Nowadays there are few people untouched in some way by cancer. It’s said that 1 in 2 people will get it, that’s a shocking statistic!
Have you ever considered what determines our risk of getting it? Scientific research has shown that it depends on a combination of lifestyle factors, the environment and to a degree, our genes.
The science of epigenetics has demonstrated that genes need the right environment to be expressed.
In fact the World Cancer Research Fund in their Third Expert Research Report 2018 state that around 40% of cases are preventable through lifestyle - that means the way we eat, move, sleep, the environment we live in and the way we think affects our risk level.
One of the reasons I’m so passionate about whole health and well-being is because my brother died of bowel cancer at 33. His lifestyle was one of fast food, soft drinks, late nights and drinking. His worldview could also be pretty negative a lot of the time.
I’m pretty much the opposite of him - except for the occasional all-nighter! However, I'm offered a colonoscopy every 3 years as they say bowel cancer is possibly hereditary. They’ve always been completely clear.
My dad also was also diagnosed with and died of lung cancer just over a year and a half after my brother. He’d not smoked for over 10 years. I sometimes wonder if he in part gave up on life after losing both his sons (my other brother died in a motorbike accident 3 months before).
Even I’ve had a breast cancer ‘scare’ and op, but that’s a subject for another blog.
I believe in taking a whole mind, body, spirit and emotional approach to both health and healing. We inhabit a complex and integrated system, that has a natural ability to heal itself if we give it the right environment and attention.
So in my mission to promote this here’s a list of 12 things you can do to decrease your risk of getting cancer. Some may be obvious and well know and others may surprise you and if you already have cancer, they’ll be useful in your healing journey too.
1. Pay attention to what you put on your plate
It’s well known now that a diet high in processed foods and sugar has been linked with some cancers. One theory of cancer is that it’s a metabolic disease, where the cells rely on energy produced anaerobically (directly from glucose without oxygen) and create a highly acidic environment that is more toxic to normal cells. In addition high sugar diets can lead to Type 2 Diabetes and inflammation in the body, which can cause the body to make excess hormones to deal with the imbalances.
Eat a plant based diet that is high in minimally processed foods. Aim to fill half your plate with different coloured vegetables at each meal - that’s 8-10 portions a day! Vegetables, fruit, spices and herbs are nutrient powerhouses. Variety is key as they all contain different phytochemicals (these have different protective effects in the body). Eat whole grains, good quality fats and meat / fish. Eating this way will also help ensure you have a healthy gut which in turn means a healthy immune system.
2. Avoid sugary drinks
That means sugar in tea and coffee, fruit juice, squash and soft drinks including ones with artificial sweeteners. Despite the jury being out on whether some of these sweeteners cause cancer, it’s been shown that they increase the desire for sugary foods.
3. Move your body
Exercise and regular movement has a protective effect on our body. It helps regulates hormones, helps strengthen our immunity, improves circulation and aids the removal of toxins and waste. It also helps in maintaining a healthy weight. The current NHS guidelines are 150min moderate aerobic exercise and two sessions of muscle strengthening, however research has shown benefits at lower levels. The key is to build regular movement into your day especially if you have to sit at a desk. Walk instead of drive, use the stairs instead of the lift, clean the house at speed!
4. Drink in moderation
Alcohol is a toxin and it takes time for your liver to remove it from the body. It’s also a sugar. I don't think I need to say more!
5. Avoid carrying a lot of excess fat
There is consistent evidence that higher amounts of body fat a linked to increased risks of several types of cancer.
6. Don’t smoke
This is the number one cause of lung cancer. Again, I don't reckon I need say more!
7. Keep your environment clean
No, I don’t mean do the hoovering, mopping and dusting, though as I said earlier that’s great for exercise! Nowadays we’re exposed to a huge number of chemicals and toxins on a daily basis, many of which we can’t see or smell. Whilst many are not considered carcinogens, they add to the chemical load on our bodies that increases the work it has to do to remove them.
Here’s a list of some to consider.
Chemicals in cosmetics, hair and bath products, household cleaners and even diesel and petrol from touching the petrol pump are absorbed through our skin.
Fumes from vehicle exhausts.
Certain furniture, treated fabrics, glue, insulation can emit formaldeyde vapour, DIY products high in Volatile Organic Compounds
Pesticides residues on fruit and vegetables, food preservatives, growth hormones and antibiotics in meat
Microplastics in our water, air and seafood.
Electro Magnetic Fields (EMF’s) emitted by electronics and Wifi.
Wood dust, soot and charcoal
Mineral supplements are made of ground down metals which the body doesn’t recognise and cannot absorb.
8. Be sensible with the sun
The most important thing is to ensure you don’t burn - if you get slightly red you are burnt! So think about your exposure to the sun and keep covered during the hottest part of the day when the sun is highest and it's easiest to burn. Drinking plenty of fluids will keep your skin hydrated and guard against burning more. Use a non toxic natural sun protection - chemicals can increase your risk of cancer (see above).
9 Get those Z’s
Working night shifts was classified as a possible carcinogen in 2007. In addition, lack of or poor sleep takes it’s toll on the immune system which can increase risks. Ensure you get 7-9 hours sleep (that doesn’t include time in bed going to sleep), turn off electronic devices an hour before and do something to relax, go to bed and get up at the same time and have a cool and dark room.
10. Manage your stress
Persistent and high levels of stress can make you vulnerable because it lowers your immune response and can affect the body’s ability to deal with any pre-cancerous cells. It can also result in behaviours such as eating poorly, not exercising, drinking and smoking, which do increase risk of cancer. In people with cancer stress can encourage tumours to grow and spread.
Mental stress cannot be completely eliminated, nor would we want it to be as some is beneficial - it motivates us. People all have their individual ways of de-stressing and lifting their spirits. It could be listening to or making music, painting, reading, cooking, writing, meditation or mindfulness or practising your faith.
11. Build and nurture relationships
Human beings are extremely social animals. Connecting with others positively releases the happy hormones Serotonin, Dopamine and Oxytocin, which decrease Cortisol and activates the parasympathetic nervous system. This in turn is helpful for our immunity. 90% of Serotonin is produced by gut bacteria; yet another reason to eat a healthy diet!
12. Change your thinking
Our beliefs about the world and ourselves and the language we use to express them indicates our attitudes and results in our actions. Beliefs are constructs around which we organise our behaviour and because we behave as if our beliefs are true they come true. Therefore negative beliefs and attitudes can weaken our immunity even if we’re not aware of them consciously.
Much of what we do is unconscious and habitual formed over lifetime and doesn’t serve us positively and can hold us back. Whilst these patterns can be changed consciously, it takes dedication and time. However techniques like NLP, Hypnosis and Time Line Therapy all work with the unconscious mind, which is where our habits and behaviours are rooted and engaging with these processes can make long lasting changes far more quickly and with greater ease.
So there you have it, 12 ways to reduce your risk of cancer and live a longer, healthier life. What do you think, are there other things you would add in or some you disagree with? I'd love to know.
I work with people who want to make lifestyle changes to get in control of their health or get unstuck in their thinking to achieve more of what they want in life. If you’d like to know more, please get in touch for a free consultation.