THE BLOG
02/12/2013 02:08 pm ET Updated Apr 14, 2013

We Can Prevent Cancer Before Curing It

This year, more than four decades since America launched its "war on cancer," more than 580,000 Americans are expected to die from the disease. That's almost 1,600 moms, dads, sisters, brothers, daughters and sons -- dead -- per day.

Clearly, that war on cancer -- on defeating it, ending it -- is far from complete, even after the National Cancer Institute has spent more than $90 billion on research and treatment. Overall, spending on cancer drugs continues to soar, expected to reach $173 billion by 2020. In the meantime, millions more will die, and why?

The fact is, many don't have to die. In fact, they shouldn't get cancer in the first place. That's because cancer is preventable -- through exercise, a healthy diet and smart lifestyle choices.

Today's healthy teen or young adult doesn't have to be tomorrow's cancer victim -- and won't be, if we can advance the message that preventing cancer before it starts can be done, and that such prevention must be respected beyond hopes for distant cures.

Knowing that more than half of this year's 580,000 cancer deaths are preventable should be motivation enough. That's power, and we must seize it. Indeed, the promise and power of cancer prevention is what my Blue Cure Foundation is all about.

I was just another heedless American when, at 35, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, supposedly an "old man's disease." But poor lifestyle and diet choices had encouraged and enabled my cancer, and that realization inspired me to launch the non-profit Blue Cure Foundation, the male side of the female "pink" breast cancer movement.

I also took charge of my life and my health, adopting lifestyle habits which are helping me control and manage my cancer. The evidence is now clear that lifestyle factors, including diet and physical exercise, can prevent and help control the majority of cancers.

Blue Cure is prevention-driven, because prevention, in effect, is our cure. We know we can save lives -- now -- by stopping cancer before it starts.

Don't get me wrong. We must continue to support the goal of conquering cancer. But we must ask the National Cancer Institute to allocate more funding for prevention, and we must research better, more accurate diagnostics.

Blue Cure wants to educate everyone about cancer prevention, but perhaps most of all a younger generation that has the best chance of keeping cancer at bay in the future by acting to prevent cancer now.

In her provocative new book, A World Without Cancer, Dr. Margaret Cuomo writes:

Simply put, we have not adequately channeled our scientific know-how, funding and energy into a full exploration of the one path certain to save lives: prevention. That it should become the ultimate goal of cancer research has been recognized since the war on cancer began ... When I look at NCI's budget request for fiscal year 2012, I'm deeply disappointed, though past experience tells me I shouldn't be surprised. It is business as usual at the nation's foremost cancer research establishment. More than $2 billion is requested for basic research into the mechanism and causes of cancer. Another $1.3 billion is requested for treatment. And cancer prevention and control? It gets $232 million altogether. Remarkably, in the very same budget report, the NCI states, 'Much of the progress against cancer in recent decades has stemmed from successes in the areas of prevention and control.'

Last year, I wrote that prostate cancer prevention begins when men are boys. I would also say breast cancer prevention begins when women are girls. Cancer prevention should begin when we are younger, but it's never too late to make changes.

I ask you to join me in urging physicians, cancer organizations, the media and our elected leaders to place greater emphasis on educating us all about cancer prevention. To fail this when so many cancers are preventable is to fail hundreds of thousands of Americans whose lose lives needn't be lost.

How urgent is this need? One in two American men will get cancer. And one in three American women will get cancer.

Preventing it begs the question of cause. And cause has us examine factors such as 1) the type of foods we eat and how they're cooked, avoiding hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and larvicides; 2) addressing pollution in the air and water and banning toxic chemicals in household and personal care products; 3) increasing physical exercise; 4) maintaining a healthy weight; 5) avoiding all tobacco products; 6) limiting alcohol; 7) protecting our skin from the sun; and 8) managing stress.

Most people I talk to believe cancer just happens. They're surprised to hear that lifestyle choices can be made to reduce our risks. We now know that these lifestyle factors can affect gene expression playing a key role in the cancer process.

Dr. Cuomo also writes:

It is time to commit our resources to more aggressively studying the ways in which diet, exercise, supplements, environmental exposure, and other factors can influence the development of cancer ... Imagine the transformation that could occur if we showed more respect for the powerful yet often-subtle strategies of public health -- the ones that help people change their behavior, improve access to health care and regulate environmental and occupational hazards.

Unlike research for a cure, prevention isn't just a hope and a dream. It's a reality -- now, today. Public health experts have told us we could prevent more than half of the cancers that occur in the United States if we applied the knowledge we already have.

It's time for change. It's time for cancer prevention as an attainable goal, not an impossible dream. I invite you to join me and Blue Cure in seizing this goal and making it real. In doing so, for millions of Americans, we can win the war on cancer by stopping it before it starts.

For more by Gabe Canales, click here.

For more on cancer, click here.

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