with this epidemic. There are few cancers that are due to genetic influences and few others to microbial infections. But, the majority of cancers are due to lifestyle and environmental factors. And this is what we should work on when we talk about prevention.
What exactly is cancer and what are the foods and behaviors that promote or protect from this disease?

What is Cancer?

Every day, our cells are exposed to substances called carcinogens. They could be radiations, free radicals or other factors. Their mission is to attack the cell causing a modification in its DNA.

Normally, the damage is quickly repaired. When this is not possible, the cell autodestructs in order to prevent the spreading of those faulty genes. And everything is back to normal!
Sometimes, the cell becomes incapable of suicide. It replicates uncontrollably forming a mass of abnormal tissue called tumor. The latter is unable to perform the critical function of healthy tissues. The tumor can remain benign (harmless) but it can also become very dangerous and spread to other areas in the body.

Let’s simplify things: Cancer develops through the following steps…

1. Exposure to a carcinogen: tobacco, overexposure to the sun, water or air pollution, some foods, chemicals, etc.

2. Entry of the carcinogen into a cell

3. Carcinogenesis: initiation of cancer as the carcinogen damages or changes the cell’s genetic material

4. Tumor formation: acceleration by other carcinogens, called promoters, so that the cell begins to multiply out of control

5. Metastasis: often, spreading of the cancer cells via blood and lymph

6. Disruption of normal body functions

Researchers believe that the first four steps are the key to cancer prevention. We cannot prevent exposure to all carcinogens because they may occur naturally in foods that contain essential nutrients to the body. What we can do is limit the foods that are known to be harmful and carry the right weapons in order to fight damaging substances.

Say no to…

Alcohol: it increases risk of mouth, throat and esophagus related cancers. Alcoholism damages the liver and promotes liver cancer. Have a maximum of 2 drinks a day if you are a man and 1 drink a day if you are a woman.

Saturated fats: they increase the risk of several cancers including colon and rectum, esophagus, gallbladder, breast among postmenopausal women, endometrium, pancreas and kidney. You can find them in animal products: meats, whole milk and dairy products.

Red meat and processed foods: they are related to colon cancer as well as many others.
Processed meats contain nitrites and nitrates that contribute to their pink color and deter bacterial growth. In the digestive tract, those nitrites and nitrates form a nitrogen containing compound that may be carcinogenic.
Cooking meats at high temperature (frying, broiling) causes their amino acids and creatine to react forming a carcinogen.
Grilling meat, fish and even other foods such as vegetables over a direct flame cause the fats and added oils to splash on the fire and vaporize creating other carcinogens that rise and stick to the food.
The body can handle these carcinogens as long as they’re in moderation. Any excess can overwhelm the system and increase cancer risk.
Therefore, you should vary choices between fried, grilled, baked, boiled, steamed and sautéed dishes. Cutting down on red meat consumption is also a great idea. Vary your protein intake by having poultry, fish and legumes (beans, peas etc.).

Obesity: It increases cancers of the colon, breast in postmenopausal women, endometrium, pancreas, kidney and esophagus; and possibly gallbladder, thyroid, ovary and cervix as well.

Tobacco: Both active and passive smoking increases the risk for cancer. Let’s hope that the new law that bans indoor smoking is implemented soon!!

Overexposure to the sun: as we've discussed in a previous article, sun exposure is very important as it provides the necessary amount of vitamin D to your body. 
However, excess UV radiations can promote cancer. 15 to 30 minutes of exposure in the early morning or in the late afternoon is enough. If you have to  exceed it, use sunscreen.

So that's it? That's all you have to do? No! Stay updated as Point A La Ligne brings you part II: what good behaviors to adopt in order to prevent cancer?


Anonymous said...

Great tips Nadine thanks for everything and keep up the good work! ;)

Nadine Issa said...

You're welcome! dnt forget to check part II and keep reading ;)

Anonymous said...


Harry said...

Aside from these great tips, I think that a good support system is vital to effectively coping with cancer. Support can come in many forms, like through friends and loved one and support groups.

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