Nineteen years ago, I wrote my article entitled “How to Prevent Cancer”, a serious topic I also discussed in my book, Let’s Stop “Killing” Our Children (www.philipSchua.com).
A review on cancer in the United States in 2014 by the American Cancer Society revealed that almost 50 percent of cancer deaths were related to smoking, unhealthy diet, and bad lifestyle and behaviors.
In the U.S., 36.5 million adults smoke, with 16 million living with a smoking-related illness. While smoking has gone down by about 15 percent, obesity has tremendously increased.
Forty-five percent of cancer mortality and 42 percent of cancers detected were caused by preventable or modifiable risk factors, not genetics. These cancer-inducing factors include Tobacco, Alcohol, Bad diet, Absence of exercise – (TABA). Actually, obesity (“taba” in the Philippine dialect) is also, in itself, a great risk factor for cancer. Lifestyle is definitely the key to disease prevention, including cancer, heart and metabolic diseases, stroke, and Alzheimer’s.
Smoking is responsible for 29 percent of deaths, followed by obesity, 6.5 percent, and alcohol, 4 percent. Secondhand smoke is also a killer, possibly worse. Smoking on top of excess drinking would obviously be more deadly.
Here below are data from this study which was published in CA, a cancer Journal for Clinicians:
“Smoking accounted for 82 percent of lung cancers. Excess body weight was associated with 60 percent of uterine cancers and about one-third of liver cancers. Alcohol intake was associated with 25 percent of liver cancers in men and 12 percent in women; 17 percent of colorectal cancers in men and 8 percent in women; and 16 percent of breast cancers in women. Exposure to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight or tanning beds was associated with 96 percent of skin cancers in men and 94 percent in women.”
My September 2, 1999 article on cancer and its prevention, reprinted below, is still pertinent, applicable, and relevant today, confirmed by the recent study presented above.
What are the causes of cancer?
In our previous article column, we defined what cancer was and discussed its etiologies (causes), and other specific issues on cancer. The most striking information we revealed last week was that more than 75 percent (3 out of 4) of all cancers in humans were caused by only three things: diet, tobacco, and alcohol. Majority of cancers are preventable, and that it is within our power to prevent this deadly malady. The genetic factor could also be positively influenced and changed by a healthy lifestyle to one’s advantage.
So, what is the problem?
The problem is the lack of discipline on our part. We continue to eat a lot of red meat, a lot of high cholesterol or fatty foods and high carb diet knowing these are bad for our heart and also increase our chances of having cancer of the colon, breast and uterus, etc. Smokers know tobacco cause cancer of the throat, lungs, kidney, urinary bladder, pancreas, among others, and still fume away with gusto. Moderate to heavy alcohol drinkers are aware that ethanol causes not only liver cirrhosis but cancer of the digestive tract, liver and breast, and are not scared to bend their elbow and say “cheers!” unabated. It is no longer the lack of awareness or knowledge that is leading many of us to self-destruct. It is the lack of discipline, inner strength and resolve. When one loves to hold on to something very precious, like life and happiness, one should be ready to make sacrifices.
What other natural foods prevent cancer?
Fruits and vegetables in general have powerful antioxidants in them that reduce the risk of cancer. Broccoli, beans, oat meal, lettuce, processed tomatoes, bokchoy, strawberry, oranges, papaya, pineapple, kiwi, watermelon, langka, and all the other leafy vegetables and fruits are anti-cancer to a great extent. But unless we eat them daily, they won’t work. Of course, abstinence from animal fats, tobacco and alcohol are essential. And so with avoidance of chemical pollutants, radiation exposure and UV rays from sunlight.
Does exercise reduce cancer risk?
Yes. Physical exercises does not only control body weight and lower cholesterol but also reduces the risk of cancer. One does not have to jog for half an hour a day to get the benefit. Walking 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes after dinner are vigorous enough to do the job. Brisk walking for those who can tolerate it is even better. Parking away from your destination and getting of the bus or jitney and walking the rest of the way, using stairs for a couple of floors instead of elevators, drinking a tall glass warm water before each meal, and being physically active in general, are most helpful in reducing cancer risk, besides abstinence from red meat and alcohol.
How about those “anti-cancer pills and juices”?
Pills and juices being marketed as anti-cancer are as effective as tap water from your faucet. The manufacturer’s claims have no scientific basis whatsoever. At least drinking tap water is a hundred fold cheaper and has no potential serious complications. Besides, drinking a lot of water is good for your kidneys, unlike those pills and juices, which might cause damages to your kidneys and liver.
What is a sound anti-cancer strategy?
There are several behavioral and lifestyle changes we can do to lower or prevent cancer, and many of these changes are common sense and practical measures. But, as I stated earlier, first, we must have the discipline, determination and resolve. Then, we must religiously implement our strategy.
A safe and sound cancer prevention strategy includes all of the following regimen: (1) abstinence from tobacco (2) eating fish and a high-fiber, low-carb, low fat, diet (with a lot of fruits, vegetables, whole-grain, bran, etc.) instead of red meat; (3) taking multivitamins; (4) doing regular physical exercises for half an hour at least four times a week; (5) avoidance of exposure to too much sunlight, polluted air, agents like asbestos, household chemicals in our home environment or workplace; and, (6) limiting alcohol ingestion to one or two drinks a day, or none at all; (7) Stress management through rest and relaxation with family and friends; and (8) Meditation for inner peace. In short, stay away from carcinogens and live a healthy life-style through self-discipline.
So, if you are serious about reducing your risk for cancer, do not look for a miracle pill or juice, lotion or potion. Starting today, make some simple changes in your lifestyle as suggested above. You’ll be amazed how this could change your life and those of your loved ones, for the better.
Sounds simple and inexpensive? You bet. Try it. You may even live to appreciate the benefits from your sacrifices of today on your 100th birthday.
Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus in Northwest Indiana and chairman of cardiac surgery from 1997 to 2010 at Cebu Doctors University Hospital, where he holds the title of Physician Emeritus in Surgery, is based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the Philippine College of Surgeons, and the Denton A. Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Society. He is the chairman of the Filipino United Network – USA, a 501(c)(3) humanitarian foundation in the United States. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org