Daily Risks for Breast Cancer: Everybody Can Do Something

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Pink_breast cancer awareWhat do you do in Breast Cancer Awareness Month? What do you do in a year for breast cancer prevention?

Unless you have a well-defined plan, here is food for thought.

In addition to wearing pink or a pink ribbon, campaigning to raise funds and getting a mammogram, there are essential things that everybody can do in this month and year round.

Why everybody? Because both men and women can get breast cancer, and because you care about your loved ones.

First of all, the key to fighting breast cancer is to catch it early. The cancer is most treatable at an early stage.

Then the best cure is prevention. Surely, you cannot control certain risk factors such as family history and/or genetics. However, do you know – about 85% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of breast cancer? This means that DNA mutation can occur over one’s lifetime, and that’s why lowering your risk for breast cancer is critical.

So what are five most common daily risks for breast cancer?

  1. Smoke
  2. Alcohol
  3. Junk foods (processed foods, food low in nutrients but high in fat, sugar and salt)
  4. Physical inactivity
  5. Environmental pollutants and toxins

Everybody can relate to these health hazards, right? Be aware, some of them are hidden. Of course, there are other risk factors for breast cancer, including hormone therapy, radiation exposure, aging, and sleeping pattern (night shift).

I want to stress that it’s not one single factor that plays a measurable role in causing any cancer. Multiple or combined factors contribute to the development of breast cancer. For instance, when combined with genetic factors, alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking enhance a risk for breast cancer and several other cancers as well. Furthermore, each cancer is different; no two people have the exactly same cancer.

Next, how to reduce breast cancer risk?

Breast cancer prevention starts with a healthy lifestyle, such as stopping tobacco use, limiting alcohol consumption, getting a nutritious diet, staying physically active, keeping a healthy weight, and avoiding environmental toxins if you can.

Lifestyle modification is often most effective and goes a long way. But it doesn’t happen overnight. Live a healthy lifestyle by starting with small, simple steps on a daily basis. Just consider food. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, especially a low-fat diet have been shown to offer protection from breast cancer. Plus, eating healthy can help you maintain a healthy weight and decrease your risk for several other types of cancer.

Regular physical activities also offer you some protection. Research has demonstrated that women who exercised vigorously or moderately were significantly less risky to get breast cancer compared with non-exercisers.

In summary, focus on what you can do to lower your cancer risk. If you’re at an increased risk, breast cancer can be closely monitored with advanced technology and with help of your physician(s).

 

How to Prevent Childhood Cancer

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Yellow ribbon_Childhood cancerApproximately 15,700 children are diagnosed with cancer each year. Among them, an estimated 1,960 deaths are expected. Are you aware of these sober statistics?

Losing a child to cancer is unthinkable pain and despair to all parents, which is why we call to prevent the worst loss, and why this post will focus on education. I will help you understand potential risk factors and powerful strategic actions to prevent childhood cancer. Let’s dive right into it.

Characteristics of childhood cancers

The types of cancer that develop in children and adolescents differ from those that occur in adults. Cancers of lung, colon, breast, prostate and skin affect most American adults. However, the most common types of childhood cancer are leukemia, tumors of brain and central nervous system, and lymphoma. Some cancers from embryonic cells and/or in developing organs include neuroblastoma (peripheral nervous system), medulloblastoma (brain), nephroblastoma or wilms tumor (kidney), and retinoblastoma (retina of the eye), which are rarely seen in adults. Also, incidences of these childhood cancers vary by age.

What causes childhood cancer remains unclear. Different cancers have different risk factors. Again, unlike many cancers of adults, lifestyle-related risk factors (such as tobacco smoking, alcohol consumption and unhealthy diet, etc.) do not play a significant role in a child’s risk of getting cancer. On the other hand, most childhood cancers result from inherited gene mutation or environmental factors or both, based on current research findings.

So, am I suggesting that we cannot do anything to prevent childhood cancer? No.

Strategies you can use and actions you can take

1.      Detect cancer early by genetic testing.

DNA makes up our genes and certainly influences our risks for developing certain diseases including cancer. A child may inherit DNA mutations from a parent that can increase his/her risk of cancer. The DNA changes are present in every cells of the child’s body, and the changes can be identified by testing the DNA of blood cells or other cells from the body. Genetic consulting is constructive for someone with a history of familial cancers.

2.      Delay the time for kids to use cell phone or mobile devices.

Brain tumor is the leading cause of cancer death in children. Radiation is a potential childhood cancer risk factor. There is growing evidence that it is associated with brain tumors, particularly because of the thinner skulls, still developing nervous system and brain of children. So be aware of electromagnetic fields and ionizing radiation. Don’t allow kids to use mobile phones, at least delay the time they start using it and limit the time they use it too.

3.      Avoid or limit environmental toxins in daily life.

I understand that it’s virtually impossible to escape environmental pollutants and toxic chemicals entirely nowadays. Environmental toxins are probably the most invasive and cumulative bombardment to a child’s early development and, of course, the threat to their health. Unquestionably, you can make every effort or make simple lifestyle choices to avoid your exposure to the following everyday toxins:

  • Heavy metals – found in mercury fillings, treated woods, vaccines, and factory farmed fish, sometimes in water
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) – found in factory farmed fish
  • Asbestos – found in many building materials made before the mid to late 1970s
  • Dioxins – found in the fat of factory farmed animals
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – found in cosmetics, dry cleaned clothes, air fresheners, deodorants, paints and bug repellents
  • Passive smoking – A cigarette releases more than 7000 chemicals including carcinogens. Tobacco products damage almost every organ in the body, from mouth, eyes, lungs, guts, reproductive organs to bladder and bones.

4.      Avoid or minimize pesticides use at home. 

Exposure to pesticide is perhaps one of the most dangerous forms of environmental risk. The contribution of environmental risk factors in the context of genetic predisposition has been reported with inconsistent results. However, one human study showed an increased risk of leukemia in children whose mothers were working in agriculture and exposed to pesticides during pregnancy.

Pesticides can be found in various areas in a household, from garden sprays, bug repellents, head lice shampoos and flea sprays on your animals, to non-organic fruits and vegetables as well as factory farmed meats.

5.      Grow your own toxin-free vegetables or go organic.

You will get more vitamins, more minerals and more micro-nutrients and zero or less pesticides. One more bonus – it keeps you stay physically active.

6.      Quit smoking, esp. during pregnancy.

Tobacco smoking contains seventy known carcinogens and causes various types of cancer in adults. Do you want to take the risk of releasing cancer-causing substances into the blood stream that may travel to your baby’s body?

7.      Live a healthy lifestyle.

Lifestyle factors usually take many years to influence cancer risk, but it’s never too late to develop it. Eat plenty of nutrient-rich, antioxidant-rich foods, engage in physical activities, keep a positive attitude, and maintain a healthy weight. Living a healthy lifestyle can benefit not only yourself, your children’s health but also the future generations to come.

If you think this post is helpful, please share. Thanks.

Wellness & Fun Tips for End of the Summer

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

kids-chase-a-bubble-at-a-family-picnic-397582-mLabor Day can really make you feel like the end of the summer. As you know, after this weekend various popular summertime attractions will close, including pools. For some people, summer is a relaxing break from work and a happy time with their families. For others, they may have struggled with hectic schedules and unusual stressful workloads.

From a health and wellness perspective, how can you take advantage of Labor Day weekend to relax, renew and recharge? I’ll offer these cancer prevention strategies and tips as a farewell to summer:

  1. Go to book or music festivals, food and wine festivals, as well as an outdoor event in town. It can relax your mind, foster your joy, and promote your fitness as you walk and move around.
  2. Enjoy healthy meals and family picnics. This is the time when you can pack some antioxidant-rich foods, try out some healthy recipes, cook and share delicious food with your family and friends.
  3. Have a fun for fitness. Have you heard anything like Family Backyard Triathlon? What a creative idea and a marvelous way to get everyone move more! Certainly, you can do it at a local park too. Whether it’s a jump rope, push-ups, run or holding a yoga pose, these challenges are more beneficial than TV and internet times. Also pleasurable are team sports.
  4. Head for the beach or lake. In addition to those on the road trip already, if you live nearby the beach, there is always something for everybody, for a family fun activity. Yet again, be mindful for sun safe and sun protection.
  5. Practice your well-deserved stress-relieve treatment. This long weekend is a great opportunity to de-stress, hence to strengthen your immune function. Enjoy a peaceful time for yourself, a treat, a walk, or anyway that works for you.

Whatever you do, wish you the most happy, healthy, and adventurous Labor Day Holiday ever!

 

Image credit: by hortongrou

Eat Broccoli for Protection from Carcinogens and Air Pollutants

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Broccoli n Green handsI like this quotation from Robert Louis Stevenson – “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.” The wisdom applies not only to our life, but also to human health and earth health.

Today, let’s have a talk on broccoli, particularly what’s new and the long-term benefits from it.

A compound in broccoli, sulforaphane, has been shown to have anti-carcinogenic properties in many studies previously. Research indicates the chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic potential of sulforaphane in solid tumors and possibly in blood cancer, based on its anti-proliferative, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and anti-cancer activities.

Recently, researchers have discovered that the same compound contained in broccoli also helps our bodies naturally remove carcinogens and some toxins present in heavily polluted air. These environmental toxins include benzene, a known carcinogen; and acrolein, a lung irritant. The clinical study was published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research in June.

Let’s think about it. Is this a better and safer way for our humans to reduce health risks from air pollution? Certainly is, especially without drugs or chemicals. In this way, a natural product helps the body defend unavoidable environmental pollutants. Again, it proves that food is the best medicine!

As you may know, benefits of broccoli extends to various health issues such as preventing heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, allergies, osteoarthritis, and some ulcers as well as skin damage by UV radiation (effective when applied topically). Needless to say, how easily it can be done when integrating broccoli into daily diet, right? You can eat in raw (e.g. salads) or in cooked dishes after steaming, boiling, or quick-frying, etc. You can also mix it to veggie juice or smoothies.

The bottom line is – Eating more broccolis can go a long way towards enhancing your nutritional status as well as protecting you from environmental pollutants, cancer and some chronic illnesses.

Reference: Egner PA, Chen JG, Zarth AT, Ng D, Wang J, Kensler KH, Jacobson LP, Munoz A, Johnson JL, Groopman JD, Fahey JW, Talalay P, Zhu J, Chen TY, Qian GS, Carmella SG, Hecht SS, Kensler TW. Rapid and Sustainable Detoxication of Airborne Pollutants by Broccoli Sprout Beverage: Results of a Randomized Clinical Trial in China. Cancer Prevention Research, 2014.

 

Image credit: by lockstockb, Avolore

Strategies and Tips for Healthy Dishes for Hot Summer Days

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

green and red healthy foodImagine that on a hot summer evening you just came back from work and you want to avoid staying around the stove to cook a family dinner. As you know, fast food or a colorful meal-in-box is not always healthy, and dining at restaurants can be costly. Let’s say that going out is not an option. So how do you fix the dinner quickly?

Yes, dinner planning during the summer is a challenge. But we have to eat, right? That’s why I want to provide some solutions for hot weather, weird schedules, busy days, tired cooks, or a lack of cooking magic.

Here are the top FIVE principles to help you make a hot summer day dinner easy and healthy:

1. Plan ahead strategically.

-          Bake and Freeze: When you bake some foods during the weekend, it makes your week-day dinner easier and less time-consuming to prepare.

-          Cook and fridge: for example, hard-boiled eggs and chicken slices/cubes can be done in advance.

-          Have a theme or a focus. We can develop a cycle by rotating dishes without repeating the same meal two days in the row. For example, we could have a theme like chicken-veggie pasta for Monday, tuna fish salad for Tuesday, veggie and ravioli on Wednesday, shrimp-veggie pasta for Thurs, pizza for Friday, Salmon, veggie and brown rice for Saturday, and veggie/tofu for Sunday, but without being strictly tied to the same order each week. It actually make meals diverse and less boring; and when you get used to it, you don’t need to think too hard about what to have for dinner.

2. Make it easy.

Buy some fresh or semi-cooked dishes during your grocery shopping, then you just warm the dish and eat. Another idea is to stock some fresh baby carrots, chopped celery, lettuce, tomatoes, blueberries or grapes, or some veggie wraps and potato salad, in your refrigerator, and then you can have a ready-meal or no-cook dinner. Fresh, light and simple foods also calm your mind!

3. Ensure it’s fresh and healthy with cancer prevention in mind.

Healthy and delicious dishes don’t need to be complicated. On hot summer days, cool, light, fresh dishes are recommended. Eat something light with green-leafy veggies or watermelon—sweet and super hydrating—and limit greasy and deep-fried dishes. Remember to drink a lot of water or other fluids!

4. Exercise creativity and have fun!

I used to take my lunch to work in this way, i.e. in a “create your own dish” fashion. Prepare all veggies, fruits, nuts, meats, and dressings by setting them out just like a salad bar, then everyone can take whatever they like to have a “rainbow” on the plate. Alternatively, for a family dinner, put together the foods you have—from whole wheat bread to fish or chicken, from veggies to a fruit cake, then you can have a “Cancer Prevention Picnic” in your back yard while watching the sunset!

5. Make it quick.

When you follow the tips and ideas mentioned above, your dinner will be ultimately a quick-fix.

Follow these solutions and your meals prep should be less stressful, less troublesome, and take less time. A bonus is that you and your family will have healthier dishes and that’s reason to be happier too!

 

7 Natural Nutrients and Powerful Antioxidants for UV Protection

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Fruits-Veggies_4566Have you ever gone for grocery shopping, wondering how to take advantage of natural foods for your UV protection? Or you might be just thinking loud “Help me – Help me with a shopping list for natural resources of antioxidants that fight UV and Sun damage!

Hey, this is a health-smart idea or initiative. After all, UV radiation causes DNA damage leading to skin aging and skin cancers. Although the skin holds many protective mechanisms against UV damage, the combination of accumulated exposure and UV-induced immunosuppression can overwhelm the skin’s natural defense. There are a myriad of natural resources for your protection.

To combat UV’s harmful effects and strengthen your skin defense, I’m going to put seven types of super foods and nutrients on the spotlight in this post, and talk about how they provide UV protection.

1.      Carotenoids

Carotenoids micronutrients can scavenge free radicals that cause DNA damage to skin, and protect skin injury and/or problems resulting from sun damage and UV radiation. In general, colorful veggies and fruits with bright natural pigments are signals of carotenoids-rich foods, such as carrots, red, yellow or orange peppers, and oranges.

2.      Lycopene

Tomatoes are lycopene-rich super food; and lycopene can neutralize the harmful effects of UV light by scavenging skin-damaging free radicals. Additionally, tomatoes also contain beta-carotene and vitamin C. In the summer, as well as in all seasons, it is so easy and refreshing to include tomatoes in virtually any dishes from salad to pizza and side dish. Grape/Cherry tomatoes can be excellent snacks!

3.      Resveratrol

Resveratrol has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, and anti-viral properties. It also exerts cardioprotective, neuroprotective and analgestic actions. Research shows that resveratrol can regulate cellular activities in response to radiation and thus minimize UV radiation-initiated damage. Furthermore, resveratrol can neutralize free radicals generated from UV rays and counteract their harmful effects. Grapes are an superb source of resveratrol. Other foods containing resveratrol include wine, grape juice, cranberries, cranberry juice, and peanuts.

4.      Flavonoids

Dark chocolate is a wonderful source of flavonoids, which is well known for the protective benefits of the heart and blood vessels. Interestingly, research also suggests that dark chocolate protects the skin from sun damage. So, give yourself a treat or an excuse to consume it regularly, but not excessively. In addition, flavonoids-rich natural cocoa butter helps preserve skin’s elasticity and moisture.

5.      Green tea

Green tea is loaded with polyphenol antioxidants, which have protective effect on UV-induced skin inflammation, oxidative stress and DNA damage. Green tea is also rich in catechins, which are known to have extremely powerful antioxidant properties. A cup of iced green tea in hot summer days serves as not only a beverage to ensure adequate hydration and promote youthful skin, but also a guard to prevent UV-induced DNA damage and reduce skin cancer risk. Green tea can be a great substitute for Coke or other sugar-packed soft drinks.

6.      Salmon

We all know that salmon provides an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. However, do you know that salmon helps build your skin defense? Research shows that Omega-3 essential fatty acids may protect skin damage and premature aging from UV radiation, this is because salmon also contains astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant that can scavenge free radicals produced from the skin after sun or UV exposure. Additionally, astaxanthin helps alleviate the pain and inflammation associated with sunburn.

7.      Greens

Go greens! And you’ll never go wrong. Green leafy veggies are delicious, nutritious, and they help protect your skin damage from sun and UV radiation. Greens are the great sources of beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, vitamin C and E – a full spectrum of carotenoids micronutrients and vitamins.

Certainly, dietary intake of antioxidants in terms of UV protection is considerably slower than topical application achieved by using sunscreens. However, an optimal supply of natural antioxidant micronutrients in the skin can enhance skin antioxidant defense against UV radiation damage, support your long-term wellbeing, and maintain your skin health and glowing appearance.

I hope that today’s grocery checklist is valuable for your UV protection and particularly beneficial for people at the greatest risk of skin cancer and other cancers as well.

 

Image credit: by Fruits-Veggies_4566

What You Need to Know about UV Radiation

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

UV radition n Ozone layerHere comes the sun! And we all enjoy it. Humans live with many benefits from the sun, as do organisms including plants, animals, and microorganisms. But today, let’s face an unfavorable side of the sun by examining some harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, in association with skin cancer.

The sun, of course, is a major source of UV rays, and our skin is a natural target of UV radiation. Excessive exposure to UV radiation is the most significant risk factor for skin cancer. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in fair-skinned populations in many parts of the world, including the United States. An alarming reality is that the incidence and rates of morbidity and mortality of skin cancers are increasing! Over 2 million of Americans are diagnosed with skin cancers annually, and an estimated 9,710 people will die of malignant melanoma in 2014.

So, what do you need to know in order to have a clearer understanding of UV radiation damage?

Important facts

Fact 1: The main clinical manifestation of UV exposure can be classified into

  •  Immediate effects, including sunburn, tanning, vitamin D production, and various skin disorders as well as deterioration of these ailments.
  •  Long-term effects, including skin aging and skin cancer.

Fact 2: UV exposure in children under 10 years old has been linked with an increased risk of developing melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers later in life.

Fact 3: High numbers of nevus (or mole), freckles, red hair, blue eyes, and inability to tan, as well as a family history of skin cancer are the primary determinants of melanoma among adolescents.

Key factors

  1. The amount of UV radiation reaching the earth’s surface depends on ozone depletion, increased UV light, latitude, altitude and weather conditions.
  2. The amount of solar UV received by children and teenagers makes up 40-50% of total UV for individuals living to age 60.
  3. Unnecessary exposure to the sun and artificial UV radiation (e.g. tanning lamps) creates a significant personal attributable risks.
  4. Hereditary or familial melanoma accounts for approximately a tenth of all melanoma cases.

Vital damages

UV radiation is a known carcinogen. The effects of UV radiation are primarily mediated via direct damage to DNA in the skin cells and immune suppression of surveillance mechanisms.

  1. DNA damage includes single strand breaks, inter-strand cross-links, and nucleotide base modification as well as mutation. All wavelengths of UV radiation cause DNA damage to skin cells.
  2. UV-induced immune suppression contributes considerably to the growth of skin malignancies – both melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer. One of the immune defenses is an important surveillance system that maintains genomic integrity through cell cycle checkpoints. Once these checkpoint mechanisms sense the abnormal DNA structures, they execute cell cycle arrest and coordinate it with the DNA repair process. Imagine what the consequence would be when UV radiation inhibits immune surveillance.

Finally – Preventative strategies

  1. Keep a healthy practice of reasonable sun avoidance.
  2. Use sunscreens, and use in all the seasons if necessary.
  3. Consume antioxidants. Oxidation by free radicals mediates DNA damage upon UV insult, so antioxidants with direct free radical scavenging properties are considered as promising radiation modifiers or protectors.

Again, it is important to remember: childhood is a susceptible window for long-term harmful effects of UV radiation.

Image credit: by www.theozonehole.com

Fresh and Fast Salad for Cancer Prevention

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

healthy-greens-1369011-sAt CancerPreventionDaily, our commitment is to sustain hope and provide tools that help you take specific steps to stay healthy and reduce cancer risks. Today, I’d like to share with you our cancer prevention salads – it’s fresh and fast!

Ingredients and Recipes

Step 1: Mix the following ingredients together.

  •  lettuce
  •  arugula (unique flavor)
  •  tomatoes
  •  mushrooms
  •  potatoes (pre-cooked in cubes)
  •  eggs (hard-boiled and diced)
  •  raisins or craisins
  •  sunflower seeds

Step 2: Add your choice of salmon/tuna or chicken.

Step 3: Sprinkle some dill over the salad, along with 1-3 table spoons of olive oil (depending on the amount). Then add salt, pepper and salad dressing to your taste.

Variations

  • Use tofu for protein.
  • Use watermelon or grapes as alternatives of antioxidants, lycopene, vitamins.
  • Use almond or walnuts as nuts alternatives.
  • Use chives or basil as herb alternatives.

Although most of the veggies I described here were right from our vegetable garden, there are plenty of veggies or fruits that are tasty and nutritious.

The Principles of Cancer Prevention Salad

  1. Start with green veggies: Spinach, lettuce or Romaine lettuce, Broccoli, or combination.
  2. Build on colors (so-called “Rainbow”): Tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, or carrots. Fruits such as watermelon, peach, orange or grapes are welcome mixers.
  3. Include protein: Chicken or fish (e.g. salmon, tuna). In addition, beans, eggs (hard-boiled then sliced or diced), nuts and seeds can be good choices for vegetarians.
  4. Mix with cancer-fighting ingredients: Avocado, olive oil, minced garlic, or even lemon. Red wine vinegar or freshly-ground pepper can also be used.
  5. Garnish with healthy herbs: Basil, chives, rosemary or your favorites, fresh or dried. They go with the above salad components easily. Don’t have herbs? Sprinkle a few pieces of green onions.
  6. Remember raisins ─ a tasty trick! Otherwise, add grapes for natural sweetness – much healthier than synthetic sweeteners and sugar.

The bottom line is – summer salads are refreshing and easy with a nice variation. Importantly, they contain immune boosting and cancer-fighting nutrients.

 

Image credit: by MeiTeng

8 Things You Can Do to Avoid or Minimize Benzene Exposure

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Benzene WarningHave you ever considered whether benzene may be being present in your workplace, community, or home?

Benzene is a widely used chemical. It is a colorless, flammable, and volatile organic compound with a pleasant, sweet smell.  Benzene is produced by the combustion of crude oil and gasoline. It is found in nature (e.g., in volcanoes and forest fires) and in cigarette smoke. It is also used to manufacture many types of products such as:

  • plastics
  • resins
  • nylon and synthetic fibers
  • rubbers
  • lubricants
  • dyes
  • detergents
  • drugs
  • pesticides

Benzene is a known environmental pollutant and carcinogen that has been linked to leukemia. Benzene exposure can also lead to numerous non-cancerous health problems that affect normal functions of the vital systems in the body such as cardiovascular, nervous, immune, endocrine, and reproductive systems.

The question is, how do you protect yourself and your family from any health hazards resulting from excessive benzene exposure? Here are eight actions you can take:

  1. Get well-informed. Know where benzene is in your vicinity, including what home products contain benzene.
  2. Avoid tobacco smoke, including passive smoke. Benzene is one of the carcinogens released from tobacco smoke. It is estimated that about half of benzene exposure in the United States is from cigarette smoke.
  3. Reduce outdoor exposure in areas around gas stations and areas containing motor vehicle exhaust and industrial emissions, where the air contains higher levels of benzene.
  4. Keep indoor environments ventilated. Benzene in indoor air comes from products like glues, paints, furniture wax, detergents, and certain drugs. According to some experts, indoor air generally contains higher levels of benzene than outdoor air.
  5. Read labels when you shop for groceries, esp. soft drinks.
  6. Know your work-related exposure and protect yourself properly. In addition, if your company uses benzene in manufacture, try to ensure that it takes preventive measures since people working in industries that make or use benzene may be exposed to high levels of it.
  7. Be aware of other environmental sources of benzene. For instance, benzene can leak from underground storage tanks or from hazardous waste sites. Waste sites containing benzene can contaminate well water.
  8. In general, always do your best to avoid benzene and other toxic chemicals.

Overall, health damages associated with benzene exposure are serious, so don’t overlook this dangerous substance and take measures to prevent your exposure.

 

Leukemia risk and Lifestyle modifications

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

leukemiaJune is Men’s Health Month. Let’s celebrate it by enhancing public awareness of preventable health problems especially some cancers, and by encouraging early detection of cancer among men and boys. Today, let’s tackle a type of cancer that that you might not know a lot about—leukemia—with a focus on its risk factors.

Leukemia is a malignant cancer of the blood cells and develops in the bone marrow. According to National Cancer Institute, estimated new cases of leukemia in 2014 will total about 52,380, while death in 2014 will be about 24,090. There were an estimated 302,800 people living with leukemia in the United States in 2011.

What causes leukemia is still not completely known, although it has been shown that exposure to large amounts of radiation or certain toxic chemical such as benzene increases the risk of leukemia. Noticeably, in a recent publication from NIH-AARP diet and health study that examined 493,188 individuals, findings revealed that the risk of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML, one of four main types of leukemia) is directly associated with smoking and obesity, but inversely associated with vigorous physical activity, female sex and years of education. Therefore, the study suggests that lifestyle factors may affect the risk of this disease.

Given this, let’s approach this topic based on two categories: controllable and non-controllable risk factors for leukemia.

Controllable risk factors

1.  Smoking: Smoking releases thousands of chemicals including many toxic substances and carcinogens. Among them is benzene, which is a known carcinogen to human and known risk factor of leukemia. Cigarette smoke is a major source of benzene exposure.

2.  Obesity: As mentioned earlier, NIH-AARP’s large population based epidemiologic research has demonstrated that obesity, measured by a high body mass index (BMI, 30 indicating obesity versus <25 kg/m2 normal), positively influences the risk of CML. Plus, obesity is a risk factor for cancer of breast, prostate, and colon as well as other cancers.

3.  Radiation exposure: Doses of radiation, including ionizing UV radiation from sunlight and tanning bed as well as from medical treatment, may add up.

4.  Diet: Poor nutrition or malnutrition leads to various diseases and increased risk for some cancers, although no associations of various dietary factors with leukemia was found in NIH-AARP study. Exposure to benzene from beverages may constitute a minor contribution to the risk, but it is clear that foods can influence both strength of the immune system and growth of cancer cells.

Non-controllable factors

1.  Gender: Men seem to have a higher incident of leukemia than women.

2.  Age: More than 65 percent of people diagnosed with leukemia are over the age of 55.

3.  Race: Leukemia is more common among white people than other races.

4.  Genetic factor: Although most leukemia have no family link, incidents cases among siblings or first degree relatives of some parents with leukemia may still put you at an increased risk for developing this disease. In addition, certain genetic disorders such as Down syndrome may also be a risk factor.

5.  Environmental factor: Specifically the carcinogen benzene is to be avoided. Long-term exposure to or contact with products containing benzene raises the risk of leukemia, whether it is occupation-related or in daily life. Benzene can be inhaled from the air. It is found in petroleum, cigarette smoke, industrial workplaces, and even in home environments where it may arise from some plastics, paints and detergents.

Preventative strategies

A healthy lifestyle is so critical for cancer prevention because at least 35% of cancer can be prevented by lifestyle modification. Even if you have leukemia, treatment can be enhanced by some simple healthy lifestyle strategies. These include (but not limited to):

  • Avoid radiation.
  • Avoid or minimize exposure to harmful chemicals and carcinogens, such as benzene.
  • Quit smoking and avoid passive smoking.
  • Maintain healthy weight through nutritious diet and regular exercise.
  • Eat plenty of antioxidant-rich vegetables and fruits, and avoid benzene-hidden foods.
  • Limit the exposure to fumes from gasoline, as well as fumes from solvents, paints, and art supplies, especially in unventilated environment.
  • Get your benzene level tested if you have been exposed to benzene over a long period of time (e.g., a work-related exposure).
  • Consult your physician at once if you experience unexplained symptoms such as chronic fatigue, weight loss, appetite loss, frequent infections, night sweats, short of breath, ongoing low fever, or slow wound healing, which can be signs of leukemia.

In the end, we cannot control our age, gender, race, family history, or even some environmental factors, but we all do have power over our own lifestyles.

 

Image credit: By www.bumrungrad.com