Reducing Cancer Risk

Headlines and Science: Oil and Water?

The Importance of the Salacious Headline

I am constantly bombarded with questions from patients and friends about the latest nutrition headlines.  I always appreciate the curiosity, and honestly, getting even the most obscure question makes me a better clinician because I make sure to go back and read the research to answer appropriately.  But sometimes I just don't want nutrition headlines to be sexy, I want them to be accurate.

Don't get me wrong, nutrition is a constantly evolving field that is very scientifically difficult to study.  You try to design a study free of confounding factors when you're trying to exrapolate meaningful and causative (versus correlative) relationships by controlling what thousands of people eat and has to take lifestyle factors into account.  I can't do that with my patients and they're paying to hear what I have to say.

I appreciate that nutrition is a constant in the news because it helps continue to drive the conversation about our health.  Most recently, there was a particularly negative article about the role of nutrition in cancer prevention in the New York Times.  The data has been all over the place over the years as cancer and nutrition is a difficult relationship to study, but sometimes pointing that out to the lay public and oversimplifying scientific data does more harm than good.  The average American is not going to take the extra step to read the research that derives this article or check out what the American Institute for Cancer Research has to say about it or even make sure they ask their health care team about it.

I guess all I can do is comment on these stories, stay on top of the good and the bad in the publishing world, and keep a research oriented focus so that I can give my patients the best possible advice.  Just be forewarned: even when it comes to the best news outlets, don't fall prey to the salacious headline and always stay open to all sides of the discussion.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

I love seeing communities rally around various health issues and Breast Cancer Awareness every October has become a great example of that.  Come on...  Who doesn't love seeing 260 pound men of raw muscle running around and catching a football in pink cleats and sweatbands?

Reducing Your Risk

Photo courtesy of PT PittsburghWhile part of what plays into risk factor is genetics (family history, age of onset of menstruation and menopause, gene mutations), there are ways to reduce your risk of breast cancer, and many other cancers.

Diet and exercise play a supporting role in cancer research because we're finding out more and more how important the two are in cancer risk.  Oxidation reactions within the body are inflammatory and negative.  These can cause mutations in genetic transcription (think back to that zipper-like DNA strand getting copied) which can then turn on maladies like cancer.  The key is to try to utilize everyday diet and frequent physical activity to help reduce this inflammatory environment.  It's also important to eat a variety of colors throughout the day/week to get a variety of micronutrients as vitamins and minerals carry out very basic cellular functions.  

Foods to Focus On:

 Whole grains: whole wheat pasta/breads/cereals, oats, barley, brown rice

  • Cruciferous vegetables: spinach, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, collards, swiss chard, cabbage
  • Fruits: grapefruit, oranges, cherries, raspberry, blueberry, blackberry, lime
  • Legumes: beans, chickpeas, lentils, soybeans

Breast cancer, as with many others, is also closely connecting with increased risk for those that are overweight and obese.  Focus on weight control, healthy fiber and whole grain intake, and regular physical activity for your risk reduction. 

And if you're planning on marking the month with any special breast cancer awareness events, please share!