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Lifestyle tips for avoiding life-threatening cancerBuilding on what your body's already doing, there's a lot you can do to help it and avoid a possibly fateful day. Something here for everyone - can you hit all the bases and give your body the maximum chance of longevity?
Avoid obvious carcinogens
Rather obvious, given media coverage over the last 40 years,
but anything that you allow to invade your body which isn't actually
nutritious or helpful in some way - like nicotine smoke (the most
common example), or car exhaust fumes, or workplace chemicals (and so
on) - can all help throw cell division into a serious spin. You can see
this not only in the huge number of smokers who end up dying of lung
cancer, but also in the skin of smokers, in that cell walls throughout
their body are harmed, ageing prematurely.
Even strong sunlight can cause cell damage and eventually skin
cancer, with the strong ultraviolet rays disturbing cell DNA, though at
least skin cancer is one of the most obvious and more treatable forms
because it's, by definition, on the outskirts of the body.
Eat healthily and exercise
Although the main benefits of good diet and adequate exercise are the heart and lungs, a stronger, fitter body will also usually have a stronger, more resilient immune system. As previously explained, part of the immune system's function is to provide natural killer cells that go after mutated cells that might turn into cancer. So the stronger your immune system is, the lower the chances of your body developing tumours.
Contrary to urban myth, there's little benefit in concentrating on vitamin and mineral supplements, as the body simply can't process more than small amounts of these and overdoses may even do harm. Instead, focus on fresh fruit and vegetables. They contain not just vitamins but thousands of 'phytochemicals', whose natural benefits are still being discovered today.
And if you exercise outdoors, at least (moderately) in the
sun, your skin
will produce Vitamin D naturally - this plays a key role in the body's
immune system and defenses, protecting against many common cancers,
including breast, prostate and colon. Plus you also get extra melatonin
which can also help with the immune system and its cells (see below,
In addition, watch the quantity of food and your weight -
excess fat releases chemical signals that interfere with your body's
Go easy on the alcohol
Moderate to excessive consumption (more than a couple of units
a day) can cause problems, since alcohol breaks down in the body to
create acetaldehyde, which can cause cancer-related DNA damage. Now,
the body contains an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase, which quickly
converts acetaldehyde to acetate, a relatively harmless substance, but
the higher the alcohol intake the more acetaldehyde which hangs around.
Sleep better and longer
In research at Stanford, David Spiegel has suggested two possible ways in which your normal sleep pattern can influence cancer progression. During sleep:
Avoid stressNow, obviously, many stresses in modern life may be unavoidable, but some may be within your control. Changing your routine, your lifestyle, your job, your attitude to set-backs and people and situations around you, all can help reduce stress, which in turn means that your immune system can work more efficiently, including tackling cancer cells.
Be vigilant for problem signs
This is hard, since many cancers present no symptoms in their early stages (sadly), but there are still things you can look for: