Time and time again Americans are asked to donate to the cause of curing cancer. We write checks, walk, run, climb, row, swim, bike, host parties, buy t-shirts, bumper stickers, hats and pink-ribbons ... everything in an attempt to stem the tide of this disease that threatens to swallow us alive.
Now we are being asked once again to "Stand Up to Cancer" and contribute money to research so that scientific dream teams can come up with a cure once and for all and "so no child ever gets cancer again," according to their pitch.
Doe-eyed ingénues and established Hollywood heavyweights fill our television screens asking Americans to open their threadbare wallets and give more money for more research that seems to get us nowhere fast. Hundreds of millions of dollars ($4.8 billion actually, according to the National Cancer Institute) are poured into cancer research annually and yet still no cure. All these dream teams of scientific brilliance still have no idea of what cures cancer?
Oh, that's right. Now I remember what they said. These dream teams were in competition to create drugs before now, so they couldn't come together for the good of mankind. So what has changed? Have the pharmaceutical companies gone all "Kumbaya" in one grand philanthropic effort to cure this modern plague? Or is it possible that they have come up with the notion that there's a lot of money to be made on cancer if they join forces to create the drugs that will keep people alive and then all cash in big?
The statistics are terrifying and we should be scared witless. As a cancer survivor, I know what I am talking about. I was diagnosed in my twenties and truly believed my life was over. I think there is nothing worse than the diagnosis of cancer. It's a club that I wish inducted no new members. I chose a road less traveled -- a holistic approach in which I changed every single thing about how I lived and ate and regained my health. There are thousands of survivors like me.
According to the Cancer Journal for Clinicians, one in four deaths in the United States will be as a result of cancer, with more than 1.5 million new cases diagnosed this year. And that's not to mention the 36 children each day diagnosed with cancer in America.
According to the American Cancer Society the leading causes of cancers in men is prostate cancer, followed by lung and colon cancer, respectively. In women, breast cancer leads, followed closely by lung and colon cancer.
Think about it. The leading cause of cancer in both men and women are reproductive cancers. Anything to do with the growth hormones in our food? Lung cancer is in second place in men and women. Wow. I wonder if our polluted air and cigarette smoking (yes, Virginia, some people still smoke...) has anything to do with that? And do you think that maybe colon cancer, the third cause of cancer in men and women could have anything to do with the food we choose to eat? Connect the dots, people.
Does our society really want to cure cancer? We talk a good game, but nothing changes. We continue to have junk food marketed to us with such virulence that it would rival any brainwashing techniques ever conceived. And we don't question anything. We cling to our childish behaviors long after they cease to serve our lives and in fact, begin to damage our health. Marketers and manufacturers have cashed in big time on that fact. They know too well that we want to make healthier choices, but we really don't want to change, so they put check marks and health halos on junk food to imply that they now contain healthy ingredients. We breathe a collective sigh of relief and keep eating the swill they sell while their bottom lines continue to fatten up along with our bottoms.
And after years and years of eating this unfit-for-human-consumption-food they sell, we develop cancer and are shocked by the diagnosis, believing it came out of nowhere; as though the fickle finger of fate chose us. We blame the environment, genetics, fate. The truth is we chose it -- unconsciously maybe -- but we chose it; we chose to live in a way that created the perfect environment for cancer to grow and spread. And even though we created it, we want someone else to cure it so we can just go blithely along, changing nothing and wondering why the outcome isn't altered. While genetics play a role in some cancers, to be sure, it's not the majority of cases according to most experts.
Want to really stand up to cancer? Prevent it. How? Begin with the food you eat. Experts agree that as much as 50 percent of cancer cases we see in this country could be prevented if people were more conscious of what they put in their mouths (according to NCI, not me). It's not new news. It's just that very few people are listening.
The NCI http://www.cancer.orgcontinues with the following recommendations for helping to prevent the plague of cancer in your life. Check these out. You have heard them all before. Maybe it's time to actually adopt them.
1. Eat a variety of healthful foods, with an emphasis on plant sources.
2. Eat foods as close to their natural state as possible.
3. If a food will not sprout or rot, throw it out.
4. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. Avoid heavily processed foods.
5. Eat five or more servings of fresh vegetables and fruits each day.
6. Choose whole grains in preference to refined grains.
7. Limit consumption of red meats, especially those high in fat and processed.
8. Choose foods that help maintain a healthful weight.
9. Avoid sugar. Cancer loves sugar. Some experts feel cancer thrives on most refined carbohydrates.
10. Adopt a physically active lifestyle.
11. Balance caloric intake with physical activity and lose weight if currently overweight.
12. Avoid pesticides and products that contain cancer-causing ingredients.
Nothing new here. Eat real food, mostly plants, not too much (thanks, Michael Pollan) and move your butt. It's simple and affordable. It only requires action and discipline. As Nike says, "just do it."
We will most likely always need drugs to treat cancer. We will always need the benefit of technology and research to provide us more information and a better understanding of our bodies. But we need to begin to take responsibility for the role we play in our health ... or lack of it. We need to use the information we get as a tool to aid us in the prevention of cancer in the first place. And then we won't need telethons to save us from ourselves. We won't need to stand up to cancer. We will be standing up for health.
Follow Christina Pirello on Twitter: www.twitter.com/christinacooks