More than 500,000 new cases of cancer are diagnosed each year. That is equivalent to approximately one new case per minute. The World Health Organization estimates that, with proper self-care, 30-50 percent of cases could have been prevented.
Cancer develops when the body produces more cells than it can use for repair. This can occur when the body is taxed with repairing chronic inflammation from injury, disease, or infection. When uncontrolled, these cells clump together to form cancerous tumors.
Chronic inflammation is the body’s self-defense mechanism against unwanted substances. Inflammation can be caused by residual infection or injury, autoimmune disorder, and long-term exposure to irritants like pollution or radiation. Inflammation can also be a direct result of poor health choices. Smoking, alcohol, stress, and obesity all present as unwanted substances in the body. The best thing men can do to prevent inflammation and, in-turn, cancer is to take ownership of their health.
Obesity is a condition that affects 43 percent of American men and is linked to 13 different types of cancer. Excess body fat disrupts hormone production and strains organs and joints. At high body fat percentages, our bodies sustain heightened levels of estrogen and insulin. High estrogen levels are suspected of causing breast cancer in men, and high levels of insulin can lead to pancreatic cancer. Men also tend to store more fat around their organs, placing them at greater risk of developing kidney, colon, and esophageal cancer.
Daily exercise and a well-rounded diet are two of the most powerful tools in combatting obesity and obesity-related disease. The American Heart Association recommends adults aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise per week, in addition to regular resistance training. An anti-inflammation diet includes a variety of whole foods and adequate amounts of water. Health professionals such as personal trainers and dieticians can help guide you through establishing healthy exercise and eating habits.
Substance use and abuse also greatly increase individuals’ risk of developing cancer, as they overwhelm the body with inflammatory irritants and destroy healthy cells. A staggering 30 percent of cancer deaths can be attributed to tobacco use and 3.5 percent of cancer deaths to heavy alcohol. Excessive alcohol use is associated with liver cancer (#1 cause of cancer death in men) and smoking is linked to high rates of lung cancer (#2 cause of cancer death in men). Substance dependence is often a complex behavior, and individuals interested in quitting to improve their health, should seek guidance of licensed mental health professionals.
Men who eat healthy, regularly exercise, and limit their alcohol consumption still run some risk of developing cancer due to aging or family history. Therefore, it is important to schedule regular cancer screenings with your primary care physician and to learn how to screen yourself at home. Though many forms of cancer are diagnosed before symptoms appear, survival rates skyrocket and less invasive treatment is required when cancers are detected early.
Contact your local Semper Fit Human Performance Program for more resources on your installation, and be sure to check in with your primary care physician to stay up-to-date on your regular checkups and screenings.