Friday, 24 October 2008

Avoiding cancer: Top tips from the experts

World class advice on how to sidestep cancer

Cancer special: Expert tips

  • 22 October 2008
  • From New Scientist Print Edition.
Drink green tea

"Breast cancer is the top cancer among women in Singapore. I try to reduce my risk by drinking more green tea and eating more soy-based products. I also steam my tofu with fish since omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce breast-cancer risk. Finally, I try to catch up on sleep because this may reduce my chance of breast cancer too, if our recent findings are true"

Woon-Puay Koh, cancer epidemiologist, National University of Singapore

Take aspirin

"I take a baby aspirin each morning. I eat a largely vegetarian diet, and I am a fanatic, but not totally successful, in trying to keep my weight down. They say that obesity is the second most important risk factor for cancer deaths after tobacco use. I feel increasingly, in the words of the old hippies, that we are what we eat. It's still a throw of the dice, but at least we can tilt the playing field in our favour"

Robert Weinberg, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Cambridge, Massachusetts, discoverer of the first oncogene

Get screened

"I take low-dose aspirin - it does reduce your risk of colon cancer by about 40 or 50 per cent.
I also abide by all of the screening tests. Unfortunately, a lot of the population can't afford that kind of intervention, so we've got to figure out ways to make some of these tests less costly"

Ray DuBois, M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, and president of the American Association for Cancer Research

Eat your greens

"I grew up in Nigeria and that upbringing instilled behaviours that still make good healthy sense. We ate lots of fruits and vegetables and not much red meat. We got exercise, not always by choice. I now have modern conveniences but I still exercise, by choice. And despite my African heritage, I still try to reduce sun exposure"

Funmi Olopade, director of the University of Chicago's Cancer Risk Clinic

Keep your weight down

"I have never smoked, I'm not overweight, I avoid getting sunburnt and I don't drink much alcohol. I also cycle or walk most days. I have been a vegan for over 30 years because I don't like slaughterhouses. But whether this has any effect on cancer risk remains to be seen"

Tim Key of Cancer Research UK's Cancer Epidemiology Unit, University of Oxford

Eat a balanced diet

"There are many nutrients that are thought to be potentially protective for cancer, including vitamin D, selenium, carotenoids, other antioxidants, and specific fatty acids. However, I don't take any dietary supplements because I do not think there is strong evidence that supplements have benefits for cancer beyond the nutrients that would be in a varied and balanced diet"

Kay-Tee Khaw, clinical gerontologist, University of Cambridge

Choose your parents carefully

"I don't smoke, and that's the very best thing anyone can do to avoid cancer. I'm a pale-skinned Scotsman, so I avoid the sun where possible and wear sunblock to avoid melanoma. Another tip would be to choose your parents carefully, to check for inheritable cancers, but that's a bit tricky"

Iain McNeish, medical oncologist, Barts and the London School of Medicine

Think positive

"My advice? Well, don't smoke, eat good green stuff, make very good friends with doctors so that they can snip off the odd mole and do the odd colonoscopy. Also, climb mountains and be very happy and positive the whole time"

David Lane, University of Dundee, UK, who showed that defects in the p53 gene cause a range of cancers

Read more in Cancer special: Old killer, new hope

From issue 2679 of New Scientist magazine, 22 October 2008, page 37

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