I know that it’s almost the end of February, but I can’t let the month go by without mentioning that February is National Cancer Prevention Month. Throughout this blog, we talk about things you should do to lower your risk of getting breast cancer, but we don’t ever talk about prevention!
Prevention is a much heavier word for me.
According to the Free Dictionary, the definition of prevention is “to keep from happening, especially by taking precautionary action.”
When you look it up in the thesaurus, a few of the words that are synonymous with prevention are: avoidance, deterrence, anticipation, preclusion and hindrance. What happened to “lower your risk”?
Is there anything you can do to prevent yourself from getting breast cancer? Not really! All you can do is educate yourself, know your family history, perform breast self-exams, watch your weight, exercise and reduce your alcohol consumption. All to lower your risk – period!
This “prevention” argument is one that I have expressed on numerous occasions in some medical circles. Many organizations use it a bit too freely for my taste. I take objection with it because it just does not fit and it’s not true. What about small children who are diagnosed with cancer? Is there something they could have done differently in their short life to prevent them from having cancer? What if you do everything right and still get cancer? How can they explain that?
The literal translation of the word “prevention” just doesn’t work. Not the message.
The message to make positive lifestyle changes to lower your risk of getting cancer does work. As I mentioned in a blog post last week, the guidelines that are used for cancer prevention and heart disease are the same.
To help you focus on what is the most important, the American Institute of Cancer Research came up with the following Guidelines for Cancer Prevention:
- Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight
- Be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day.
- Avoid sugary drinks.
- Limit consumption of energy-dense foods (foods with a high concentration of calories per bite).
- Eat more of a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes such as beans.
- Limit consumption of red meats (such as beef, pork and lamb) and avoid processed meats.
- If consumed at all, limit alcoholic drinks to two for men and one for women a day.
- Limit consumption of salty foods and foods processed with salt (sodium).
- Don’t use supplements to protect against cancer.
- And always remember – do not smoke or chew tobacco.
There you have it – several easy steps to follow to lower your risk of being diagnosed with cancer.
Learn them, follow them and pass them along to your family and friends.
What are some guidelines from above that you practice each day? Are there others you’d add to this mix?
Muriel, the editor, five-year cancer survivor
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