This is the 4th article in a series aimed at helping people reclaim their health, namely through examining dietary habits and making positive changes.

In the first article - Why are we so dedicated to disease - I spoke about the mindset that needs to shift from that of curing diseases and instead emphasize caring for our bodies for a lifetime so that we don’t succumb to the conditions that we are seeing more and more of now at ever younger ages.

In the second article - The diet-inflammation connection - I wrote about a typical dietary scenario and linked it to how a person felt, and then made some suggestions for change.

Then in the third article - From Fit to Fat, to Fit - I wrote a commentary about a man who underwent a remarkable transformation to purposely let his body ‘go’ for 6 months and before long he looked like the average overweight middle-aged man, where he was once a lean and chiseled fitness trainer. He then embarked on 6 additional months to return to his former physique by eating healthy and exercising again, just to understand and empathize with the challenges his obese clients faced.

In this article, I’ve decided to write about cancer – a disease that is becoming increasingly more common. It wasn’t too many generations ago that causes of death were more from infectious diseases and the threats brought about by less than sanitary living conditions and lack of proper health care. However today, the biggest health concern is the threat of chronic diseases that may not kill immediately, but robs a person of quality of life and ultimately shortens it prematurely. Whereby infectious diseases were largely unavoidable in days gone by, today many of the conditions we see around us are what are called lifestyle diseases and avoidable when one adopts healthier ways of eating and living. Although arguably not always, cancer for the most part is one such lifestyle disease.

Modern Day Cancer Stats

Since 2007, cancer has surpassed cardiovascular disease as the leading cause of death in Canada. Roughly 40% of women and 45% of men will have a cancer diagnosis at some point in their lives, and 1 in 4 will die from it. What is startling is the continual rise in the incidence of most cancers in the past few decades. Given the statistics, one prediction I read is that by the year 2030, every single person will develop cancer in their lifetime at some point, although not all may die from it. I know myself working in health care that I am hard-pressed to meet someone who doesn’t have an immediate family member or friend who suffers from it or has succumbed to it. My own mother died of cancer at the young age of 59.

There are many who lean on the merits of modern medical technology – again the emphasis on the cure – after spending many years unconscious about how they treat their bodies. There is nothing like the scare of a cancer diagnosis to have someone suddenly start to pay attention to what they probably should have been doing all along, such as eating better and de-stressing. While we can certainly praise some miracles of modern medicine, it is not without its limitations. Take for example a newsworthy tidbit in the August 20, 2012 issue of Maclean’s magazine. It stated that the aggressive treatment of chemotherapy has now been found to be making cancer worse, promoting tumor growth rather than limiting it. This has left researchers dumbfounded, with their discovery being ‘completely unexpected’. As an aside, I can’t help but wonder why this would not be front-page news?

Where Lifestyle Comes In

I don’t pretend to have the answers when it comes to cancer since it is such a complex and multi-faceted disease. What I do know is that the World Cancer Fund and the American Institute of Cancer Research has published a 650-page report that reviewed over 4,500 research studies and is updated every 10 years. According to the findings, if certain dietary protocols are followed (including other policy recommendations such as exercising), 60-70% of the cancer cases could be prevented worldwide. This is huge! For anyone who is interested, you can call 1-800-843-8114 and get a free copy of the 16-page summary from their publications department.

There are many cultures around the world where people have longer than normal life spans and where the incidence of cancer is extremely low. These include the Vilcabambas in Equador, the Hunzas from a region in Pakistan, the Okinawans of Japan, and the Abkhazians from a region within the former Soviet Georgia. Research points to a healthy diet as being one of the primary reasons for their glowing statistics, as well as exercise, low stress, and a strong sense of community. We have much to learn and gain if we further study and emulate their ways.

As for those who have already been touched by cancer in some way, I invite you to take the time and watch a movie called The Beautiful Truth. It explores some of the alternatives that have been suppressed over the years, yet show promising results that can be far less invasive than traditional chemotherapy and radiation. It is time that these alternatives are explored more fully by medical research and given the credit they deserve as cost-effective and life-saving natural options.