By Geoffrey R. Harris, MD
Recently, the World Cancer Research Fund, which leads and unifies a global network of cancer charities, has released the most comprehensive report on cancer and lifestyle ever published. Created by an expert panel, the recommendations took six years to construct. The report was produced after reviewing the results of 7,000 world-wide studies examining the influence on cancer rates of diet, exercise, and lifestyle habits. Initially, the panel evaluated 500,000 studies: these were whittled down to 22,000 and then reduced to the final 7,000 based on stringent inclusion standards. Twenty-one experts from all over the world reviewed the evidence from the included research and created guidelines. From their conclusions The Fund developed these 10 recommendations:
- Maintain a healthy weight. Be as thin as possible without becoming underweight.
- Be physically active for a minimum of 30 minutes every day.
- Avoid sugary drinks. Limit consumption of high-calorie foods like processed foods that are high in sugar, high in fat, or low in fiber.
- Eat "more" vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, and lentils.
- Limit consumption of red meats and processed meats.
- Limit alcohol to one drink a day for women and 2 drinks a day for men.
- Avoid salty foods and high-sodium processed foods.
- Do not use high-dose supplements (selenium, beta-carotene, etc.) to protect against cancer.
- Women should breast-feed for up to 6 months to protect mothers against breast cancer.
- Cancer survivors should follow the above recommendations for cancer prevention
At the bottom of their list, they added, "And, always remember—do not smoke or chew tobacco." Just in case you missed that memo.
I hope all of these recommendations sound familiar to our SuperFoodsRx family. The SuperFoodsRx books, our website, and my articles have focused on these same concepts. I’d add a few additional recommendations for cancer prevention:
- Be sure to get 800 mg of vitamin D everyday. Dairy products are fortified with vitamin D and most daily multivitamin supplements include vitamin D.
- Apply a daily moisturizer with broad-spectrum sunscreen (SPF 30+) to your face everyday.
- Apply broad-spectrum sunscreen (SPF 30+) to all exposed skin 30 minutes prior to outdoor activities.
- When choosing fruits and vegetables for your "five-a-day", choose SuperFoods that have been scientifically proven to lower cancer risk. Additional information can be found at the SuperFoodsRx website and in the two SuperFoodsRx books by Dr. Steven Pratt and Kathy Matthews.
People are often surprised that maintaining a healthy weight and exercise actually reduce one’s risk for cancer. By maintaining a healthy weight you can lower your risk for colon cancer, breast cancer, and cancers of the pancreas, kidney, and esophagus. Physical activity lowers the risk for developing colon, breast, and endometrial cancer.
To round out my healthy lifestyle recommendations, I would add:
- Try to spend 15 minutes everyday involved in a stress reducing activity, like prayer, meditation, a relaxing hobby, a warm bath, quiet time, yoga, tai-chi, or even a relaxing stroll. Watching TV, playing video games, or surfing the internet doesn’t count. (And, to answer a reader’s question: golf only counts if you find it relaxing.)
- Try to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night.
- Eat more fish.
- Take a daily multivitamin.
- Take an omega-3 fish oil supplement daily.
- Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water everyday.
- Wear sunglasses when driving or outdoors on sunny days.
- Enjoy your friendships and try to laugh as much as possible.
Personally, I find that the hardest part of these recommendations is in the implementation. With the holidays coming, I will try to focus my articles on ways to avoid complacency, stay motivated, avoid over-eating, and be active. For many of us, this time of year is a spiritual time. Be sure to include a focus on health in your thoughts, prayers, and meditations.