Category Archives: Cancer

Reduce Your Cancer Risk Via Diet and Exercise

You need to worry about cancer because you have a roughly four in 10 chance of coming down with invasive cancer. (Skin cancers like squamous cell and basal cell are quite common, but rarely invasive.)

Dr. David Gorski is a breast cancer surgeon. He’s looked at the scientific literature on the linkage between diet and exercises, and the risk of developing cancer.

Here’s his conclusion from his review at Science-Based Medicine:

“You can reduce your risk of cancer by staying active and exercising, eating a healthy diet with a lot of plant-based foods and minimizing intake of processed meats, limiting alcohol consumption (although I think the WCRF/AICR guidelines go a bit too far in saying that you shouldn’t drink at all if possible), and maintaining a healthy weight. (Of course, if you stay active and eat a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight will probably not be a problem.) Conceptually, it’s easy to do. In practice, as I’m discovering, it’s anything but easy.”

Source: Diet and exercise versus cancer: A science-based view « Science-Based Medicine

The Mediterranean diet seems to protect against cancer.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: One of the reasons I write diet books is that I want to keep you from getting cancer.

Exercise Cancels the Cancer-Inducing Effect of Alcohol

Jamesons Irish Whiskey Photo copyright: Steve Parker MD

Jameson Irish Whiskey
Photo copyright: Steve Parker MD

Just recently we learned that you’ll die of cancer if you tipple. Well, a new study says you can counteract the carcinogenic alcohol with adequate physical activity.

A story at CNN tells us how much exercise it takes :

“Specifically, they looked at the impact of the recommended amount of weekly exercise for adults, which is 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity. That includes brisk walking, swimming and mowing the lawn, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. HHS also advises strength training for all major muscle groups at least twice a week.”

Source: Exercise can cancel out the booze, says study – CNN.com

The rule of thumb on how much alcohol is relatively safe to drink is 7 typical drinks a week for women, and 14 for men. Don’t drink them all at once.

Also remember that even one or two drinks under the right circumstances can have devastating consequences.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: All of my books have extensive recommendations on getting started with exercise, even if you’re a 300-lb couch potato.

It’s the Carbs, Not Saturated Fat: Food consumption and the rate of cardiovascular diseases in 42 European countries 

 

Carcinogenic?

Carcinogenic?

The idea that heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases are caused by dietary saturated fats is losing credibility. I lost faith in that theory in 2009.

Instead, cardiovascular disease is now linked to high consumption of carbohydrates, particularly those carbs that are rapidly absorbed and turned into blood sugar.

Unfortunately, the diet that reduces risk of cardiovascular disease may increase your risk of cancer. Keep reading.

If you’re a nutrition science nerd, here’s a pertinent report from researchers at Masaryk University in the Czech Republic:

“The results of our study show that high-glycaemic carbohydrates or a high overall proportion of carbohydrates in the diet are the key ecological correlates of cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. These findings strikingly contradict the traditional ‘saturated fat hypothesis’, but in reality, they are compatible with the evidence accumulated from observational studies that points to both high glycaemic index and high glycaemic load (the amount of consumed carbohydrates × their glycaemic index) as important triggers of CVDs. The highest glycaemic indices (GI) out of all basic food sources can be found in potatoes and cereal products, which also have one of the highest food insulin indices (FII) that betray their ability to increase insulin levels.The role of the high glycaemic index/load can be explained by the hypothesis linking CVD risk to inflammation resulting from the excessive spikes of blood glucose (‘post-prandial hyperglycaemia’). Furthermore, multiple clinical trials have demonstrated that when compared with low-carbohydrate diets, a low-fat diet increases plasma triglyceride levels and decreases total cholesterol and HDL-cholesterol, which generally indicates a higher CVD risk. Simultaneously, LDL-cholesterol decreases as well and the number of dense, small LDL particles increases at the expense of less dense, large LDL particles, which also indicates increased CVD risk. These findings are mirrored even in the present study because cereals and carbohydrates in general emerge as the strongest correlates of low cholesterol levels.

In light of these findings, the negative correlation of refined sugar with CVD risk may seem surprising, but the mean daily consumption of refined sugar in Europe is quite low (~84 g/day), when compared with potato and cereal carbohydrates (~235 g/day), and makes up only ~20% of CA energy. Refined sugar is also positively tied to many animal products such as animal fat and total fat and animal protein, and negatively to % PC CARB energy and % CA energy. Therefore, a high consumption of refined sugar is accompanied by a high consumption of animal products and lower intakes of other carbohydrates. Furthermore, the glycaemic index of refined sugar (sucrose) is rather moderate (~65).”

Source: Food consumption and the actual statistics of cardiovascular diseases: an epidemiological comparison of 42 European countries | Grasgruber | Food & Nutrition Research

Elsewhere in this long article:

“Current rates of cancer incidence in Europe are namely the exact geographical opposite of CVDs. In sharp contrast to CVDs, cancer correlates with the consumption of animal food (particularly animal fat), alcohol, a high dietary protein quality, high cholesterol levels, high health expenditure, and above average height. These contrasting patterns mirror physiological mechanisms underlying physical growth and the development of cancer and CVDs. The best example of this health paradox is again that of French men, who have the lowest rates of CVD mortality in Europe, but the highest rates of cancer incidence. In other words, cancer and CVDs appear to express two extremes of a fundamental metabolic disbalance that is related to factors such as cholesterol and IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor).”

I wish these researchers had looked at over death rates associated with various ways of eating. Perhaps that will be in a future paper.

I’d rather die of a heart attack than cancer.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Don’t Do It: Exercise Promotes Cancer

Needs a bit more hormetic stress

“Would you spot me, bro?”

I’ve always assumed that exercise reduces the risk of cancer, contributing to the well-established fact that folks who exercise live longer than others.

But a recent study found a positive association between exercise and two cancers: melanoma and prostate.

The good news is that exercise was linked to lower risk of 13 other cancers.

Here’s a quote for the New York Times Well blog:

The researchers found a reduced risk of breast, lung and colon cancers, which had been reported in earlier research. But they also found a lower risk of tumors in the liver, esophagus, kidney, stomach, endometrium, blood, bone marrow, head and neck, rectum and bladder.

And the reductions in risk for any of these 13 cancers rose steeply as people exercised more. When the researchers compared the top 10 percent of exercisers, meaning those who spent the most time each week engaging in moderate or vigorous workouts, to the 10 percent who were the least active, the exercisers were as much as 20 percent less likely to develop most of the cancers in the study.

I’m surprised the protective effect of exercise against cancer wasn’t stronger.

Action Plan

So how much physical activity does it take to prevent cancer? And what type of exercise? We await further studies for specific answers.

I’m hedging my bets with a combination of aerobic and strength training two or three times a week.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: If you think cancer’s bad, read one of my books. Wait, that didn’t come out right.

PPS: Men with diabetes seem to be less likely than average to get prostate cancer.

Paleolithic and Mediterranean Diets Linked to Lower Incidence of Colon Polyps

Adenomas in the colon (aka colon polyps) are precursors to colon cancer. Experts think that if we can prevent the onset of colon polyps, we’ll see less colon cancer. A recent study suggests that both a Paleo-type diet and Mediterranean-style diet reduce risk of colon polyps. A sample:

“Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second-leading cause of cancer mortality in the United States. Rapidly increasing incidence rates in previously low-incidence populations in urban China and Japan and among male Polynesians in Hawaii have coincided with the adoption of a more westernized lifestyle by those populations. These changing incidence rates, along with studies of immigrant populations, point to a strong influence of diet and other lifestyle factors on CRC risk.”

Source: Paleolithic and Mediterranean Diet Pattern Scores and Risk of Incident, Sporadic Colorectal Adenomas

Even Mild Elevations of Fasting Blood Sugar Are Linked to Pancreatic Cancer

The pancreas produces digestive enzymes, insulin, and other hormones

The pancreas produces digestive enzymes, insulin, and other hormones

A recent meta-analysis found that elevated fasting blood glucose levels, even in the prediabetic range, are associated with higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer. This is important because you can take action today to lower your fasting blood sugar level, which may lower your risk of pancreatic cancer over the long-term. The researchers conclude that…

“Every 0.56 mmol/L [10 mg/dl] increase in fasting blood glucose is associated with a 14% increase in the rate of pancreatic cancer.”

In the developed world, your risk of getting an invasive cancer is roughly one in four. Pancreatic cancer is the most lethal. Surgery is the way to cure it, but at the time of diagnosis only two in 10 patients are candidates for surgery because the cancer has already spread. Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the USA and the fifth in the UK. Nevertheless, pancreas cancer is not terribly common; the US has 50,000 new cases annually. As a hospitalist, I run across one or two new cases of pancreas cancer annually.

We’ve known for years that type 2 diabetes is linked to pancreatic cancer, with diabetics having twice the risk of nondiabetics.

What if you have elevated fasting blood sugars? There’s no proof that reducing them to the normal range will reduce your risk of pancreatic cancer. But if it were me, that’s what I’d shoot for.

Other that type 2 diabetes and prediabetes, some other risk factors for pancreas cancer are:

  • heredity
  • smoking
  • sedentary lifestyle
  • body mass index over 30 (obesity in other words)

You can alter most of those risk factors. Why not get started today?

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: If you’re not sure if your fasting blood sugar’s elevated, click here.