Cancer Prevention—Lifestyle Behavior Examined

Article by Dr. Paul Kennedy
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Doctor Paul KennedyOur health and fitness article archive has many articles concerning lack of exercise and the incidence of cancer in those that choose not to lead a more active lifestyle. For example, I have written previously in this space about the relationship between smoking and cancer. The effects of lack of exercise on the increased incidence of cancer have also been previously discussed. But a new article in “Medscape Medical News” by Zosia Chustecka ( on February 6, 2014 explained that the relationship between lifestyle and the incidence of cancer is growing ever stronger. As one might imagine, lifestyle factors revolve around dietary choices, obesity, high levels of alcohol consumption and, of course, lack of physical activity.

It should be stated at the outset that about one-third of all cancers are preventable as a result of a few simple alterations in dietary habits and improvements in the inclusion of regular moderate levels of exercise. For example, even something as simple as slight reductions in calorie consumption (perhaps as a result of a reduction in the levels of foods containing saturated fats and, of course, sugar), can, over time, have a preventative effect with respect to certain forms of cancer. Moreover, a simple daily walking program can be a great way to begin a personal fitness program that can evolve to include other activities such as strength training. Together, these activities should be viewed as preventive medicine. Indeed, as I have stated many times in this space “Exercise IS Medicine”.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has investigated the preventative health “connections” mentioned above with respect to cancer prevention and came to some conclusions that many have suggested but that now have a more robust data base. In other words, the data is simply showing that better eating habits and regular exercise have a very strong position with respect to cancer prevention. Simply stated, there appears to be a “dose” response with regard to exercise and the lowered incidence of many forms of cancer. Of course, some of this “connection” has to do with the control of weight management and obesity. Dr. Walter Willet, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health has stated that “although the (individual) risks of cancer for a person who is overweight or obese are not as great as they are for a tobacco smoker, in the United States and some other countries, the much higher prevalence of overweight and obesity than smoking means that the numbers of cancer deaths caused by these two factors are now similar”. In other words, the death rate in the United States related to overweight and obesity is now equal to the earlier death rate of smokers! This is a chilling statistic particularly because it involves a PREVENTABLE cause related to lifestyle. And that cause is a shocking lack of movement of any kind since many Americans go through the day with little or NO physical activity. We have become a nation of sitters with respect to our work AND our leisure time.

It should also be noted that of the many causative factors regarding obesity, the role of sugar sweetened beverages in the typical American diet continues to be an area of concern. There is no question that one of the major causes of overweight and obesity—and, hence, its relation to the incidence of cancer– in the American culture is “soda” and its derivatives. Although the level of consumption of sugar sweetened beverages has leveled off to a small degree, it remains a major issue in weight control and related disease prevention. And, as discussed above, the corollary to the battle against cancer (aside from dietary issues) is the other lifestyle “choice” involving a lack of exercise! With a small amount of effort, a more nutrient dense eating plan, less dietary “sugar” (which includes “high fructose corn syrup”) and a simple exercise program, anyone (regardless of their current level of fitness and wellness) can significantly reduce their chances of acquiring this insidious disease. The choice is yours and the solution is simple. Make the right choice and lead a healthier and more disease free life.

I’m Dr. Paul Kennedy and that’s the “Be Fit, Stay Fit” Topic of the Month for March 2014. Good luck with YOUR program. I KNOW you can do it!

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