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 Cancer: Risk Factors - An Overview 
Charles Simone B. MD ©

Linda's total score is 2 A's, 3 B's, and 2 C's. She is in the high-risk group. What can she do to modify her risk factors? She directly controls the most serious ones. I would advise her to terminate cigarette smoking abruptly and completely. Then I would suggest that she permanently modify her diet in order to reduce two other serious risk factors: her high-animal-fat, high-cholesterol, low-fiber diet, and her overweight problem. This would serve also to counter any weight gain that may occur when she stops smoking. Linda has no control over her age, the state in which she has lived, or her history of fibrocystic breast disease; but these are minor risk factors. By modifying the risk factors that she directly controls, over the course of time she will lessen her overall risk category and reduce her risk of developing cancer or cardiovascular disease.

The second example is Dave, a 24-year-old sexually active male homosexual who has many male partners and uses a drug called amyl nitrite (C). He smoked two packs of cigarettes a day for eleven years but quit one year ago (A). Up until a few months ago, he ate red meat daily, ate cheese daily, ate very few fiber-containing foods, and took no vitamins (A). His weight is normal (0), and he has never had cancer (0) nor have any of his family members (0). Until Dave was 21 years old he lived in Alaska (0), but he has since lived in New York City.

Dave's total score is 2 A's, zero B's and 1 C. He is in the high-risk group, but by continuing not to smoke and by modifying his diet, he can dramatically lessen his overall risk.

Next is Nancy, a 27-year-old woman who smoked two packs of cigarettes a day until she quit eight years ago (B). She eats a well balanced diet consisting of red meat five times a week, low-fat dairy products, and an average intake of fiber (B), and she is 20 pounds overweight (C). As a lifelong resident of Vermont (C), Nancy has been working in the furniture industry for the past seven years (B). She is taking birth control pills (B) and has been doing so for the past ten years. She is fair-skinned, sunburns easily, and enjoys sunbathing and using a suntanning booth year-round (B).

On the surface of things it looks as though Nancy's overall risk is not so bad, but when you examine the whole picture, you find she is in the moderate-risk category. Her total score is 5 B's and 2 C's. However, she is on the right track. She should do the following to modify her risk factors and thereby reduce her overall risk: continue not to smoke, lose 20 pounds, modify her nutritional status, seek another means of birth control, use sun screens to sunbathe, and avoid suntanning booths.

The last example is Bob, a 50-year-old (0) male chemist (B) who is 25 pounds overweight (B) and a meat-and-potatoes man all the way (A). He has smoked two packs of cigarettes a day for the past thirty years (A), drinks 4 ounces of whiskey every day (A), has lived in Illinois most of his life (B), and is easily angered (C). His father died of lung cancer (B).

You know that Bob is in the high-risk category: 3 A's, 4 B's, and 1 C. As you can see, he does have risk factors that he can directly control. He should do the following: stop smoking, drastically modify his diet and lose weight, consume alcohol in- moderation, and learn how to relax. All these modifications will greatly reduce his overall risk.

What can you do to reduce your risk for cancer? You have now identified the problem areas that need modification. Simple preventive measures can be taken to help you reduce your chances of developing cancer or cardiovascular disease. This book will show you how you can make relatively minor adjustments in your lifestyle to lessen your risk. Maintaining a good weight, eating a healthful diet (one that is low in animal fat, low in cholesterol, and high in fiber), choosing not to smoke or drink alcoholic beverages, avoiding or limiting exposure to the sun--all of these are just a few of the ways you can protect yourself from cancer. You must strive to maintain good health. Good health is no accident.

From Cancer and Nutrition by Charles Simone, © 1992. Published by Avery Publishing, New York. For personal use only; neither the digital nor printed copy may be copied or sold. Reproduced by permission.

(Excerpted from Cancer and Nutrition: A Ten Point Plan to Reduce Your Risk of Getting Cancer ISBN: 0895294915)
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