America's number one "male cancer," prostate cancer, is widely considered an old man's concern. It's not. We're learning more and more about how diet and lifestyle impact males' chances of getting cancer starting at an early age.
The men of tomorrow must be made aware of prostate cancer, be armed with knowledge and be encouraged to adopt preventative lifestyle and dietary habits. The next generation must begin its fight to end prostate cancer -- now.
Recently Blue Cure, my prostate cancer nonprofit, and the University of St. Thomas men's basketball team in Houston hosted a prostate cancer prevention event. One of the players, Anthony Medina, was so inspired by the message that he asked my permission to name two high school and junior high teams he coaches "Blue Cure." Being blown away is an understatement. I was looking for a chance to reach a younger generation, but didn't expect this. So I jumped.
Anthony asked that I speak to these young men, plant a seed, share my story and the mission of Blue Cure, deliver an open and honest message and encourage these young men to live "anticancer" principles. He also asked that brochures with diet and lifestyle information be made available at each of their games.
So on a recent Saturday morning, I spoke to a group of these young men and their parents after their basketball team practice. I have to admit that I expected to be met with lots of eye-rolling and deep sighs. Did they really want to have a cancer survivor come and talk to them about healthy living and cancer prevention? After all, these are teenagers bombarded every day with fast food, junk food and high-sugar beverage advertising through the Internet, radio, TV and just about everywhere, and these marketing messages are designed to instill the belief that those products make you happy, make you cool and make you love life.
I started by asking with a show of hands how many had known someone with cancer. Not to my surprise, all hands but one went up. I was relieved by how receptive and engaged these young men were, with lots of nodding heads and one even asking if microwaving foods is linked to cancer. This was a good start.
I want this generation of young men to ask questions: about their environment, the quality of the air they breathe, the chemicals in the water they drink, what's in the soil where they live, the chemicals in their food or in their aftershave and more.
Dr. Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., Director of Integrative Medicine at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, says:
Emerging research is starting to suggest that the lifestyle choices we make during early adolescence and adolescence can influence our health outcomes years later. It is during these early years when it is most important to foster healthy habits when it come to diet, exercise and stress management that will be with you the rest of your life."
During the course of their basketball season I'm encouraging each of them to read David Servan-Schreiber's book Anticancer, and I'm asking them each to adopt these seven habits:
There is a crisis in this country. Something different has to be done and we must be proactive. We have to reach a younger generation with this message now. And guess what? A good prostate cancer prevention diet is also a great heart disease, diabetes and stroke prevention diet.
Can I get you to join the movement? Can I get you to be proactive? Let's make a difference with this next generation. It's our responsibility. Prostate cancer prevention begins when men are boys.
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