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Looks Promising… But More Research is Needed

That doesn’t mean wait. It means roll up your sleeves, consider, recognize, and benefit from the growing body of research that currently exists. And know that more is forthcoming.

Food

Many vegetables, especially those of the cruciferous variety (think broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts), appear to kill cancer cells in petri dishes and test tubes. Ostensibly, the multitude of phytochemicals in plants—which give them their different colors—offer powerful protection from disease.

The American Cancer Society and NIH’s National Cancer Institute websites include information specific to a healthy diet as a primary source of cancer prevention.

These institutions advise that some types of cancer may be preventable through diet decisions. This paper suggests up to 70% of colorectal cancer, and 30-35% of cancer deaths across the board, may be attributable to dietary choices alone… but more research is needed to definitively inform the role of nutrition in cancer prevention, in healing cancer patients, and in ensuring long-term survival.

Water

Clean, plentiful water intake has numerous health benefits, and more people than ever before are investing in water filtration systems. It’s important for cancer survivors, and those undergoing active treatment, to be well-hydrated, especially those undergoing chemotherapy, to help flush toxins.

Alas, here in the U.S. it is too early to know if the EPA will be reinforcing existing regulations under the Safe Water Drinking Act or reversing course. With alarmingly poor infrastructure, even the cleanest tap water will only be as pure as the pipes it runs through.

In many areas of the U.S., and around the world, tap (and well) water is found to have contaminants, sometimes including traces of pharmaceuticals, in large enough quantities to cause health issues… but more research is needed to correlate how much cancer incidence may be directly caused from consistent consumption of adulterated water.

Movement

Rigorous physical activity appears to help prevent cancer, and lengthen disease-free survival (remissions) for several types of malignancy, including breast and colon.

We have exercise clinical guidelines for cancer patients… but more research is needed to fully determine its impact on all types of cancer, and to understand the exact amounts and types of exercise which prove most beneficial.

Chemicals

In the U.S. we test a fraction of the chemicals used in consumer products. It is commonly ‘thought’ among health advocates and scientists that many of these agents are toxic and carcinogenic, driving cancer incidence rates. And, sadly, the ‘new’ EPA regime looks to be angling to reduce the already low bar of existing regulations.

We probably ought to keep a lot of cleaning, cosmetics, and skincare products out of our homes and bodies. It is likely wise to listen to what the Environmental Working Group has to say based on their many years of testing… but more research is needed to know exactly how many cancer incidents these ‘chemicals-run-amok’ may be causing.

Relaxation

Mindfulness-based meditation, and other stress reduction practices, can profoundly and positively impact the emotional and psychological state of cancer survivors. But we are now learning that meditation may also positively influence the physical bodies of cancer survivors, extending down to the cellular level.

These interventions can help cancer survivors decrease distress and cortisol levels, positively affecting the telemere (the tip of a chromosome) length, which is associated with longevity.

Breast cancer patients in this small study appear to have maintained their telomere length through active treatment, while practicing mindfulness and as part of a supportive-expressive group therapy program… but more research is needed to determine exactly how unmitigated stress may contribute to the onset of cancer, or how better stress management techniques may contribute to improved survival. 

Sleep

Restorative sleep (deep, uninterrupted sleep for approximately eight hours each night) appears to reduce inflammation, increase cognitive function, and extend life.

Cancer patients need to pay attention to the amount of quality sleep they get, and to the environment of the room they slumber in. Dark rooms and sleep masks help ensure adequate melatonin production and circadian rhythm; important factors for cancer patients… but more research is needed to better understand the full impact of sleep deprivation, and to study the role lack of melatonin may have on the impact of cancer onset, active treatment, or long-term survival.

Chronic stress is likely to set into motion a cascade of harmful chemicals and hormones such as cortisol, catecholamine, and vasopressin, causing inflammation, a pro-cancer environment.

We do not know exactly how chronic stress affects the onset of cancer, how it impacts active treatment, or its relation to the length of disease-free remissions or stable disease states, because… more research is needed.

Supplements

High quality dietary supplements, informed by blood tests and other examinations, and recommended under the supervision of an experienced clinician—armed not only with clinical guidelines, but with access to a reliable database of drug-herb/nutrient interactions—can support cancer patients in meaningful ways.

Certain natural products—supplements, herbs—have more support than others in terms of safety and effectiveness for cancer patient. Without question… more research is needed in this area.

Acupuncture

With its five-thousand year track record, we still don’t know exactly how acupuncture works, but it apparently reduces pain, nausea, neuropathy, and other deleterious side effects of conventional cancer therapy… but more research is needed  to understand its mechanism(s) of action (how it works), and to comprehend and apply its full potential which then can be integrated into standard cancer treatment.

Past, Present, and Future

We live in the here and now. If you are a cancer thriver–or aspire to be one–you are not waiting for more research to guide important decisions to keep you as healthy as possible.

High-quality clinical research is critical. We need much more investigation in myriad areas.

Unfortunately, several of these core building blocks for improving our health have limited commercial potential apart from, say, organic vegetable farms, fitness centers, and the acupuncture industry. This translates to a shortfall in research funding, and a subsequent lack of activity with emphasis on cancer prevention over cancer treatment.

Meanwhile, make informed decisions and act accordingly NOW.  This is the best guarantee you have to be the healthiest cancer thriver possible, or, better yet, to avoid a cancer diagnosis altogether.