Chemicals and Cancer: What You Can Do
Don't forget about the most important things you can do to lower cancer risk
In a comprehensive, 240-page report, the President's Cancer Panel has called attention to issues around environmental chemicals and cancer risk. Some groups have pointed out that many known lifestyle changes have been shown to help offset cancer risks, making the emphasis on external factors unnecessary. But others argue that environmental risks are not well understood by the public and deserve both consideration and further study. Supported with solid science noted in over 450 references, some scientists feel the report is an important step in understanding environmental causes of cancer, which may help people to better avoid them.
Food for thoughtWith many studies conflicting or difficult to perform on humans with meaningful results, advocacy groups on both sides are hashing out how harmful certain substances might be. While not definitive on those points, the new report does raise several findings worth noting:
Enjoy clean living for extra protection
So, what's a health-conscious person to do? While it's safe to say that we all interact with chemicals that may increase cancer risk, you can lower your personal risk by taking care to control your exposure, especially at home. Though the final word is not in on all of the steps described below, the report makes some recommendations that make sense in the meantime:
Healthy food habits:
Healthy household and lifestyle habits:
If you have concerns about specific toxins, the report also reminds us that we are free to support policymakers and companies who care about these issues, and you can let manufacturers and trade organizations know what is important to you. But in the meantime, don't forget about the most important things you can do to lower cancer risk: maintain a healthy body weight, exercise regularly, get regular cancer screenings, limit processed foods, and eat a healthy diet with plenty of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and beans every day.
(President's Cancer Panel 2008-2009 Annual Report. Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk. What We Can Do Now. Available at pcp.cancer.gov. Accessed May 24, 2010.)
Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by the New York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor.