By Ernst Lamothe Jr.
When it comes to a disease such as cancer, it can hit anyone at any time. Yet medical professionals do believe that despite family history and other factors, there are many things people can do to help with the prevention and treatment of cancer.
Physician Kara C. Kort, medical director of breast care and surgery at St. Joseph’s Physicians and Surgical Services, has five recommendations she makes to patients.
The importance of exercising cannot be understated. It helps with many conditions from cardiac to cancer. Those who exercise regularly have lower blood pressure, more energy and are one step ahead in fighting future potential diseases. Inactivity often accompanies advancing age, but it doesn’t have to. Even 20 minutes of activity a day, three times per week, provides benefits. Thirty minutes every day is even better.
“Exercise or higher levels of physical activity are linked to lower risk of breast cancer and colon cancer,” said Kort. “There are many studies showing this association. Physical activity is also thought to reduce inflammation and improve the immune system.”
2. Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight or obese go hand in hand with increased risk of many cancers. There is also risk of hypertension, which has the ability to strain the heart, damage blood vessels and increase the risk of heart attacks, strokes and kidney problems.
There continues to be more evidence in the medical studies where maintaining a healthy weight makes all the difference in the world.
“To name only a few, cancer of the esophagus, stomach, uterus, breast, colon and thyroid are all associated with increased body fat,” said Kort. “Research shows obese people tend to have a chronic inflammatory state that can alter cells, making them more likely to become cancerous.” Kort added that fat also produces certain hormones like estrogen and insulin known to promote cancer growth.
3. Excessive alcohol
Doctors are not saying that people should stop drinking. But in some cases the need to stem the amount of alcohol consumed is paramount to living a better life. While alcohol consumption has been reported to be good for our heart for many years there is unfortunately a clear correlation between alcohol consumption and the development of certain cancers — specifically, cancer of the esophagus, colon, head and neck and breast.
“The evidence appears clear that the more alcohol a person drinks, especially regularly, the more likely they are to developed certain cancers,” said Kort. “Some of the breakdown products of alcohol could be toxic to our cells and DNA making cancer more likely. Plus alcohol makes it harder to absorb important nutrients and vitamins that are associated with cancer risk and prevention.”
4. Excessive Sun Exposure
Skin cancer — the abnormal growth of skin cells — most often develops on skin exposed to the sun. But this common form of cancer can also occur on areas of your skin not ordinarily exposed to sunlight.
“While the sun is great for that healthy tan and can also increase our vitamin D levels that are notoriously low in Central New York, excessive sun exposure and, more specifically sunburn, can significantly increase our risk of skin cancers,” said Kort. “Melanoma can be particularly dangerous. Sunburn damages the DNA in your skin cells making them prone to developed cancer. Even a sunburn every couple of years markedly increases your risk.”
5. Positivity and support
Not all solutions have to be medical. While positive thinking does not cure or prevent recurrence of cancer, many studies show it can help patients come through treatment with less side effects and complications with some studies showing it seems to strengthen the immune system. There has been more research that shows the power of positivity having an essential aspect in our lives. The reverse is all shown as true.
“By the same token, sadness, guilt and grief are all normal emotions and hard to ignore. It is not possible for most of us to stay positive at all times. Lean on others and accept their help and support,” said Kort. “People want to help, let them, we are not meant to be alone in our suffering. It makes them feel good and it will make you feel better than you think.”