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Cancer Prevention

The Power of the Plate in Our Battle Against the Dreaded C-word

Hands eating oatmeal and other fruits

I have found that patients have an especially deep feel for the dreaded C-word (cancer) - the diagnosis that no one wants to hear in their life. There is some understanding of the linkage between lifestyle and chronic disease (although surprisingly not acknowledged by many!) but the cancer diagnosis seems to be in a league of it's own with instilling fear in people.


The Power of The Plate


What if you learned about a treatment that would prevent up to 40% of cancers and over 80% of chronic disease that we see nowadays in the United States? This would be big news! There is - it is the most powerful tool in prevention of some cancers and can help as an adjunct to treatment and reducing risk of recurrence of some cancers (colon, breast, and prostate cancer in particular and research is ongoing for other types of cancer).


This year, the American Cancer Society has updated their diet and activity guidelines to reflect the power of plant-based foods in cancer prevention while also discouraging processed foods and certain animal products

This year, the American Cancer Society has updated their diet and activity guidelines to reflect the power of plant-based foods in cancer prevention while also discouraging processed foods and certain animal products (some animal products were not mentioned at all in the general recommendations). Good news is that the guidelines are catching up to the science in the battle against cancer!


I Always Said I Have Two Coaches: My Right Foot and My Left


Our daily activities have an effect on the development of cancer as well. Two separate - but both important - factors are 1) the amount of moderate or vigorous activity that you get and 2) the amount of time that you are sedentary. Adult bodies need 150-300 minutes (5 hours) of moderate activity weekly or 75-150 minutes of vigorous activity weekly. These are updates from previous recommendations from the American Cancer Society where they listed 150 minutes of moderate exercise and now they recommend 150-300 minutes weekly (or 75 minutes vigorous and now they list 75-150 minutes weekly). In addition, at least 5 minutes every hour we should be up and moving around to combat sedentary behavior (the recommendation is actually 2 minutes of activity every 20 minutes at least but I find this is quite difficult in today's work culture). Sedentary behavior is an independent risk factor for death. That means that all other factors being equal (even with regular exercise), if we are sedentary for long periods of time, our risk of death increases by almost 10% simply from our sedentary behavior.

Sedentary behavior is an independent risk factor for death. That means that all other factors being equal (even with regular exercise), if we are sedentary for long periods of time, our risk of death increases by almost 10% simply from our sedentary behavior.

Get Your Zzzzzz's


Sleep is a critical time of rejuvenation and cell repair. How would your house look if you never cleaned it up? Sleep is the time for the cells in our body to repair themselves - the time of 'clean up' after a day of hard work. It is critical to get relaxation and rejuvenation time. For most adults, this is 7-8 hours nightly.


"Sitting is the new smoking" has become more popular but it may be more accurate to say that "alcohol is the new smoking".

Alcohol - the DUD of the Party


Everyone wants to be the life of the party! In many cultures, drinking alcohol has become the social norm. When it comes to cancer though, no amount of alcohol is recommended. Even one drink a WEEK has been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer. The slogan "sitting is the new smoking" has become more popular but it may be more accurate to say that "alcohol is the new smoking". It is addictive and leads to chronic diseases including cancers and a slew of mental health issues.


Take Back Your Power


So let's recap: A diet rich whole-food plant-based foods, regular exercise with minimizing sedentary behavior, and getting adequate sleep are all ways in which we can reduce our risk for cancer. How is this possible? It is called Epigenetics. We used to think our genes are our genes - nothing we can do about it. Now we know that this is not true. We have the ability to up-regulate or down-regulate the expression of genes based on our lifestyle. This amazing discovery has led to a much deeper understanding of the power of lifestyle medicine.


See the recommendations yourself here.



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