Six lifestyle choices a top cancer prevention professor says we should all embrace
As Dr Lorenzo Cohen explains the cancer-fighting ‘Mix of Six' in his new book, Lisa Salmon finds out more
A CANCER diagnosis is feared by everyone – but a respected professor of cancer prevention says there's something you can do to increase the chances of avoiding it. Here are Dr Lorenzo Cohen's 'Mix of Six' anticancer lifestyle pillars, as outlined in his new book Anticancer Living:
1. Love and support
Giving and receiving love and support can specifically affect how cells function and express the genes that control health, says Cohen. A Harvard University study of 750,000 cancer patients found those who were married had a 20 per cent better chance of survival than those who were either single, divorced or widowed. But don't worry, a marriage certificate isn't crucial – it's thought that a partner, or just a good friend who will support you and attend appointments with you, can have an equally positive effect.
2. Stress management
This aspect of the 'prescription' is critical, says Cohen, as chronic stress has not only been found to sabotage all good healthy intentions, but can negatively affect most biological processes, decrease the beneficial effects of healthy foods and speed the ageing process. He suggests trying a stress management activity like meditation, yoga or tai chi on a daily basis – in the morning, before bed, or when you need a breather in the middle of a busy day. Allocate a time to meditate for at least 10 minutes a day. When stress mounts, stop what you're doing, take a few deep breaths to help clear your mind, literally ground yourself with both feet on the ground, and relax. Centre yourself by acknowledging the stress trigger, picturing the ideal outcome, and acting on it from a calm place.
When we're not well-rested, there are negative effects on key cancer hallmarks, including increased inflammation and decreased immune function, making us vulnerable to infection and possibly increasing cancer growth. Try to get seven-eight hours' sleep a night. Establish a bedtime for yourself and stick to it, keeping weekday and weekend bedtimes similar to ensure you consistently get the required amount of sleep. Reduce ambient light in the bedroom, and eliminate screen time before bed.
4. Physical activity
It's critical to limit sedentary behaviour, as the harm sitting around and not exercising causes is equivalent to the health risks of smoking or obesity. Various studies suggest people who exercise regularly have a lower risk of developing cancer – a 2009 analysis of 52 studies, for example, found very physically active people had a 24 per cent lower risk of developing colon cancer than people who were much more sedentary. Exercise regularly, at least 30 minutes a day, five to six days a week, advises Cohen. Wear a pedometer and take a minimum of 10,000 steps a day, and make an effort to sit less.
An analysis of 95 studies found people who regularly eat 10 portions of fruit and vegetables a day have a significantly lower risk of developing chronic diseases. Eat a primarily whole-food, variety-filled, plant-based diet. Limit foods like sweets and salty snacks, and maintain a balanced glycaemic load (foods like white bread. white rice and biscuits have a high glycaemic index). Fill half of your plate with vegetables, and try replacing meat with beans four times a week. Avoid processed foods.
6. Environmental toxins
Environmental toxins, especially endocrine (hormone) disruptors such as bisphenol A (BPA) and parabens, have been implicated in obesity, risk of cancer, and other illnesses. Other chemicals we're exposed to daily have also been classified as carcinogens, including Styrofoam and formaldehyde. Use glass containers for storage and stainless steel water bottles to reduce exposure to plastics containing BPA or other plastic-based endocrine disruptors, Cohen suggests. Read the ingredients list on personal-care products and avoid parabens, other '-bens' and phthalates.
:: Anticancer Living: The Six Step Solution To Transform Your Health by Dr Lorenzo Cohen and Alison Jefferies is published by Vermilion, priced £14.99.