Avoiding Cancer in 2012

If I could make a 2012 magical wish, it would be to open the front door in January and have no one show up. It will be a time of jubilation, when oncology offices are empty.  With that goal, I offer this New Year’s anti-cancer list: 

Exercise – moderate exertion, at least 30 of the 1440 minutes of each day, 5 days a week.  Increasing data shows exercise prevents cancer.

Smoking – the average smoker lives at least 15 years less than do nonsmokers. This is not a just disgusting habit, it is a lethal addiction.  Get help. There are outstanding quit resources.

Sunscreen – sunburn at any age increases the risk of all skin cancers. Despite advances in melanoma therapy, it is still a deadly disease.  Avoid sunlamps.

Food – Decrease red meat and fat, increase fruits & vegetables, increase fiber, eat fish at least two times a week, eat tomatoes, blueberries, soy, green tea, & dark chocolate.  Limit grilled, barbequed meat.

Coffee – go for it.  No significant medical issues. Do not substitute caffeine for sleep.  Increasing data suggests adequate sleep increases life span.

Weight – whether it is because of increased diabetes, alternated insulin levels, or high estrogen levels, obesity increases the rate and aggressiveness of cancer. Get your BMI under 30.

Vaccines – If you are at increased risk, get vaccinated for Hepatitis (thus prevent Hepatoma).  Teens should also get HPV shots (prevent cervical and anal cancer).  Ask your doctor.

Rotten Peanuts & Betel nut chewing – these cause liver tumors in the Penghu Islets and in parts of Asia. Not a worry here, but one cannot be too careful.  Stop.

Colonoscopy – Every 10 years starting at age 50 and continue until expected lifespan less then 10.  Earlier and more often if polyps or increased risk.

Mammogram – Every 1 – 3 years starting at 40, every 1-2 years starting at 50. Talk with your doctor about your risk.  Stop after 70. Women should have their breasts professionally examined at least once a year. Self-exam may be of limited value.

PAP – Starting at age 21, every 2 years if normal until 30, then every 3 years if normal until 65, then stop. More often if positive for HPV or other changes found.

Radiation – Decline discount tour tickets to Fukushima, although Chernobyl’s nightlife has a certain glow. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer.  Has your house been tested?

Soda – Not much direct research but with high sugars, complex chemicals and constant esophageal irritation, it is highly suspect. As little as possible.

Cell Phones  – Despite WHO concerns no reliable study has shown a link between electromagnetic fields and cancer.  Power lines appear to be safe.  Using a cell phone while driving may run you into a utility pole.

Genetic Counseling – if cancer runs in your family, especially younger members, talk to your doctor or a genetic counselor about possible gene testing.

Chemoprevention – Certain drugs can help prevent breast cancer in high-risk women.  Aspirin may decrease colon cancer but the data is unclear.  Researchers are looking at metformin and finasteride to decrease other cancers.

Alcohol – Bad news here.  There is probably no safe amount.  Each drink consumed per day, increases cancer by 6 percent or more. Do not drink every day and never more then three drinks a sitting. The balancing act is that 1-2 drinks a day decrease heart disease. Moderation is key.

Sex – Intimacy at least weekly decreases risk of cancer by 23%.  No published research here, I just made that up…figured it would help someone on New Years.

Vitamins – Cancer data very confusing and vitamin factories publish a lot of exaggeration and lies.  Probably should take Calcium with D, folate if you drink or do not eat fruit & vegetables, avoid supplemental iron unless prescribed, do not take beta-carotene, perhaps take selenium.  Multivitamins are useless for those who eat a balanced diet.  Take omega-3 if do not eat fish.

Industrial Exposure – If you work in a poorly protected environment where you are worried about radiation, chemicals or dusts contact OSHA, CDC or UMDNJ Environmental Health.

Technology – keep in touch via the Internet with updates in cancer prevention.  Do not let the Internet take you away from life.  In the end, it is just a video screen.

Stress – While the data is clearer for heart disease, taking time for rest, relaxation and just to find yourself, has to make you more healthy and likely prevents cancer.

Exam – See your doc just for a tune-up, at least once a year.  See a specialist (dermatologist, GI, gynecologist…) with special questions.

I really hope you never get cancer.  However, remember this.  In 2012, most cancer will be cured.  If you have a concern or even a question of maybe a concern, see your doctor.   After prevention, early detection is our best weapon.


Healthy New Year.



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