By Dr. Mercola
Cancer is the disease Americans fear most,1 and understandably so since it's responsible for nearly one out of every four deaths in the US.2 Adding to its stigma, cancer diagnosis and treatment are the moneymakers in this industry – and also the focus of most government-funded cancer campaigns.
Comparatively little is done in the way of prevention education, leaving many feeling powerless against this potentially deadly disease – as though all you can do is cross your fingers and hope you don't become one of the quickly growing cancer statistics. What a relief it should be to learn that prevention strategies not only exist, but also are remarkably effective at lowering your risk of most types of cancer.
Cancer Prevention: 10 Top Tips
"More than half of all cancer deaths could be prevented by making healthy choices like not smoking, staying at a healthy weight, eating right, keeping active, and getting recommended screening tests."3
This quote is taken directly from the American Cancer Society, and it should be eye-opening and empowering if you're not yet aware that cancer prevention starts, first and foremost, with you and, as the featured article explains, your home.4
1. Optimize Your Vitamin D
If you want to slash your risk of cancer, it's essential that you spend adequate time in the sun or a safe tanning bed, or if that's not possible supplement with proper amounts of vitamin D3. It's been definitively proven using data from more than 100 countries that the higher the solar UVB, the lower the incidence of 15 different types of cancer, including:5
Bladder Breast Cervical Colon Endometrial Esophageal Gastric Lung Ovarian Pancreatic Rectal Renal Vulvar Hodgkin's lymphoma Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
The most important factor is your vitamin D serum level. In order to help prevent a wide variety of diseases and health ailments, including cancer, your vitamin D level needs to be between 50 and 70 ng/ml year-round. Vitamin D from sun exposure or a safe tanning bed is the BEST way to optimize your vitamin D levels.
Just be cautious about the length of your exposure. You only need enough exposure to have your skin turn the lightest shade of pink. Once you reach this point your body will not make any additional vitamin D due to its self-regulating mechanism. Any additional exposure will only cause harm and damage to your skin.
If you're taking oral vitamin D, you also need to make sure you're taking vitamin K2 as well, as K2 deficiency is actually what produces the symptoms of vitamin D toxicity, which includes inappropriate calcification that can lead to hardening of your arteries. To learn more, please see my previous article: What You Need to Know About Vitamin K2, D and Calcium. If you take oral vitamin D and have cancer, it would be very prudent to monitor your vitamin D blood levels regularly.
2. Avoid Eating Excess Protein
Most of us eat far too much protein. Consider reducing your protein levels to one gram per kilogram of lean body weight unless you are in competitive athletics or are pregnant. It would be unusual for most adults to need more than 100 grams of protein and most likely need close to half that amount. This may come as a surprise, as we've been told for decades how important protein is for your health, but the truth is that excessive protein intake can have a great impact on cancer growth.
The mTOR pathway is short for mammalian target of rapamycin. This pathway is ancient but relatively recently appreciated and has only been known for less than 20 years. Odds are very high your doctor was never taught this in medical school and isn't even aware of it. Many new cancer drugs are actually being targeted to use this pathway. Drugs using this pathway have also been given to animals to radically extend their lifespan. But you don't have to use drugs to get this pathway to work for you.
You can "biohack" your body by restricting your protein intake and replacing the decreased protein with healthy fats; this will provide virtually identical benefits as these dangerous and expensive drugs.
For most people, reducing your protein levels to one gram per kilogram of lean body weight means restricting protein intake from 35 to 75 grams. Pregnant women and those working out extensively need about 25% more protein, though. Further, when you reduce protein you need to replace it with other calories, specifically high-quality fats such as avocados, butter, coconut oil, olives, olive oil, nuts and eggs.
3. Eat Living Foods with Amazing Health Benefits
Sprouts are a "super" food that many overlook. In addition to their nutritional profile, sprouts are also easy to grow on your own. I started sprouting seeds in ball jars 10 to 15 years ago. A Care2 article published last year6 listed 10 reasons for eating sprouts, including the following. You can see my recent article that extols their benefits. I should be providing a more comprehensive report in the near future.
- Sprouts can contain up to 100 times more enzymes than raw fruits and vegetables, allowing your body to extract more vitamins, minerals, amino acids and essential fats from the foods you eat
- Both the quality of the protein and the fiber content of beans, nuts, seeds and grains improves when sprouted
- The content of vitamins and essential fatty acids also increase dramatically during the sprouting process. For example, depending on the sprout, the nutrient content can increase as much as 30 times the original value within just a few days of sprouting. Sunflower seed and pea sprouts tend to top the list of all the seeds that you can sprout and are typically each about 30 times more nutritious than organic vegetables you can even harvest in your backyard garden
- During sprouting, minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, bind to protein, making them more bioavailable
- Sprouts are the ultimate locally grown food, and can easily be grown in your own kitchen, so you know exactly what you're eating. And since they're very inexpensive, cost is no excuse for avoiding them
4. Simplify Your Cleaning Supplies
My top list of cancer prevention strategies has always included reducing your exposure to environmental toxins like household chemical cleaners. While it is very difficult to prove that a person's exposure to household cleaners over the course of 10, 20 or 30 years is what caused their cancer diagnosis, it is well known that commonly used household chemicals do, in fact, cause cancer, along with other serious health effects like reproductive and developmental problems in developing children.
Research has found, for instance, that breast cancer risk is twice as high among women who report the most use of cleaning products and air fresheners, compared to those who rarely use such products.7 Mold and mildew cleaners and air fresheners have shown the greatest correlation with breast cancer. Some of the chemicals of greatest concern that you'll want to avoid include:
Synthetic musks Phthalates 1,4-diclorobenzene Terpenes Benzene Styrene Phenol Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) Formaldehyde Petroleum solvents Butyl cellosolve Triclosan (antibacterial)
Fortunately, it's simple to replace toxic commercial cleansers with safer options. One of the best non-toxic disinfectants is plain soap and water. You can use this for washing your hands, your body and for other household cleaning. Another all-purpose cleaner that works great for kitchen counters, cutting boards and bathrooms is 3% hydrogen peroxide and vinegar. You can also keep your home very fresh and clean by making your own natural cleaning products using items you probably already have around your home. Some more tips for making simple and effective all-natural cleansers:
- Use baking soda mixed with apple cider vinegar to clean drains and bathtubs, or sprinkle baking soda along with a few drops of lavender oil or tea tree oil (which have antibacterial qualities) as a simple scrub for your bathroom or kitchen.
- Vinegar can be used to clean almost anything in your home. Try it mixed with liquid castile soap, essential oils and water to clean floors, windows, bathrooms and kitchens. It can even be used as a natural fabric softener.
- Hydrogen peroxide is safer to use than chlorine bleach for disinfecting and whitening.
- Vodka is a disinfectant that can remove red wine stains, kill wasps and bees and refresh upholstery (put it into a mister and simply spray on the fabric).
For a great video on how to use these ingredients and other tips for cleaning your home without hazardous chemicals, please review the article How to Keep Your Home Clean Naturally. The free eBook Toxic Free8 also has 70 recipes for a toxic-free home that are worth checking out.
5. Use Greener Beauty Products
When cleaning up your lifestyle you may be tempted to start with your diet (which is a good place to start), but your personal care products are also important to address. Putting chemicals on your skin is actually far worse than ingesting them, because when you eat something everything must go to your liver before entering your blood stream, providing your body an opportunity to detoxify substances that could be harmful. When you put chemicals on your skin however, they're absorbed straight into your bloodstream without filtering of any kind, so the toxic chemicals from toiletries and beauty products are largely going into your blood, lymphatic system and then directly into your internal organs.
There are literally thousands of chemicals used in personal care products, and only a tiny fraction of them have ever been tested for safety. According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, nearly 900 of the chemicals used in cosmetics are known to be toxic. It's impossible to list them all, but some of the most common culprits to avoid include:
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) Musks Mercury Paraben 1,4-Dioxane Lead Phthalates, including dibutyl phthalate (DBP), dimethyl phthalate (DMP), and diethyl phthalate (DEP) Mineral Oil, Paraffin, and Petrolatum Nano particles Antibacterials Hydroquinone Formaldehyde
When it comes to personal care products, I like to use this rule -- if you wouldn't eat it, don't put it on your body. Ideally, you'll want to look for the USDA's verified Organic seal. I also highly recommend using the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database,9 where you can look up a wide variety of products and brands to find out what they're really made of, and whether or not they're safe. You can also make your own personal care products, using simple all-natural ingredients that many of you may already have in your home Our Nourishing Roots has a recipe for a watermelon face mask that you can try,10 and here are a few of my recommendations:
- All-natural moisturizers -- Pure emu oil is a great alternative to facial- and body moisturizers and lotions, as is pure coconut oil. It's a fantastic moisturizer and a potent source of the beneficial fat lauric acid.
- All-natural acne fighter -- Rubbing just a drop of oregano oil on a breakout can speed up the healing and prevent unsightly scarring (remember to wash your hands thoroughly afterward).
- All-natural deodorant – Plain soap and water works fine. If you still need further help then try a pinch of baking soda mixed into water as an effective all-day deodorant.
6. Ditch Your Non-Stick Cookware
About 70 percent of the cookware sold in the US contains a non-stick coating that contains PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and other perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), which are used to make grease-resistant food packaging and stain-resistant clothing as well. Even though there are many names, if the item in question is "non-stick" or "stain/grease resistant," it will generally have some type of fluoride-impregnated coating that is best avoided.
It's well documented that when non-stick pans are heated the coating begins breaking down, releasing toxins into the air in your kitchen. When the pan reaches 680 degrees F (which takes about three to five minutes of heating), at least six toxic gases are released. At 1,000 degrees F, the coatings on your cookware break down into a chemical warfare agent known as PFIB. Research has revealed that these toxins can accumulate in your blood at an alarming rate and may lead to chronic disease like cancer over time. You can keep your exposure as low as possible by avoiding (or getting rid of) products that contain PFCs. This includes:
Non-stick cookware (choose either ceramic or glass instead) Microwave popcorn Packaging for greasy foods (including paper and cardboard packaging) Stain-proof clothing Flame retardants and products that contain them Stain-resistant carpeting, and fabric stain protectors
7. Drink Clear Pure Water
If you receive municipal water that is treated with chlorine or chloramines, toxic disinfection byproducts (DBPs) form when these disinfectants react with natural organic matter like decaying vegetation in the source water. DBPs are over 1,000 times more toxic than chlorine, and out of all the other toxins and contaminants present in your water, such as fluoride and miscellaneous pharmaceutical drugs, DBPs are likely the absolute worst of the bunch.
Already, it's known that trihalomethanes (THMs), one of the most common DBPs, are Cancer Group B carcinogens, meaning they've been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals. They've also been linked to reproductive problems in both animals and humans, such as spontaneous abortion, stillbirths, and congenital malformations, even at lower levels. A whole-house filtration system is your best choice to remove chlorine, chloramine, ammonia, DBPs and other contaminants from all of your water sources (bath, shower and tap). If you don't have the resources for a whole-house filtration system at this time, there are a couple of other tricks you can try. At FindaSpring.com you can identify local springs where you can get pure, chloramine-free drinking water for a minimal cost. You can also try:11
- Adding fruit, such as slices of peeled orange, to a 1-gallon water pitcher, which will help neutralize chloramine in about 30 minutes
- Dissolving a 1,000-mg vitamin C tablet into your bath water, which will neutralize the chloramine in an average-size bathtub
8. Choose Organic and Locally Grown Food
Many pesticides and herbicides are potentially carcinogenic, and you may be exposed to them when you eat conventionally grown produce and animal products. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers 60 percent of herbicides, 90 percent of fungicides, and 30 percent of insecticides to be carcinogenic, and most are also damaging to your nervous system as well. Some of the pesticides/herbicides classified as probable or possible human carcinogens by the EPA include:
Chlordane Heptachlor Tetrachlorvinphos Carbaryl Propoxur Lindane Dichlorvos Phosmet Permethrin
The answer, of course, is to opt for organically grown produce and organically raised, pastured animal products, which are raised without chemicals and other potentially cancer-causing products, like rBGH (a genetically engineered growth hormone commonly found in milk).
It's well known that conventionally grown fruits and vegetables are often tainted with unacceptable levels of pesticide residues, but you're also exposed when you eat animal products. Animals raised in confined animal feeding operations (CAFO's) eat feed full of pesticides, and these toxins accumulate in their flesh and fat over the course of their lifetimes. When you eat factory-farmed meat, you then ingest these accumulated pesticides.
As for fresh produce, certain fruits and vegetables tend to be far more contaminated than others, simply because they're more susceptible to various infestations and therefore sprayed more heavily. Some foods are also more "absorbent," with thin, tender skins. Such foods would be high on your list for buying organic. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) produces an annual shopper's guide to pesticides in produce12 that you can download. It lists the produce with the highest and lowest levels of pesticide residue, which can help save you money if you can't afford to buy everything organic.
Choosing organically raised animal products is potentially even more important, however, as animal products tend to bioaccumulate toxins from their pesticide-laced feed, concentrating them to far higher concentrations than are typically present in vegetables.
Fermented foods can be helpful here as well, as some of the beneficial bacteria produced in fermented foods have been found to help detoxify organophosphorus insecticide. A 2009 study13 showed that during the fermentation of kimchi, the insecticide degraded rapidly until day 3, and had degraded completely by day 9. Four lactic acid bacteria were identified as being responsible for the effect, so regularly consuming fermented foods (or alternatively a high-quality probiotic) may help you buffer some of the damage that pesticide exposures can cause.
9. Skip the Canned Foods
Avoiding canned foods is perhaps your best way to avoid bisphenol-A (BPA) – an endocrine-disrupting chemical linked to cancer and reproductive and fetal development problems, among other health issues.
Though BPA is a widely used component of plastic containers, it's also found in food packaging and the inner lining of cans. Research from the Harvard School of Public Health14 revealed that canned foods and beverages can increase your BPA levels by a staggering 1,000 percent in a mere five days! The lead researcher noted that given this finding, canned goods may be an even greater contribution to your BPA levels than plastics. Here are 10 tips to help reduce your exposure to BPA around the house:
Only use glass baby bottles and dishes for your baby Use glass, ceramic, or stainless steel travel coffee mugs rather than plastic or Styrofoam coffee cups Get rid of your plastic dishes and cups, and replace them with glass varieties Avoid using plastic wrap (and never microwave anything covered in it) Give your baby natural fabric toys instead of plastic ones If you opt to use plastic kitchenware, at least get rid of the older, scratched-up varieties, avoid putting them in the dishwasher, and don't wash them with harsh detergents, as these things can cause more chemicals to leach into your food Store your food and beverages in glass containers Avoid using bottled water; filter your own using a reverse osmosis filter instead IF you choose to use a microwave, don't microwave food in a plastic container Before allowing a dental sealant to be applied to your, or your children's, teeth, ask your dentist to verify that it does not contain BPA
10. Ditch Your Microwave
If you microwave your food in plastic containers, it can hasten the rate at which potentially cancer-causing chemicals can leach into your food. Additionally, microwaving creates new compounds that are not found in humans or in nature, called radiolytic compounds. We don't yet know what these compounds are doing to your body.
In addition to the violent frictional heat effects, called thermic effects, there are also athermic effects, which are poorly understood because they are not as easily measured. It is these athermic effects that are suspected to be responsible for much of the deformation and degradation of cells and molecules.15 As an example, microwaves are used in the field of gene-altering technology to weaken cell membranes. Scientists use microwaves to actually break cells apart. Impaired cells then become easy prey for viruses, fungi and other microorganisms. You really CAN survive sans microwave—people are living quite happily without one, believe it or not. You just have to make a few small lifestyle adjustments, such as:
- Plan ahead. Take your dinner out of the freezer that morning or the night before so you don't end up having to scramble to defrost a 5-pound chunk of beef two hours before dinnertime.
- Make soups and stews in bulk, and then freeze them in gallon-sized freezer bags or other containers. An hour before meal time, just take one out and defrost it in a sink of water until it's thawed enough to slip into a pot, then reheat it on the stove.
- A toaster oven makes a GREAT faux-microwave for heating up leftovers! Keep it at a low temperature — like 200-250 degrees F — and gently warm a plate of food over the course of 20-30 minutes. Another great alternative is a convection oven.
- Prepare your meals in advance so that you always have a good meal available on those days when you're too busy or too tired to cook.
- Try eating more organic raw foods. This is one of the best ways to improve your health over the long run.