Cancer Prevention in Our Kidsby chrissy amicone
While cancer may not be on the forefront of your mind when you have not yet reached 20 years of age, parents need to remember that prevention works best when started early. Eighty percent of all cancers are caused by environmental factors and most cancers are growing for 10 years or more before they are detected. So the environment that our children are living in could be causing cancer cells to form right now, and that cancer will likely not be detected for 10 or more years. There are many things that can be done easily to decrease the cancer causing exposures in your child’s life, and at the very least they will set up great anti-cancer habits that could be life-long.
There is a family of cancers that are stimulated to grow in response to hormone exposure. Hormone sensitive cancers are more likely when there is long term hormone exposure in the body. While hormones are a normal part of a healthy body and are very necessary for health, excessive amounts of hormones are detrimental. If your child has symptoms of hormone excess, it is beneficial to manage this at a young age. Symptoms of hormone excess may include heavy menstrual periods, menstrual related cramps, acne or migraines, increased aggression, excessive body odor or breast development in males. Hormone excretion can be improved dramatically with some simple dietary measures. Fiber supplementation is a very effective way to promote excretion of hormones through the intestinal tract. While any fiber supplement will help, fiber from ground flax seeds is the most effective for this purpose because it will also help to bind free hormone in the blood. Eliminating processed foods is also a great way to lower excess hormones. Processed foods are difficult to digest and slow metabolism of hormones. Processed foods don’t offer much toward longevity and health anyway, and are probably best left on the shelf. There is also research to support the use of soy products during adolescent years to prevent breast cancer in adulthood. Foods that contain soy include tofu, edamame, soy milk, soy flour, and many more. BPA and phthalates also affect hormones. They are chemicals that are endocrine disruptors, found in many plastics and canned items, along with many other products. Check that commonly consumed foods are not stored or prepared in products that contain BPA or phthalates. It is always safe to use cast iron for cooking and glass for microwaving and storing foods.
We have come to assume that we have healthy guts if we do not struggle with constipation or diarrhea, but this is far from the truth. Consider the fact that we have more bacterial cells in our gut, than human cells in our body. When the ecology of this microbial environment is out of balance, it results in inflammation, poor assimilation of nutrients, reabsorption of toxins and possibly food intolerance. These symptoms can all independently increase the risk of developing many types of cancer, including colon cancer. Keeping the gut functioning properly is critical for health, as well as for cancer prevention, and it is not difficult. Foods that are high in fiber are generally more nutritious and better for overall health. Encourage your kids to eat fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. Kids like these foods if their taste buds haven’t been desensitized with high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils. Try hummus (bean dip) to make veggies more enticing, and nut butters with fresh fruit. Fermented foods provide beneficial bacteria to populate the gut and crowd out the disease causing bacteria. Include yogurt, kiefer, 9correct spelling sauerkraut, and other fermented foods on a regular basis.
It isn’t only the number of hours that is important! While getting adequate sleep is critical for optimum functioning, sleeping at night and in the dark is also something to think about. A clear correlation has been made between night shift workers and cancer incidence. Melatonin is a neurochemical that is produced when our eyes are not exposed to light. It is responsible for cellular regeneration and hormone regulation while we sleep. Light exposure at night results in melatonin deficiency and increases the risk of developing cancer. Help your kids create the habit of sleeping during the dark night hours and away from the light of the television, alarm clock or street lights.
There are many studies showing that sunlight exposure decreases the risk of many cancers, with the exception of skin cancers. Researches speculate about the role that vitamin D plays in this trend, but the verdict is not out about this as of yet. The research is clear, however, that regular sun exposure reduces the likelihood of a cancer diagnosis, and it improves the prognosis of cancers that are diagnosed. Get your kids in the habit of getting outside. Prevent sun burns by limiting the duration of sun exposure, especially if you know that your kids are prone to burning. Multiple, short periods of sun exposure are less likely to cause a burn. Visit the dermatologist regularly, especially if your kids have moles or suspicious areas on their skin. Skin cancers are generally easy to treat if they are caught early.
The benefits of exercise are undisputed, but the link between exercise and cancer is just beginning to be understood. Exercise combats cancer in many different ways. Stress reduction, elimination of waste, weight reduction, decreased inflammation, improved sleep and decreased insulin are all anticancer benefits of exercise and have been independently studied for their link to cancer incidence. While exercise may be the single most important thing that can be done to prevent cancer, as well as most other chronic diseases, it may be the hardest to incorporate into a daily routine. With childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes on the rise, it is ever more evident that our kids are not active. It is predicted that today’s youth will develop cancer at an earlier average age than is currently seen, for this reason. Getting your kids involved in sports can help them realize how good they can feel when they are fit and get them in the habit of exercising as adults. If you incorporate exercise into your life, it will show your kids that exercise is a normal part of life, like brushing their teeth and changing their clothes and it will teach them how to make exercise a habit.
If any family members have had a cancer diagnosis, it makes it even more important to implement some of these types of changes to help prevent cancer in your kids. The impact that our internal environment has on gene expression is often overlooked. Genetic predisposition to cancer or any chronic illness is not a guaranteed diagnosis. We can alter genetic expression by keeping a healthy internal environment through many of the measures listed above. So remember to keep a clean internal world along with a mental picture of a long cancer free life.
The suggestions listed here are not sophisticated strategies for cancer prevention. They are the simple and basic life style habits that were the norm for many generations that preceded us. We have come so far in our industrial and technological world that it is now possible to eat synthetic foods out of plastic containers, watch television through the night, and never increase our heart rate or see day light. While this is a novelty of sorts, we are finding that mortality is increasing as a result. You can use these simple, and time tested ideas to help your family live long healthy lives and enjoy the conveniences of our modern world without suffering the consequences.
Chrissy Amicone is a naturopathic medical resident at the Yellowstone Naturopathic Clinic. She focusses on naturopathic cancer care and works in collaboration with the Hematology Oncology Centers of the Northern Rockies as well as Northern Rockies Radiation Oncology to treat patients before, during and after their cancer treatment.