The United States has been fighting a high-profile battle against cancer since President Richard Nixon signed the National Cancer Act in 1971. Since then, the $100 million that Nixon initially allocated to find cancer’s cure has transformed into a billion dollar industry marked by hundreds of annual fundraisers, stockpiles of pink merchandise and a nationally publicized awareness month.
Yet cancer rages on with rates of diagnosis higher than ever. This terrible disease takes almost 600,000 lives each year, 50 percent more than in 1971 when our war on cancer began. How?
Most Cancers Aren’t Hereditary
Only about 5 percent of all cancers are “strongly hereditary,” according to the American Cancer Society’s 2012 Cancer Facts and Figures pamphlet. “Most cancers do not result from inherited genes but from damage to genes occurring during one’s lifetime.” Everyday lifestyle factors are the primary causes.
Regular exercise slows the progression of prostate cancer in men over 65, and men who are the most physically active—in any way—can reduce their risk of colon cancer by as much as 40 percent. Certain foods (like carrot, flaxseed, broccoli and leafy greens like kale and romaine lettuce) have also been shown to fight the development of prostate cancer.
Despite these findings, poor diet and exercise are not the only factors related to cancer risk.
We hear stories of high-profile athletes who have been diagnosed with cancer, so it is clear that being in premier physical shape does not prevent cancer. Professional cyclist Lance Armstrong was diagnosed with testicular cancer that had metastasized to his lungs and brain. In 2008, current New York Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich was diagnosed with the rare bone cancer Ewing’s sarcoma. Herzlich’s diagnosis came shortly after he was named the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year (he played for Boston College at the time). And, in 2003, former NFL player Merril Hoge was diagnosed with stage 2 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after doctors discovered a tumor behind his stomach.
These men were all professional athletes who receive the highest quality nutritional advice and have access to the most cutting edge fitness facilities. Though these advantages likely improved their abilities to recover from the disease, they were still diagnosed in the first place.
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