Thursday, March 4, 2010

Cancer, the new "C word"

Some unscientific thoughts on cancer from the Greenhabilitator...

Cancer sucks.

That's pretty much my first reaction when the topic comes up. I'm no doctor, nutritionist, cancer survivor - heck, I was never even good at science in school. So when "environmental links to cancer" came up as the topic of this month's Green Moms Carnival I was hesitant to step up to the plate and write about it.

I watched my father-in-law die from lung cancer just a few years ago and a disgusting number of my friends have been impacted by the disease as well, so I'm no stranger to the subject. I just don't feel like I have a great answer...but I guess no one does quite yet.

It seems like everything these days has a link to cancer. Before we started living a more healthy and sustainable lifestyle, I would wake up and pour a cup of coffee which may give me pancreatic cancer, but could reduce my risk of breast cancer. Or not. Of course I wouldn't want to switch to juice which we found out this week is linked to cancer due to the plastic bottles it's stored in. I'd suggest tap water, but some think that's just as dangerous.

After my morning coffee, I would jump in the shower, complete with cancer-causing vinyl shower curtain liner, where I'd rub chemicals into my skin in the form of facial cleanser, soap, and shaving cream. I know now how much these chemicals are absorbed through the skin. After my shower, I'd put on deodorant (which may or may not cause breast cancer), rub lotion all over my body and put moisturizer and make up on my face.

The more I learned about the environment, chemicals, processed food, BPA, pesticides, plastic, e-waste...the list goes on and on and on...the more my head spun. Every single thing seemed to be linked to some form or another of cancer. But there came a point where I could worry about all of the things that I was doing wrong, or I could just keep working on doing things right. So here are a few cancer-fighting tips I've learned over the past few years~

You are what you eat.

According to the American Cancer Society, there is a direct link between dietary choices and 30 - 40% of cancers. Let's stop living on boxed food and start eating real, whole foods. Instead of bleaching, stripping and processing out all nutrients, eat the things that are whole, natural and good for you. Eat lots of good, organic fruits and vegetables and limit red meat. They say you should only eat things that your great grandmother would recognize and I wholeheartedly agree.

Watch your weight.

According to a review by the American Institute for Cancer Research of almost a thousand clinical studies, it is believed that healthier lifestyle choices can reduce the rate of breast cancer rate by 40%. That doesn't mean you need to be a size 4, but those with a healthy BMI are less likely to develop certain kinds of cancer.


Cancers of the colon, breast, prostate, lung and uterus have all been linked to exercise-related prevention. The University of Iowa explains that, "Exercise can help reduce obesity, which is related to the cause of several cancers. It can also change the body's hormone levels, which might also have a favorable effect. Exercise, by speeding up metabolism, is generally believed to speed up the passage of ingested foods through the colon--thus reducing the time the colon mucosal lining is in contact with possible carcinogens."

Get your rest.

A study in Cancer Prevention Research suggests that regular physical activity can lower a woman's overall risk of cancer – but only if she gets a good night's sleep. Otherwise, lack of sleep can undermine exercise's cancer prevention benefits. Your body does a lot of healing while you're asleep. Let it work its magic!

Everything in moderation.

Some studies show that alcohol is linked to cancer, while others show that a glass of wine helps to fight it. Coffee may be good or bad. Sugar is bad, but we love it so much. I don't think there's a reason to deprive yourself of any of life's little joys, but enjoy everything in moderation.

These ideas are certainly are not guaranteed to keep you healthy and cancer-free, but they're all proven ways to at least reduce your risk.

May you all enjoy long, healthy and happy lives!

This post is my submittal to the Green Moms Carnival on environmental links to cancer hosted this month by Nature Moms.


Jessica Nichols said...

This is a great post and a great reminder of what we can control and what we can't. As a four-time survivor of non-Hodgkins lymphoma, with no family history of cancer, environmental causes are the only thing I could find to explain it when I was diagnosed almost ten years ago. Pesticides are one of the only things that were linked to NHL back then, I've stopped keeping up with the research though.

As my aunt often reminded me in my times of great fear with my cancer, I can walk around so worried about relapsing or what caused it in the first place that I might get hit by a bus. Now I try to be balanced and moderate about as much as possible.

I know I should have contributed to this carnival but it's hard for me to be concise or eloquent on this very near-to-me subject. Thank you for tackling it.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

I really like your last point about moderation. So many things have been linked to cancer that if we try to avoid it all, our lives would be crazy. I do my best to avoid what I can, and that's all I can do.

Anonymous said...

Many counter the environmental argument with the fact that we are living much longer than ever before, and that historically, cancer was misdiagnosed and/or the epidemiology to identify its spread was unavailable.

Even though that may be convincing for some, I still find it more convincing that today, there are measurable quantities of hundreds of chemicals in our bodies... chemicals that did not exist fifty exists.

Marie said...

I think sugar gets a bad rap. It's not that bad for you in smallish doses; it's just not specifically good for you. (But do avoid HFCS at all costs.)

I'd also add avoid plastic in general if you can. There's scads of alternatives that we all used until about 60 years ago.

daharja said...

Great post, BUT...

I'm not sure the "everything in moderation" attitude is a useful one these days. Maybe a couple of generations ago, but not now.

Nowadays there are so many foods, for example, that are not healthy in any amount, that I really think that to rule them out entirely is the best alternative (for example, processed meats and McDonald's fries - that never decompose - fall into this category IMO).

I really think diet is the key to everything. Keep yourself healthy with a sensible diet, and everything else follows.

And as far as healthy diet goes, it's also pretty obvious: lots of whole plants, very little (if any) in the way of animal foods.

And anything that comes from a factory - no matter what the health claims on the label - is NOT going to be good for you!

Packeted, processed food - even from the "health" section - is just junk. Belongs in the bin, not in your kitchen.

I think the reductionist attitude created by government desire to avoid pointing the finger at actual *foods* and instead point at components of foods makes everything seem more complicated than it really is.

If you eat lots of fresh fruit and veggies, a fair amount of nuts, seeds and whole grains, and go easy on the (whole) meat and dairy, you're probably going to be ok.

Just my opinion - and that of my great-great aunt, who died last year aged 102! :-)

Anna (Green Talk) said...

Wonderful post. I am glad you talked about sleep and exercise. Most people don't get enough sleep and surely don't exercise.

I find when I exercise I sleep better so everyone get off the couch and go for a walk!

Jennifer Taggart, TheSmartMama said...

Great reminder that we can seize control by watching what we eat, exericing, sleeping, etc. Good reminders of the steps to lead a healthy life.

Lynn from said...

A great post with some really good tips! Thanks for contributing to the carnival!

I would only add this: I remember the "everything in moderation" and the feeling that "everything causes cancer" as I rolled my eyes at the latest news reports. That was before I knew about how many known carcinogens are allowed in products used everyday in our homes and on our bodies. Before I knew that exterminators still come out and spray in the homes where babies crawl...And before I knew that many of the same companies that are awash in pink ribbons during breast cancer awareness month are also under fire from leading environmental health groups.

Diane MacEachern said...

Thanks for the many suggestions on what we can do to protect ourselves. Science is so focused on the cure, and not nearly focused enough on prevention. As individuals, we can protect ourselves in many ways by making the right choices about what we eat and what we buy. Your post is a good reminder of that!

Lisa Sharp said...

Great post and I love your point about moderation. I try and tell people that all the time. No point in not getting sick if you aren't enjoying life because you are to busying giving up everything.

Citizen Green said...

Thanks for the excellent advice. We all need to heed it. In addition, it helps to lead a low stress life with lots of laughter.

Linda A

Anonymous said...

I agree wholeheartedly - we can only spend so much time focusing on all of the things that we are doing wrong. It's often much better to concentrate on what we can do that's right. And even small changes add up quickly, in my experience. Little things become second nature and then we can do more little things and along the way we've taken a big step in the right direction.

mother earth aka karen hanrahan said...

Like you I didn't feel I had something compelling to contribute to this topic but when you pool together all of our thoughts this is one powerful and informative carnival!


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