October is breast cancer awareness month. It is a good time to learn about preventing breast cancer and also preventing cancer in general. There is much we can do.
Getting mammograms does not prevent cancer. Mammograms diagnose cancer at an early stage when cure is possible. We should not become careless and neglect getting them.
At both Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Institute and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center the buzz word is 'prevention'. But doctors there are worried that we exaggerate both the risk of cancer and what we can do about it. We fear that everything is carcinogenic and that there is a magic bullet that will cure for anything.
If you go to Sloan Kettering, they will offer you smoking cessation programs, nutrition advice with cooking classes, all about cancer screening, and genetic testing.
This is very confusing because screening (with the exception of cervical and colon cancer screening) looks for cancers that are already there and can be treated early and cured. Screening actually increases the number of cancer patients.
Controversy also increases when screening finds cancers that would not have killed. They are small, slow-growing and the person would probably have died from another cause before the cancer triggered a problem. Not all cancers will grow and spread, according to Dr. Barnnet Kramer of the National Cancer Institute.
Genetic screening is still in its infancy. Only breast cancer and colon cancer have markers that are known to predispose a person to cancer.
Diet is probably the area that gets the most coverage. Again it is very puzzling. There is an association between high fiber diets and a reduction in colon cancer but when people were put on a high fiber diet, there was no reduction in cancer or in he development of polyps.
While smokers who have diets high in beta carotene have a lower incidence of lung cancer, studies of people taking beta carotene supplements have not shown a reduction in lung cancer.
So what should a person do? What we should concentrate on is the quality of life that a healthy diet and lifestyle produces. According to the American Cancer Society about one third of cancer deaths are related to diet and lifestyle-186,000 a year. We know that this also influences the rate of diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
The question should be why wouldn't you watch your weight and get moving? Only good things will happen. Let's think in terms of leading a good and healthy life...only positive things will come of it.