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Of course, the big story here and elsewhere has been the Susan G. Komen Foundation decision to defund Planned Parenthood earlier this week. Although the Foundation has apologized for this public relations disaster, all they have really agreed to is to allow Planned Parenthood to apply for future grants. Who knows if the Foundation will approve future grants given what we have learned about their organization this week?

In any event, I can understand the furor and backlash against Komen. They have allowed politics to influence their grant making process. And they have caused everyone to step back and really look at how truly effective they were as a grant making organization with the stated goal of finding a cure for breast cancer.

While I believe that it is laudable that government agencies, for-profits, not-for-profits, foundations and universities collaborate to find a cure for cancer, we should put in at least as much time and effort into prevention. We live in a society that demands and craves “silver bullet” solution to our problems and health issues. We want to find “cures” for diseases that we really truly don’t understand.Follow me below the fold for a discussion and review of cancer prevention tips and strategies as it relates to diet and nutrition.

According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women, except for skin cancers. The chance of developing invasive breast cancer at some time in a woman's life is approximately 1 in 8 (12%).

The American Cancer Society's most recent estimates for breast cancer in the United States are for 2012:

•    About 226,870 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women.
•    About 39,510 women will die from breast cancer

After increasing for more than 2 decades, female breast cancer incidence rates decreased by about 2% per year from 1999 to 2005. This decrease was seen only in women aged 50 or older, and may be due at least in part to the decline in use of hormone therapy after menopause that occurred after the results of the Women's Health Initiative were published in 2002.

While men can also be afflicted with breast cancer, it is uncommon. About 2,140 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in men in 2011. A man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 1,000.

When we look at the data for all forms of cancer, about 300 of every 100,000 Americans develop cancer each year, which means the U.S. has the seventh highest cancer rate in the world.

Our lifestyles have a lot to do with our low ranking.  According to Alice Bender, MS RD of the American Institute for Cancer Research, “Americans are more likely to be overweight, drink more alcohol, and don't engage in as much physical activity as people in other parts of the world." The good news is that scientists and cancer researchers estimate up to one-third of the most common cancers can be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight, being more physically active, and eating more healthfully. Lets have a look at what some of the leading cancer agencies say about cancer prevention and food choices.

The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is based in Seattle, WA and a world leader in research to prevent, detect and treat cancer and other life-threatening diseases. They have published 10 Tips For Breast Cancer Prevention. One of their tips is embrace a plant rich diet.

Embrace a diet high in vegetables and fruit and low in sugared drinks, refined carbohydrates and fatty foods.

The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) says to eat more fruit and vegetables.
Compared with people who consume a diet with only small amounts of fruits and vegetables, those who eat more generous amounts as part of a healthful diet are likely to have reduced risk of chronic diseases, including stroke and perhaps other cardiovascular diseases, and certain cancers.

The American Institute for Cancer Research states there is strong evidence that a diet filled with a variety of plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans helps lower risk for many cancers.

Vegetables and fruits are low in calories, which help us get to and stay a healthy weight. Whole grains and beans are rich in fiber and moderate in calories, which also help in weight management efforts. That is why AICR recommends filling at least 2/3 of your plate with vegetables, fruit, whole grains and beans.

The American Dietetic Association concludes that a well-balanced vegetarian diet is an important tool in the effort to prevent cancer.

Active research indicates that it is not only the vitamins, minerals, or fiber that make plant foods beneficial to health, but the phytochemicals found in these food as well. As a result, it is difficult to conclude whether it is the decrease in meat and/or fat, the increase in fruit and vegetables, or other lifestyle factors that provide the beneficial effect in vegetarians; most likely they all play a role.

The Cancer Project concludes that what we eat and how we treat our bodies on a daily basis will have a very powerful effect on our health and quality of life and the prevention of chronic diseases.

Fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes all have important nutrients and other cancer-fighting substances like phytochemicals and pectin that strengthen immune function and destroy cancer-causing substances before they cause harm. Research has shown that people who eat a diet free of animal products, high in plant foods, and low in fat have a much lower risk of developing cancer.

I write this dairy because I have lost family and close friends to cancer. I wouldn’t wish this wicked disease on my worst enemy. In 2004, my father was diagnosed with cancer of the throat. This was a little surprising since he never smoked or drank alcohol - which are considered risk factors. The tumor was not operable so the decision was to use radiation as the sole means of treatment. I can still vividly recall helping to wheel his gurney into the radiation room and seeing the hi-tech equipment and thick walls to prevent radiation leakage. If you have been through this process, you will know what I mean when I say that it is chilling and sobering. My dad died a few months after the radiation treatments ended.

I also remember a young women waiting to get radiation treatment after my father’s appointment. She was in her early twenties as best I could estimate. It was shocking to see someone so young battling this dreaded disease. It is my fervent hope that we can begin a conversation in this country about healthier eating patterns as we are literally eating ourselves to death.

Although I have enjoyed a vegetarian diet now for over twenty years, I know that this is not an easy choice for many people. I get it that we are a meat centric culture and likely to stay that way for a long time. I appreciate that the choices are sometimes limited in the stores and restaurants and that it is just easier to go a fast food restaurant on the way home after a stressful day and order a burger, soda and fries.

But if you do make an effort to look at the evidence, a plant rich diet loaded with unprocessed fruits, vegetables , beans, and whole grains can be a helpful part of an overall lifestyle to minimize your cancer risks.

Finally, I'm a chef and have given a lot of cooking classes. I'm happy to mentor anyone by phone or email if they are interested in exploring new food choices and wanting to incorporate more vegetarian meals in their lifestyle.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (17+ / 0-)

    The Occupy movement is powerful, not because it is fighting for the rights of a few hundred people to sleep outdoors, but because it is fighting for the right of millions of Americans to sleep indoors. - Van Jones

    by Frank In WA on Sat Feb 04, 2012 at 09:38:30 AM PST

  •  A virtuous circle (6+ / 0-)

    I also appreciate that if one commits to a cancer healthy diet, the gross kind starts to seem a lot less appealing.

    There's a lot we can do on the policy front as well, in reforming the agriculture bills that support unhealthy foods.

    I am edging toward vegetarian myself.  I'm wondering whether you have any particular cookbooks to recommend?

    Fight cancer, cook tasty food!

    •  I have got a couple suggestions for you (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sillia, Wee Mama

      Robin Robertson is a fantastic chef and cookbook author. I like her 1,000 Vegan Recipes.

      I have long admired the work of Jo Stepaniak and recommend her Vegan Vittles and The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook.

      For a great exploration of global cuisine, try World Vegan Feast from Bryanna Clark Grogan.

      Send me a note via Kos mail if you have more questions, want more information and would like to chat.

      Good Luck.

      The Occupy movement is powerful, not because it is fighting for the rights of a few hundred people to sleep outdoors, but because it is fighting for the right of millions of Americans to sleep indoors. - Van Jones

      by Frank In WA on Sat Feb 04, 2012 at 11:06:06 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  More cookbooks (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mindful Nature

      Good for you, Mindful Nature! Here are a few of my favorites:

      * How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman (most comprehensive but also funny and friendly)
      * World Vegetarian by Madhur Jaffrey (home cooking around the world)
      * Engine 2 Firehouse Diet by Rip Esselstyn (manly man vegan, a little soy heavy but fun)
      * Wildly Affordable Organic: Eat Fabulous Food, Get Healthy, and Save the Planet--All on $5 a Day or Less by, well, me (you can afford to eat like it matters!). My site has lots of free recipes available and you can subscribe to my newsletter for a free recipe and food news every week.

      CookforGood.com: Save money. Eat well. Make a difference.

      by Cook for Good on Mon Feb 06, 2012 at 08:18:08 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is an uphill battle (5+ / 0-)

    as long as there are vested interests like Komen and American Cancer Society that will cease to exist if cancer is cured.

    The ACS itself has a statistic that 80% of cancers are lifestyle related and therefore preventable. And you know they must be lowballing it. Whenever that statistic is mentioned, people get very angry and insist their disease is genetic. Amazing how everyone fits into the 20%. People would rather be told their problem is inherited than take control and do something about it.

    "I'm sculpting now. Landscapes mostly." ~ Yogi Bear

    by eXtina on Sat Feb 04, 2012 at 09:58:59 AM PST

  •  Correlation does not equal Causation (7+ / 0-)

    I honestly feel we have a tendency of using habits to in effect blame the victim, rather than get to the actual science of cancer.

    First off cancer is not a disease.  Cancer is a generic term to describe any one of thousands of cell derivations within the body.

    A person that lives and eats healthier is more likely to be healthier longer, but this is far from saying that there is a direct link between certain foods and cancer.

    Meat does not cause cancer.  Vegetarians still get cancers at nearly the same rate.  Because they are a significantly smaller population slight deviations can be grossly exaggerated to push an agenda.

    I'm not saying people shouldn't eat healthier and exercise, because of course they should.  They would feel better.  They aren't however building an immunity to cancer or heart disease.

    •  But what's the downside of stressing healthier.... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dr Teeth, eXtina

      ....eating and more exercise?

      Even if I concede that the incidence of cancer is the same as those who don't, you can't deny that people who exercise and consume fruits and vegetables don't live a much better quality of life than those who don't.  

      Great Diary, Frank in WA.

      Learn about Centrist Economics, learn about Robert Rubin's Hamilton Project. http://www1.hamiltonproject.org/es/hamilton/hamilton_hp.htm

      by PatriciaVa on Sat Feb 04, 2012 at 10:08:30 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  There is nothing wrong with it, but.. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Angela Quattrano, parryander

        Pretending one has to do with the other is dishonest.

        For years the "Just Say No" people used disinformation about illicit drugs to promote a social agenda.  The problems with this turned out to be counterproductive to actually dealing with the true ills of drug abuse.

        Of course the program was well intended, but it also failed a credibility test.  Once young people realized they were victims of disinformation, all the policies surrounding public policy became a joke, whether they were had a positive social impact or not.

        Basing public policy on hard science is the only credible way of building trust with the public.  Once people see there is an agenda behind you data, you lose the ability to communicate with large sections of the population.

      •  "Quality of life" (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dr Teeth
        you can't deny that people who exercise and consume fruits and vegetables don't live a much better quality of life than those who don't.  

        I actually would deny that my quality of life is much worse than yours because I can't buy a membership in a club and perform extreme exercise regularly as a result of physical limitations.

        I would suggest that if you think that you personally are living a "much better quality of life" than 99.9999999% of the world's population which hasn't modified its diet to go along with the latest dietary fads in the US, you need to examine your cultural beliefs.

        •  Exactly (0+ / 0-)

          At some point this becomes a case of institutions making decisions for individuals.

          If the data is sound, then there is a public health reason to set public requirements (vaccinations for instance).  But this authority should not be a form of social engineering.

    •  This dairy didn't make the claim that (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sillia, Dr Teeth

      meat causes cancer. This dairy suggests that our lifestyles have a significant role in helping to prevent cancer and other chronic diseases.

      With respect to heart disease, you don't have to look very far to see the evidence to show that the Standard American Diet is a major cause. For those interested, have a look at the pioneering work of Dr Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., formerly of the Cleveland Clinic and Dr Dean Ornish of the Preventative Medicine Research Institute.

      Based on their research and advice, Bill Clinton had made changes in his diet as he looks to stave off additional open heart surgeries.

      The Occupy movement is powerful, not because it is fighting for the rights of a few hundred people to sleep outdoors, but because it is fighting for the right of millions of Americans to sleep indoors. - Van Jones

      by Frank In WA on Sat Feb 04, 2012 at 11:30:45 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  than you , doc (0+ / 0-)

      as a survivor of a rare tumor that is completely random, I can tell you many times cancers arise for no good reason anyone can understand. We know smoking is bad, but we also know lots of people who smoke don't develop cancer and I know of several people who died from lung CA who never smoked. Outside of radiation and smoking, there are no real strong correlations ( sunshine falls under the radiation category IMO...) except for asbestos, and even there far more were exposed than developed disease. And the heart disease one is less clear than people think; some studies show cultural stress to be a more important factor than anything else.

  •  I think we need to find the cause. (11+ / 0-)

    Then focus on the cure and prevention. The ACS is every bit as political as SGK.

    The 10 prevention tips listed above are bullshit. One is to take a drug Tamoxifin that may prevent breast cancer (though I think the studies are skewed) but can cause uterine cancer.

    I was a vegan for 30 years and a vegetarian for 10 years before that and yet I still got breast cancer. It really is a crap shoot.

    Still, eating healthy and being healthy is always good even if it won't prevent cancer.

    Tracy B Ann - technically that is my signature.

    by ZenTrainer on Sat Feb 04, 2012 at 10:31:49 AM PST

  •  I'm a healthy weight, non smoker, (7+ / 0-)

    very occasional drinker, and eat lots of fruits & veggies (mostly fresh). And I am physically active (at the time I biked to work)

    When I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the gastroenterology specialist posited the only risk factor he could see was low Vit. D levels (sunshine is far from enough.)

    I think there are hidden factors in cancer development not being discussed much: stress response, environmental pollutants and other factors very difficult to quantify and therefore difficult to study.

    Democrats promote the Common good. Republicans promote Corporate greed.

    by murasaki on Sat Feb 04, 2012 at 11:24:19 AM PST

  •  Avoiding environmental toxins (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PatriciaVa, Quequeg, hazey

    Eating low on the food chain is one of the very best ways to avoid carcinogenic chemicals, as these bioaccumulate the higher up on the chain you eat. This is why I eat whole foods, no animal products, and buy organic when it's convenient (though not exclusively).

    All of us are exposed to dangerous toxins, pesticides, heavy metals, etc.--it is unavoidable on this planet. And these toxins help to trigger cancer and other illnesses. But, we can REDUCE our exposure through lifestyle choices--less polluted food, filtered water (if needed), using non-toxic products in the home, avoiding plastics, not smoking and keeping a fit metabolism so that toxins can be processed out of the body.

    Beyond that, we can work to strengthen the EPA and elect representatives that will pass regulations to protect humans, not just corporations.

    ~On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin! Raise her glowing flame!~ I am proud to say three generations of my family lived in WI. Though I live elsewhere, am with you in spirit!

    by sillia on Sat Feb 04, 2012 at 11:43:50 AM PST

  •  Breastfeeding if you have children is (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    myboo

    a proven way to prevent breast cancer. But nobody talks about it.

    compassion for things i'll never know ~ david byrne

    by little lion on Sat Feb 04, 2012 at 11:58:25 AM PST

    •  becasue it's not true. (0+ / 0-)

      Off the top of my head I know 2 women who breastfed and much later did get breast cancer. I breast fed both my children and now have had to have a biopsy that has a 50% chance of being malignant.

      Democrats promote the Common good. Republicans promote Corporate greed.

      by murasaki on Mon Feb 06, 2012 at 07:56:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Healthy diet and exercise probably does more (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PatriciaVa

    to prevent heart disease than to prevent cancer. And heart disease is the number one killer of women in the USA.

    Let's talk about demanding credible studies into the effects of environmental toxins that cause cancer.

    A dear friend is undone because her 50 year old daughter has breast cancer; both friend and daughter have always been very health conscious, lived healthy lifestyles, followed healthy diets, follow advice of a naturopath on herbs and supplements. My friend is angry (fearful) and feeling betrayed that her daughter has cancer anyway. But friend's mother died of breast cancer many years ago. Sometimes it's the luck of the genetic draw, no matter what we do. And I suspect that sometimes the cause is environmental or inflammation.

    I've known more than a handful of people who died of cancer despite being very careful of diet and exercise, and avoiding tobacco. Some died very young. I've also known people who smoke, drink, lack exercise and healthy diet and still live into their 90s to die of old age and cancer free (excepting for two persons, some minor skin cancers).

    The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little. -FDR

    by SoCalSal on Sat Feb 04, 2012 at 11:59:18 AM PST

    •  the heart disease link (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mhanch

      is not really that strong. This is really political too....a scientist fed rabbits large amounts of fat and they developed clogged arteries. Everything has followed from that, with no one really asking why anyone would feed grass eating rabbits lots of fat and draw conclusions about human diets from it. But it set the stage for our current crusade against fat.

    •  and by the way (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SoCalSal

      the genetic link is not that strong for most cancers either. There are scientists who insist on environment ( most people on the block I grew up had cancer in the family, tho none of us are related, and sometimes the kids were adopted! )and those who espouse genetics. I think some combo of both, as well as age.

  •  Most cancers are strongly dependent on glucose (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mhanch, seattlebarb

    for their metabolism. The dietary pattern that seems to be preventive is consistent with the possibility that it is the low glycemic character that is important. In any case there is growing support for the idea that a low glycemic diet can hold a cancer in check, which may give the body the time it needs to attack and eliminate it.

    Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

    by Wee Mama on Sat Feb 04, 2012 at 12:35:30 PM PST

    •  Ketogenic diets have also shown promise (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wee Mama

      in increasing effectiveness of  treatment. There's some interesting stuff out there. Here's one study:

      Growth of human gastric cancer cells in nude mice is delayed by a ketogenic diet supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids and medium-chain triglycerides

      There's a bunch of interesting info out there on the impact of blood sugar levels on cancer growth.

      Listen to the chair leg of truth! It does not lie! What does it say?

      by mhanch on Sat Feb 04, 2012 at 03:04:10 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  A good deal of evidence points to damage to (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mhanch

        mitochondria happening as part of the long path of oncogenesis. That leaves cancer cells dependent on glycolysis, while normal cells that retain mitochondria can burn fatty acids for energy. On a ketogenic diet the principal source of energy requires mitochondria, which starves the cancer cells.

        Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

        by Wee Mama on Sat Feb 04, 2012 at 03:09:48 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  High Carb diets fuel cancer growth (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wee Mama

      I would modify the OP's recommendation a bit - lots of fresh vegetables and a much more moderate intake of fruit, cut way back or eliminate the grains.  Carbs and the attendant insulin release fuel cancer growth.

      Meat eating is not associated with cancer.  So if you are thinking of cutting anything out, cut out the starchy foods, sweets and grains and add more healthy fats (butter, olive oil, coconut oil), increase vegetables,  and switch to grass fed/wild caught meats and seafood (much higher in omega 3 fatty acids).

      I am currently on a low carb diet, have been for 2 years, never felt better.   If I got a cancer diagnosis, I would go even lower and go ketogenic (ketones are produced when almost no starch/sugar is consumed).

      Cancer is unheard of in primitive, hunter-gatherer groups.  It is when agricultural products which are much higher in starch and available year round are introduced that humans start developing cancer.

      For those who are interested in finding out more, check out Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes for a thorough look at the research behind this.

  •  On behalf of anyone with cancer (0+ / 0-)

    this focus on healthy living MUST include a huge disclaimer that lifestyle alone cannot prevent cancers.  It may lower your risk, but sometimes cancer just happens.  

    It happens to thin women who run in breast cancer fund raisers and exercise regularly, to women who eat organic,  never smoke or drink and breastfed their babies.  It happens to the people who have dandelions in their yard because they won't use pesticides.  It happens to women with no history of cancer in their family.  It even happens  to women, Stacey Campfield, who have never had abortions.  

    Over-focusing on lifestyle leaves people who now need to concentrate on their treatment and on living their new lives judging and blaming themselves for a diagnosis that they may never have had any influence over. (And for those who did have a lifestyle that put them at risk, it is too late for a guilt trip.)  

    Be careful with our feelings. Cancer is hard enough to cope with.  But yes, do research causation and prevention for the sake of everyone else, including our children.

    Never separate the life you live from the words you speak - Paul Wellstone

    by meralda on Sat Feb 04, 2012 at 04:37:12 PM PST

  •  I may take you up on your offer. (0+ / 0-)

    I suspect you aren't all that far away. I can't cook much of the time because the smell of food cooking makes me nauseated (it's a kidney patient thing), and I either hate or can't eat a lot of vegetables. Mushrooms and raw tomatoes or tomato pieces are things I have to avoid. (Strangely, truffles are okay.)

    Both of us are diabetics. Getting small amounts of whole grains into our diet via home-made bread is doable, even some of the time for me, and I have good whole grain flours at home. I make incredible artisan jam which has wholesome and/or organic sweeteners like blue agave syrup, local raw honey, or organic sugar. I have made many jams with Splenda but it doesn't keep as well.

    Most of the substitutions suggested in things like diabetic recipes are unacceptable. Nobody in their right mind is going to believe that mashed cauliflower is actually mashed potatoes, for example.

    My beloved's favorite food is pizza, which has to have a lot of meat on it as far as he's concerned.

    Anyway, if you want a challenge, you're on.

    Organ donors save multiple lives! A donor's kidney gave me my life back on 02/18/11; he lives on in me and in others. Please talk with your family about your wish to donate and sign up to give others the gift of life.

    by Kitsap River on Tue Feb 07, 2012 at 12:30:54 AM PST

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