You Can Prevent Cancer

You have more control over preventing the disease than was previously thought.
You Can Prevent Cancer
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Women who have difficulty managing stress are at greater risk of developing cancer than those who handle stress better. “Everyone has stress in their lives. It’s your response to it that makes a difference,” says Servan- Schrieber, M.D., Ph.D. Seek support when dealing with traumatic events, and avoid or remove yourself from difficult situations (like a bad relationship or stressful job) when possible. Otherwise, try these stress-busting strategies:

YOUR GOAL: Take time to slow down every day, especially when life becomes hectic. Find a quiet spot, close your eyes, and take some slow, deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling evenly for at least five minutes.
EVIDENCE: One recent Israeli study found that women who had experienced two or more stressful events—from mild (losing a job) to severe (the loss of a spouse)—were 62 percent more likely to have breast cancer. Living with ongoing strain increases the level of stress hormones, like cortisol, in your body. Cortisol can dampen your immune system and leave you vulnerable to disease, including cancer, says Machelle Seibel, M.D., a professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Stress can also raise your heart rate and blood pressure, and encourage impulse eating (stress can trigger carb cravings), which may lead to weight gain— another serious cancer hazard.

YOUR GOAL: Make a list of things you’re thankful for, or pursue a meditative activity, like yoga.
EVIDENCE: Research has shown that having a positive outlook on life boosts your immune system. Optimistic people are 2.5 times less likely to develop any type of cancer, according to a study that asked more than 2,400 men how hopeful they were about their future.

YOUR GOAL: Talk to your partner about how much sex feels right for the two of you, and seek ways to keep intimacy alive.
EVIDENCE: Researchers theorize that high levels of oxytocin (a neurotransmitter released during sexual activity) helps remove carcinogenic fluid from breasts. (Breast-feeding a baby—not quite the same kind of fun—also increases oxytocin levels.)

YOUR GOAL: Find and maintain a support network that suits your personality and your current needs, says Greg Hicks, coauthor of Choosing Brilliant Health (Perigee Trade, 2008). Cultivate one source (like a spouse), or find a small group of reliable friends and family. Or, join a support group with a specific focus, like grief or divorce.
EVIDENCE: Women who have high levels of stress and low levels of support have a nine-fold increase in their risk of breast cancer, according to a 2001 Australian study. Those with plenty of friends lived 22 percent longer than those with the fewest friends, a recent study of 1,500 older men and women found. According to research from a Carnegie Mellon University study, students who described themselves as lonely had a weaker immune response to a flu vaccine than those who reported feeling more connected to others.

YES. But you need to get at least seven to nine hours every night. A 2008 study from the National Cancer Institute showed that women who got adequate pillow time and exercise were 25 percent less likely to develop cancer—and that cutting back on sleep actually canceled some of the proven anti-cancer benefits of exercise alone. In 2005, Finnish researchers found that sleep duration was inversely proportional to the risk of developing breast cancer. Sleep experts believe there may be a link between our circadian rhythms (our bodies’ internal biological clock) and immune function and hormone production, both of which affect cancer risk. Not getting enough sleep can also cause weight gain.