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Healthy Living

written by Matthew Rensberry, MD MBA on 2014-10-15

Yesterday, the European Code Against Cancer was released. It is a list of 12 things to help avoid cancer.

As a physician, I would argue that this is much more than that, it is a code for healthy living. Many of these points protect against other common chronic diseases or at least delay onset and help ease their management. Off the top of my head, I think of diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, depression, anxiety, stress management, low back pain, and many other common complaints which could be alleviated, eased, avoided, or managed with these behaviors!

This list reminds me of a 2013 scientific article (Low-risk lifestyle, coronary calcium, cardiovascular events, and mortality: results from MESA) which found that adopting 4 lifestyle behaviors (regular exercise, eating a Mediterranean-style diet, keeping a normal weight and, most importantly, not smoking) is associated with lower all cause mortality by 80% over 7.6 years!

Here is the Code Against Cancer list:

  1. Do not smoke. Do not use any form of tobacco.
  2. Make your home smoke-free. Support smoke-free policies in your workplace.
  3. Take action to be a healthy body weight.
  4. Be physically active in everyday life. Limit the time you spend sitting.
  5. Have a healthy diet:
    • Eat plenty of whole grains, pulses, vegetables and fruits.
    • Limit high-calorie foods (foods high in sugar or fat) and avoid sugary drinks.
    • Avoid processed meat; limit red meat and foods high in salt.
  6. If you drink alcohol of any type, limit your intake. Not drinking alcohol is better for cancer prevention.
  7. Avoid too much sun, especially for children. Use sun protection. Do not use sunbeds.
  8. In the workplace, protect yourself against cancer-causing substances by following health
    and safety instructions.
  9. Find out if you are exposed to radiation from naturally high radon levels in your home.
    Take action to reduce high radon levels.
  10. For women:
    • Breastfeeding reduces the mother’s cancer risk. If you can, breastfeed your baby.
    • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) increases the risk of certain cancers.
    • Limit use of HRT.
  11. Ensure your children take part in vaccination programmes for:
    • Hepatitis B (for newborns)
    • Human papillomavirus (HPV) (for girls).
  12. Take part in organised cancer screening programmes for:
    • Bowel cancer (men and women)
    • Breast cancer (women)
    • Cervical cancer (women).