How about this for a radical statement?
We can prevent cancer.
Dr. Dean Ornish said it best when he said that we consider it perfectly normal to crack open someone’s chest and replace their heart, but it’s considered quite radical to change our diet to be plant-based to prevent and even cure a number of health conditions.
Yet, research shows us that radically altering the way we eat can prevent cancer…maybe even cure it.
And it’s not just me, a health advocate and plant passionate chef who thinks so. Margaret I. Cuomo, MD, author of ‘A World Without Cancer’ contends that we can alter our cancer “destiny” by feeding our bodies plenty of disease-fighting foods. Dr. Cuomo goes on to say she believes that “the way we study, diagnose and treat cancer in the United States is fatally flawed.”
In her opinion, we have given up hope when it comes to a cure and have learned to simply settle for extending life. And I completely agree with her when she says that scientists and drug companies “have turned their backs on the possibility of prevention and allowed cancer to be recast as a chronic and tolerable disease.”
Sounds creepy, right? It’s hard to believe that the very companies charged with treating disease have instead, created an industry around our illness. And while there is certainly a need for drugs to treat acute conditions and research so that we continue to understand the bodies we live in, what we really need is to share the responsibility for creating collective good health. Government, industry, science, medicine, health advocates, patients and Americans in general need to come together to create a society that embraces health, advocates for prevention and uses medicine and pharmaceuticals when all other options have been exhausted.
The question we need to ask is this. Why have we seen so little progress in the ‘war’ on cancer? According to Dr. Cuomo, the death rate from cancer has dropped by 1% each year since 1990. With all the money raised for cancer research from what seems the dawn of time (seriously, can any of us remember a world before fundraisers for cancer research?), would you not think we would be seeing better statistics than this?
One out of every two American men…and one out of every three American women will be diagnosed with some form of cancer at some point in their lives…or the fact that cancer plays a role in one out of four deaths in this country.
With all the walks, runs, products, endorsements, telethons and races designed to raise more and more and more money for cancer research, wouldn’t you think we’d be further along? With all our research, it seems to me that the only thing we have learned is that cancer is like the greatest shape-shifter we have ever known. With all the money poured into this disease, can we only hope for treatments that cut, burn and poison us?
And all of it comes with a huge price tag that threatens to crush the healthcare system almost as surely as it crushes the human spirit.
With $90 billion spent in the 41 years since we began the war on cancer, we have little to show for it, in my view. We have discovered the various biologies of cancer, genetic mutations that can increase risk, but we have not poured any money into the exploration of the one path that is certain (in my view) to save lives…prevention.
According to Dr. Cuomo, the National Cancer Institute asked for $2 billion to study the causes of cancer, $1.3 billion for the treatment of cancer and…wait for it…$232 million to spend on prevention. It’s obvious where the priorities lie…at least to me.
The NCI says it best in their own words: “Cancer research today, especially on the frontiers America’s researchers are renowned for spearheading, requires an investment on a scale unimaginable 40 years ago.”
We can do better. We must do better. If our children are to have a future, we must create a culture of health and wellness, not one of sickness and treatment.
While there are many paths that can lead us toward healthy lives, from public health policies, to ridding our schools of toxic chemicals, to cleaning up environmental toxins, the only one for which I can claim any expertise is food…and how the choices we make can help prevent cancer.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
1). Make vegetables and fruit the centerpieces of your healthy diet.
Don’t worry; I am not going to go all ‘vegan’ on you, but not an expert on earth will dispute the fact that eating whole grains, vegetables and fruit will reduce our risk of cancer. Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, etc), tomatoes, dark leafy greens and fruits like berries are proven to be especially potent in the realm of prevention.
2). Buy organic…as much as possible.
Exposure to certain pesticides can be linked to several cancers, so as much as you can, go for certified organic veggies and fruit.
3). Increase your intake of fiber.
According to Dr. Cuomo, every 10 grams of fiber you eat reduces your risk of colon cancer by 30%. Whole grains, fruits and vegetables are the best ways to get the fiber you need.
4). Sprinkle some turmeric.
A rich source of anti-inflammatory compounds, turmeric is loaded with polyphenols and, according to the American Cancer Society, researchers believe that turmeric can prevent and slow the growth of some types of cancer.
5). Limit your intake of red meat.
Red meats have been definitively linked to cancers of the prostate, colon, pancreas and kidney.
6). Skip junk food.
Loaded with saturated and trans fats, chemical additives, preservatives and artificial flavors and colors, processed foods have been linked with increasing your risk of developing cancer.
Making changes in your own life, in your own personal environment, in your diet can make a real difference in your family’s health and your own. Reducing the risk of cancer is a collective responsibility and one that will result in a healthier world. We can’t wait for government, science or the pharmaceutical industries to take charge of our health. If we are to rid the world of cancer, we need to work to prevent it, not continue playing ‘catch-up’ and watching this plague overtake us.