Some cancers can be prevented by a number of measures. Firstly, you can reduce your risk of developing certain cancers by leading a healthy lifestyle and attending relevant screening. A healthy lifestyle encompasses the body, mind and soul. Take care of yourself holistically as this optimises your immune system, which is the first step in cancer prevention.
Cancer can be prevented by certain lifestyle choices. These include
- Physical activity
- Stress reduction
- Safe sex practices and personal hygiene
- Screening for pre cancerous lesions
- Judicious use of hormones
In order to effectively prevent cancer, we must understand that its aetiology is multifaceted and includes risk factors that are modifiable and non modifiable.
At a molecular level, cancer can develop as a result of inherited defective genes (non-modifiable) or can occur after spontaneous damage of normal DNA by free radicals or (modifiable). Free radicals are highly reactive chemicals that are produced in the body and have a role in many normal cellular processes when in low concentrations being used in defense against infectious disease, function of signaling pathways. However, in high concentrations free radicals are hazardous and can damage all major components of cells, including DNA, proteins and cell membranes. Abnormally high concentrations of free radicals in the body can be caused by exposure to ionizing radiation and other environmental toxins. Herein lies the angle from which we attempt to reduce the risk of development of cancer by maximizing the capabilities of our immune system to eliminate cancer cells at a cellular level and reduce high concentrations of free radicals.
Of note the principle of free radicals is manipulated in cancer treatment (radiotherapy) and there is no clear evidence suggesting the use of antioxidants during treatment improves outcomes or reduces toxicities. This shall be discussed later.
Oncogenic viruses, which can be sexually transmitted, also cause mutations in DNA leading to cancer.
Cervical cancer can be prevented by vaccinating against HPV. Currently in Zambia HPV vaccine is being offered to girls from age 9. Find out more by visiting tab dedicated to this information.
A well balanced diet rich in anti-oxidants with adequate fluid intake is recommended. The food doesn’t have to be expensive or bought in high-end supermarkets. It can be locally available food. A baseline rule I use is to eat food as close to their natural state as possible and to prepare food in the healthiest way possible so as to preserve their nutrients i.e. steaming, stewing and grilling rather than frying. When we talk about berries don’t go looking for blueberries, which are not available as a native fruit instead use mulberries that have numerous health benefits just as well. Most citrus fruits can also be grown locally so invest in a small orchard in your back yards. As for vegetables need I say more? We have a rich variety of vegetables available in Zambia that can be home grown organically to reduce the amount of chemicals used in food that you consume.
A common assumption people make as well is associating eating right with a meat free diet. Making a conscience choice to avoid meat is great. However, make sure you compensate the proteins that you will be missing well. If you are not a vegan, that is fine too. The important thing is to eat ‘good’ meats. Lean red meat and white meats are recommended.
The importance of fluids cannot be over emphasized. As much as water is the core fluid it is not the only one. Add in healthy drinks such as rooibos tea, which can be enjoyed warm and cold. Coffee is said to be rich in antioxidants and there is on going research on its role in colon cancer prevention. However, be wary of its diuretic effect and limit your intake. Also be savvy about which fruit juices you taking noting sugar content, preservatives etc.
Exercise doesn't mean gym everyday at the break of dawn. Simple things like a brisk walk or jogging at least twice a week to get your heart pumping is good enough. Exercise has many good adjunctive effects such as the feel good factor once you achieve which adds to your general well being.
One's soul needs as much care as the body. Know yourself and be true to your inner being. This helps deal with stress and enhance general well being.