CANCER PREVENTION as a lifestyle, will always be top of mind for us. Dr. Stacie J. Stephenson is one of the first female health physicians to offer integrative care to patients in the Midwest. As Chair of Functional Medicine at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America and the CEO of Vibrant Doc, she is ahead of the curve about all things preventive. Here she shares five powerful habits, we can all do now to focus on prevention…
As a functional medicine doctor, I bring an integrative perspective to the subject of cancer. Integrative medicine in general, and functional medicine in particular, tend to focus more on prevention than treatment. While I work with many doctors who are excellent practitioners of conventional medicine and cancer treatment, my job is to advise on how to increase health to avoid disease, and support the body’s natural healing abilities when disease is present.
5 Daily Habits To Protect Yourself Against CancerHere are five things I wish everyone would do every day for cancer prevention, or its recurrence:
TAKE ASPIRIN | You’ve probably heard of taking aspirin to prevent a heart attack, but there is some compelling research that taking low-dose aspirin (81 milligrams) daily may also reduce your risk of colon, prostate, and rectal cancer by as much as 50% in adults age 50 and older. There is also evidence that aspirin can reduce recurrence of breast cancer, death from breast and stomach cancer, and can also slow the spread of lung cancer.
TAKE VITAMIN D | Most people who don’t live in the tropics are low on vitamin D and most of the studies on vitamin D and cancer have shown that people with higher vitamin D levels have a lower incidence of colon, breast, prostate, and ovarian cancer, as well as lower mortality rates from cancer. I recommend a vitamin D serum level of at least 50, which you can achieve from both sun exposure and vitamin D3 supplementation for cancer prevention.
LOSE EXCESS BODY FAT | Easier said than done, I know, but fat cells act like endocrine organs, producing their own hormones and disrupting hormone balance. This can put you at greater risk for cancers with a hormonal component, including endometrial, breast, ovarian, and thyroid cancer, as well as from other cancers (likely due to inflammation, which is common with obesity), including esophageal, liver, kidney, colorectal, and pancreatic cancer; multiple myeloma (a blood cancer); and meningioma (a brain cancer). The rates of cancer in people who are obese are so much higher than in those of normal weight that this alone is an urgent reason to reduce fat stores.
TAKE A TURMERIC SUPPLEMENT | Turmeric contains curcumin, which is the substance that gives turmeric (and curry powder) its yellow color. It also happens to be the most potent anti-inflammatory plant chemical we know of. Although research on curcumin and cancer is ongoing, one 2019 study showed that curcumin could inhibit bone cancer cells and promote healthy bone cell growth. Other studies have shown potential benefits in inhibiting cancer cell growth, signaling, and other mechanisms, especially for breast, lung, blood, and digestive cancers. It’s easy to use in cooking and widely available in supplement form.
MOVE IT | Here’s another easy one: Get out there and exercise. There is quite a lot of evidence that people who exercise have a lower risk of colon, breast, and endometrial cancer (and probably other types). Scientists speculate that this may be due to exercise’s hormonal balancing, anti-inflammatory, and immune-boosting benefits, among other positives. On the flip side, people who are sedentary tend to have higher rates of cancer as well as heart disease, diabetes, and premature death.
Every one of these suggestions is easy to incorporate into a daily routine, and as a professional who sees too many people suffering from a potentially preventable disease, I urge you to take preventive action today.