Top 5 Things You Can Do To Prevent Cancer

A key message throughout the 517-page report is that there's much we can do to control cancer risk. That's important to stress. Many people recognize they have the power to reduce heart disease risk, but they think of cancer as this big bad ogre that pounces out of nowhere.

That just isn't so. "Evidence shows that only a small proportion of cancers are inherited. Environmental factors are most important and can be modified," concluded the international panel of experts. "Food, nutrition, physical activity, and body composition play a central role in the prevention of cancer."

Being as lean as possible within the normal range from age 21 is optimal for cancer protection, but at any time in life, it helps to lose weight if you're overweight, stated the panel. Even a 5 to 10% weight loss can be important.

As you learned at Pritikin, the best way to prevent weight gain is to steer clear of calorie-dense foods like fat-rich fast foods as well as dry, processed foods such as chips and candy bars and even healthier options like bagels, pretzels, and dried cereals. That's because all dry, processed foods pack a lot of calories into very small packages. It's shockingly easy to swallow 1,000 to 2,000 calories long before you've satisfied your hunger.

"Food supplies that are mainly made up of processed foods, which often contain substantial amounts of fat or sugar, tend to be more calorie-dense than food supplies that include substantial amounts of fresh foods," concluded the new cancer report.

For a low-calorie-dense diet, fill each day with water-rich, fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, hot cereals, and potatoes and other starchy vegetables. Foods with a lot of water and fiber usually provide a lot of stomach-satisfying volume, but not a lot of calories.

Avoid calorie-rich, sugar-rich drinks, too. One in every five calories in our American diet now comes from beverages (all those grand lattes are adding up), and that's a big problem because, as the cancer report states, "Sugary drinks provide calories but do not seem to induce satiety or compensatory reduction in subsequent calorie intake."

Translated: Whether you drink a diet coke or a regular coke, you'll likely eat the same burger and fries. And you'll get hungry about the same number of hours later. Regular coke, in short, is simply adding more calories to your day, which can all too easily add more pounds on you.

All these foods contain "substantial amounts of dietary fiber and a variety of micronutrients, and are low or relatively low in calorie density."

One easy way to get a lot of veggies into your day, as your Pritikin registered dietitians taught, is to start each lunch and dinner with a big satisfying salad. We stress "big." This is one case where "super sizing" is a very good thing.

At salad bars, start with a big bowl and pile on the greens. Then add lots of colorful veggies and some lean protein, if you'd like, like beans, tofu, white meat chicken, or seafood. Beans are really high in fiber, so they will satisfy your appetite for a long time.

Moreover, "diets with high levels of animal fats are often relatively high in calories, increasing the risk of weight gain."

The cancer experts recommend that the population average consumption of red meat be no more than 11 ounces a week, very little if any of which is processed.

Instead of red meat, the experts advised, select white meat poultry and seafood. "Flesh from wild animals, birds, and fish, whose nutritional profiles are different from those of domesticated and industrially reared creatures, is also preferred."

For optimal protection against cardiovascular disease, the Pritikin Program recommends no more than 3.5 to 4 ounces (cooked) of animal protein each day. Your optimal choice is seafood, except for some of the higher-in-cholesterol selections like eel, conch, and squid. Once a week, you may opt for skinless white poultry or grass-fed, free-range wild game such as buffalo, elk, and venison. Try to limit other red meat choices to once a month - or not at all.

Though the WCRF/ACIR panel took into account the evidence that modest amounts of alcoholic drinks are likely to protect against coronary heart disease, the data on cancer indicate that "even small amounts of alcoholic drinks should be avoided."

Alcoholic drinks are linked to mouth, larynx, and colorectal cancer and may also cause liver cancer.

If you consume alcoholic drinks, the cancer report advises you limit consumption to no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.

These modest levels of consumption are associated with reductions in heart disease risk only among middle-aged and older individuals, because heart disease is a much larger factor in these groups.

From a cardiologist's point of view, the drinking age should be about 40, since anyone younger does not benefit from alcohol. They simply drive cars into ditches, or worse. About 100,000 Americans die from alcohol-associated diseases and trauma like car accidents each year, due mostly to overconsumption of alcohol.