No surprise here:  Staying healthy by eating well and exercising regularly is your best bet to beat cancer.

I rather enjoyed this small town newspaper interview with a local doc on the subject.  See what you think:

Want to prevent cancer? Eat right, exercise, Muskegon doctor says

By Megan Hart – Muskegon Chronicle

Men who took vitamin E to reduce their risk of prostate cancer got some unpleasant news this month – the supplements didn’t work, and might actually increase their risk.

Muskegon oncologists said it’s more evidence of what they already knew: there’s no “magic pill” to prevent cancer.

Fortunately, an overall healthy lifestyle goes a long way toward reducing a person’s cancer risk, said Dr. Katie Alguire, an oncologist who specializes in chemotherapy and hormonal treatments at Mercy Health Partners’ Johnson Family Center for Cancer Care.

“A pill is never going to to prevent cancer,” she said. “In general, the best way to prevent cancer is to live a healthy lifestyle, like you would for your heart.”

 Muskegon County has about 491.6 cancer diagnoses and 197.3 cancer deaths per 100,000 people in an average year, according to the National Cancer Institute. That’s higher than the statewide average of 191 deaths per 100,000 people, and the nationwide average of 183.8 deaths.

Ottawa County has about 444.7 diagnoses and 151 cancer deaths per 100,000 people – the best death rate in Michigan. Cancer death rates have fallen in recent years nationwide, in Michigan and in Muskegon and Ottawa counties.

The risk factors for developing cancer are the same ones that hurt Muskegon County’s other health rankings: obesity, smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol, Alguire said.

The risks of smoking are relatively well-known. The many carcinogens in cigarette smoke damage the ability of cells to repair their DNA, leading to mutations that develop into cancer, according to the Oregon Health & Science University Cancer Institute.

Somewhat less clear is why obesity is associated with higher risk of cancer. In some cases, such as breast cancer, extra weight leads to elevated hormone levels, which translates into an increased risk, Alguire said.

Cancer rates in West Michigan (per 100,000 people)
Newaygo County557210.7
Muskegon County491.6197.3
United States465183.8
Ottawa County444.7151
Oceana County414.5158.9
Mason County411.2178.2
— Source: National Cancer Institute,

“In your fat tissue, you turn compounds into estrogen,” she said.

“Obese, post-menopausal women have not only a higher chance of getting breast cancer, they have a higher risk of dying from it.”

Obese women are actually at a lower risk of breast cancer than women of a healthy weight before menopause, but their cancer risk greatly increases after menopause, according to the National Cancer Institute. Most breast cancers are diagnosed in women 50 and older.

Obesity also increases the risk of uterine, kidney and colon cancers. The exact mechanism isn’t fully understood, but likely relates to increased levels of various hormones in people who are obese, Alguire said.

Some studies have suggested a link between obesity and gallbladder, ovarian and pancreatic cancers, but the evidence is inconclusive. Some studies also suggest a link between large amounts of abdominal fat and prostate cancer.

While headlines pop up every once in a while touting a new super food, the best thing to do to reduce cancer risk is to eat a healthy diet, primarily focusing on plant-based foods, Alguire said. Studies suggest eating large amounts of protein and fat may stimulate cancer growth, she said, and limiting those foods makes it easier to maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risks associated with obesity.

“It’s never one diet like ‘just eat spinach,’” she said.

Heavy drinking can also increase the risk of mouth, throat, esophageal, liver and even breast cancer. Alguire advised drinkers to stick to one alcoholic beverage per day, which can provide some protection from heart disease but hasn’t been shown to raise the risk of cancer.

The measures to reduce cancer risk aren’t particularly difficult to understand, but some people look to supplements for easier protection, Alguire said.

“Lifestyle changes are a lot harder than taking a pill,” she said.

Supplements aren’t regulated, though, and manufacturers don’t have to prove they are effective. In some cases, such as vitamin E and beta-carotene, a nutrient thought to reduce the risk of cancer was found to increase it if taken in large doses.

Even common substances can have side effects, Alguire said, so discuss any supplements you want to take with your doctor. For example, many people drink green tea because some studies suggest its antioxidants could prevent cancer, but it can interact with certain chemotherapy drugs to reduce their effectiveness if taken during cancer treatment, she said.

“Just because it’s from a health-food store doesn’t mean it’s helpful for you,” she said. “No one supplement is going to be a home run.”

Other risks are difficult to assess because there are so many factors at play, Alguire said. Some people are concerned about risks from cell phone use and chemicals, particularly those used in plastic bottles, which have the potential to mimic hormones, she said.

BPA “is something I would be concerned about and limit exposure to,” she said. “I think the jury is out on cell phones. Studies have not linked them to cancer.”

Of course, some risks can’t be changed. Some breast and ovarian cancers have been linked to a genetic mutation, while researchers are still examining others.

“There’s only a few cancers that are directly linked to a gene,” Alguire said.

Overall, the best thing to do is to eat a healthy diet, exercise, avoid smoking and excessive alcohol, she said.

“Unfortunately, cancer can happen in the healthiest of people, but (being healthy) significantly reduces your risk,” she said. “Anything beyond that might just be a fad or hype.”

I understand it isn’t “sexy,” but I believe that this is a common sense way to look at nutrition.

Feel good, keep smiling and keep eating lots of raw fruits and vegetables!  Pat


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