The second leading cause of deaths in the United States is cancer. It is also among the leading causes worldwide. According to the National Cancer Institute, there will be around 1,735,350 new diagnoses of cancer in the United States in this year alone. Worldwide, new cancer diagnoses are predicted to reach 23.6 million by 2030.
Researchers based out of Houston, Texas said that if we take certain precautions, it's possible to reduce the number of people getting cancer. “We know pretty clearly now that the majority of cancers in our world could be prevented if people made simple, yet very important changes in their lifestyle,” said Lorenzo Cohen, director of the Integrative Medicine Program at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Cohen wrote the book "Anticancer Living" with educator Alison Jefferies. In the book, they describe how there are six healthy behaviors that work together to provide a defense against cancer on a cellular level.
“Cell mutations are going to happen, and they’re happening all the time in our body. It’s just part of the process,” Cohen said. “But there are many checks and balances within the systems … and so when that mutated cell happens, we want it to be checked by the system that’s in place to ensure that mutating cells don’t grow into a cancer.”
Love and Support
One thing they explain in the book is how important it is to have love and support from people close to you in your life. “And that is really the foundational piece for lifestyle change,” Jefferies said.
Many studies by different sources, including the Journal of Health and Social Behavior have found that social relationships have a major effect on mental, physical, and behavioral health as well as one's mortality risk. “So you really need to start with social support and love and building a team of people that are going to help you to make that change,” Jefferies said.
Stress, Sleep, Exercise and Diet
These are very important because they tend to be interrelated when it comes to health. “There’s research showing that stress will actually decrease the benefits of healthy eating,” said Cohen. Harvard Health published an article that said short-term stress can decrease appetite but if the stress continues and becomes persistent then the body will release a hormone which increases appetite.
Another factor that can change one's diet is sleep. “We know that sleeping well will actually impact your metabolism, and there’s a link between sleep deprivation and being obese or overweight. So all of these, again, are interrelated,” said Cohen. “If you’re overweight, if you’re extremely tired, if you’re displaying signs of incredible stress, that is a mirror of what is happening inside of the body at the cellular level. … And if you’re chronically obese, stressed and sedentary, the chances that mutated cell is going to become a full-blown cancer is much, much higher.”
We all know that not all cancers can be prevented. Even if you follow all of these suggestions and consider yourself to be very healthy, there is always a chance. The National Cancer Institute stated that there are some factors we can't control, including age and family history.
Although you can't control those two factors, you should still work at improving your health in the areas discussed above (stress, diet, sleep, socialization, and exercise) as well as the sixth element which is environmental exposures. This will help you avoid preventable cancers and possibly help treat a diagnosed cancer.
“It’s very important to create that balance in your system so that you can be healthy, and if you are facing a cancer diagnosis, that your body can work with whatever treatment you’re doing in the best possible way,” said Cohen. “I think we are now at a point in our society where the way we are going is not sustainable, the focus on the cure instead of prevention is not the way forward to sustain us as a society, and luckily, even at the government level we are starting to see that, and much more efforts are going to be put into this area of what we call anticancer living.”