(Following is a guest blog written by Elyn Jacobs, breast cancer survivor and cancer coach. You can read more from Elyn on her blog, “It is the Weak Tree That Comes Down in a Hurricane“.)
I talk a lot about cancer prevention. The other day, I was asked for a few simple suggestions for avoiding cancer. My answer is that diet and lifestyle choices can significantly affect your risk of cancer. The cellular level is where cancer begins and where nutrition exerts its biggest influence. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables will support your natural killer cells in their effort to defeat cancer cells, help you maintain a healthy weight, and it will help reduce inflammation and excess estrogen, both of which support cancer growth. No one food is a magic bullet as each plays its own role in the prevention of cancer. Cancer cells mutate on a daily basis, so make a healthy diet a daily habit. Oh, and I have bad news for you. The anti-cancer benefits of dark chocolate only last for 22 hours…..so you need to eat some every day!
We are not just what we eat. We are also what we breathe and absorb through our skin. So the topic of environmental toxins is always part of my cancer prevention lifestyle advice. Cancer rates are not falling, and alarmingly, pediatric cancers are rising. There is much concern in South Florida that toxic materials dumped into the water are increasing the incidence of pediatric brain tumors. This weekend, I met the father of a 9-year-old boy who just finished treatment for pancreatic cancer. So what does this mean? Diet and exercise are not likely to blame. We owe it to ourselves to do what we can to minimize our exposure to environmental toxins.
Home is the place where we feel safest, but in most homes, toxins are everywhere. We spray them, wash and scrub with them, bathe with them, paint them on our nails, brush them on our teeth, and track them in from our lawns and streets. This isn’t the inevitable state of our homes and lives, but the outcome of our choices. Prevention is a state-of-mind - as well as the best assurance that you are reducing unnecessary risk, and in the process, helping to preserve the planet and the future. There are a few things you can do to curtail, if not eliminate your exposure.
NEVER heat food in anything plastic, including plastic wrap. I suggest avoiding plastic altogether, even for food storage. Glass is a better choice. Remember the glass storage containers your mother used? They were replaced by plastic for a convenience that comes with serious costs. Our convenient lifestyles are poisoning us. Plastic bottles leach toxic chemicals into water and food, especially at high temperatures. Never put plastic in the dishwasher or wash at high temperatures. Plastics marked with a 3, 6, or 7 should never be used. Those labeled with 2, 4, and 5 are less dangerous, but limit their use. Never reuse number 1 plastic water bottles.
Pesticides are ubiquitous in our world - from our food, to our lawns, to the school playgrounds and parks. Avoid pesticides to the best of your ability as women with high pesticide levels in their breast tissue have greater incidents of cancer. If you use fertilizers on your lawn, wait until after a heavy rain before you walk on the grass, and know that common weed killers are highly toxic to you as well. Please - if you use fertilizers and weed killers, do not let your children walk barefoot on your lawn and don’t walk through your home wearing the shoes with which you walked through your toxic lawn.
Avoid cosmetics that contain formaldehyde, parabens, and phthalates (endocrine disrupting preservatives). The average adult is exposed to over 100 unique chemicals in personal products every day. Mineral oil (liquid petroleum) is a by-product of petroleum and is known to increase the risk of cancer. Significant amounts of cosmetic ingredients, including carcinogenic substances, penetrate the skin and end up in the blood stream. These chemicals slowly poison us through repeated use.
Air pollution is not limited to factory districts. Indoor air pollution is pervasive. Two of the most common indoor air pollutants that can cause cancer are formaldehyde and benzene, found in such things as pressed wood, particle board, air fresheners (should be called indoor air polluters), paint strippers, and wood stains all contain formaldehyde and/or benzene. In addition to limiting these items in your home, house plants in the home can help to remove indoor pollutants. Consider a few easy-to-care-for Boston Ferns and Spider Plants.
Beware of dry cleaning. Better yet, avoid it altogether. If you’ve convinced yourself you must dry clean, be sure to air out your clothing for a few days before wearing. Frequent use of common chemical cleaners may increase your risk of breast cancer by as much as 50 percent. Commercial cleaners contain endocrine disrupting chemicals that can increase estrogen levels. Use toxin-free, natural cleaning products whenever possible.
Limit radiation exposure. Avoid CT scans as they have been linked to the progression of cancer and are often performed needlessly. Hospital ER’s often perform them routinely, perhaps for liability reasons, but question the necessity and refuse the test if not absolutely necessary.
Avoid electromagnetic fields (EMF’s) whenever possible. EMF’s are electrical fields that radiate from all electronics - power lines, modems, and appliances, and have been linked to cancer. If you have a bedside clock, move it so that it is at least 5 or 6 ft from your bed. Do the same with phones, answering machines, and any other electronics in your bedroom. Limit computer time. For years, I suspected that the cramped, computer-laden trading floor where I worked was a health hazard. A few of us sat behind old monitors and next to plenty more. Two of us developed cancer, one died. The research out there is confusing to the non-scientists among us, but few believe that constant exposure to EMF’s is safe. In fact, I attended a conference last week, and EMF’s were addressed several times - the cancer connection was quite clear. Cell phones are of particular concern as they are held to the brain for long periods of time and are often clipped to the body. There are many devices on the market that can reduce your exposure. If there’s a $30 device that can help prevent cancer, I’m here to tell you it’s worth it.
Making lifestyle changes seems difficult and may require you to change your conceptual framework first. Having made many changes in my own effort to keep cancer in my past, I can tell you that an anti-cancer lifestyle does not require you to become a hypochondriac or a recluse. It only requires you to THINK about what you put in, on, or near your body. So, enjoy life, laugh much, think critically, and eat your vegetables.
Elyn Jacobs is President of Elyn Jacobs Consulting, Inc. and a breast cancer survivor. She helps women diagnosed with cancer to navigate the process of treatment and care, and she educates about how to prevent recurrence and new cancers. She is passionate about helping others get past their cancer and into a cancer-free life.
For More Information:
What Scientists Are Saying About the Health Risks of EMF’s
EMF Health Impact Info and Shielding Devices
Safe Alternatives for Household Products
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics
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