• Dr. Todd Hurst, MD

If We Know How to Prevent Cancer, How Come No One is Doing It?

Updated: Nov 5, 2017

Welcome to Dr. Hurst's Health Questions Answered!

Few words can inspire fear like cancer.

Cancer’s ominous reputation is well deserved. It is the 2nd leading cause of death and over 12 million people in the US have had to hear the words, “You have cancer.

Even though heart disease is the leading cause of death, effecting over ½ of all adults during their lifetime, cancer is what keeps us up at night. This is probably because heart disease is often treatable, but we feel more powerless against cancer. While some cancers are curable, others like lung, pancreas and esophageal cancer can be a death sentence.

We aren’t powerless against cancer.

In fact, we have proven means to dramatically lower the odds that we will have to hear the word “cancer” from our doctor.

A recent article in the medical journal Circulation looked at healthy measures that have been shown to decrease heart disease and how those same measures affect the risk for cancer. That those who made heart healthy choices had less cancer is not particularly surprising, but the magnitude of the decrease was striking.

Those who met at least 6 of these 7 measures had less than ½ of the incidents of cancer:

1. Never smoked or quit more than a year ago - Good news for those who are smoking now. It’s not too late to quit and significantly decrease your risk of cancer and heart disease.

2. A healthy weight - A softer measure. More recent research shows that being “metabolically healthy” that comes from eating healthy food and staying physically active is more important than your weight.

3. Are physically active - This is not spending hours in the gym. It’s just being moderately active (like walking) for at least 20 minutes a day.

4. Eat a healthy diet - Simply minimizing highly processed/refined foods would qualify.

5. Have normal blood pressure - Less than 120/80 mm Hg

6. Have normal cholesterol - Total cholesterol less than 200 mg/dL

7. Have a normal blood sugar - Less than 100 mg/dL

There are not many interventions that will cut the risk of disease by over 50%. These are impressive numbers to be sure, but they weren’t the most striking number.

The most striking number was how few people have at least 6 of these healthy features. In the over 13,000 people in this study, less than 3 out of 100 people had at least 6 of these healthy features.

The “secret” to avoiding heart disease and cancer is, in fact, no secret. There is no magic pill or supplement; in fact we can simplify it down to 3 things.

1. Don’t smoke

2. Eat better (minimize highly processed/refined industrial foods and eat real, natural foods)

3. Move more

These will help you achieve the other measures on the list (healthy weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar). On top of lowering your risk of heart disease and cancer, doing these 3 things will also help you feel better and younger, give you more energy and make life more enjoyable.

It’s time the 3% number got a lot larger!

And the Beat Goes On,

R. Todd Hurst, MD, FACC, FASE