Guest blogger Sara Snow is a green lifestyle expert and board member for Discovery's 24/7 future-forward network Planet Green.
Last week the President's Cancer Panel released a landmark report suggesting that thus far public health officials have "grossly underestimated" the role environmental contaminants may be playing in the 1.5 million Americans who are diagnosed with cancer each year. The report called for stricter regulations on chemicals, especially noting the importance of avoiding chemicals during pregnancy when the risk of damage may be highest.
In the report is a startling statistic many of us have heard before but didn't think we'd actually see on pages such as this, calling today's babies "pre-polluted." The shocking statistic states that 300 different chemical contaminants have been found present in the umbilical cord blood of newborn babies, hence the term "pre-polluted."
This report is staggering...but exciting! Hopefully it will help propel Senator Frank Lautenberg's "Safe Chemicals Act," requiring manufacturers to provide information about the chemicals they are putting into their products instead of assuming they're safe until proven otherwise.
So, as we wait for more reaction from manufacturers and government leaders, what does this mean to the rest of us? It means that we need to be our own advocates and to practice caution every day to help lessen our risks of developing cancer.
Here are five things you can do every day of your life to help avoid cancer and why you should.
1. Get Some Air
The air inside our homes, schools and offices is polluted with a host of chemicals that off-gas from the paint on our walls, the padding beneath our carpet, the finish on our upholstery and a lot more. And in the end it's a whole lot more polluted than the air outside. The EPA ranks air quality 4th in environmental causes of cancer. By cracking your windows every day you help to issue fresh air in and let the bad air out.
2. Eat Well
Obesity is the second leading preventable cause of cancer, expected to surpass alcohol use as its popularity declines and obesity rates rise. Buy fresh, organic produce and steam your vegetables to help maintain their nutritional value. Eat a wide variety of foods from many different sources, including nuts and seeds, legumes, fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats. Avoid buying and especially heating your foods in plastics as it can cause harmful chemicals to leach into your foods. And try to eat a rainbow of color every day to guarantee your body the full spectrum of nutrients.
3. Practice Greener Landscaping
According to Share Guide (an online Holistic Health Magazine and Resource Directory), children who are exposed to pesticides used around the home, on lawns and gardens, are up to seven times more likely to develop cancer. And dogs that live in homes where chemical weed killers are used are three times more likely to develop lymphomas. Seek out natural weed deterrents like corn gluten or try vinegar. Its acidic nature gives it the power to kill weeds (be careful to apply only to weeds since it's non-selective and can harm your grass or flowers just as easily).
4. Get Your D's
Each year in the U.S., an estimated 24,000 people die from cancers that are due to lack of sun exposure, and thus, a lack of Vitamin D. A recent study showed that people who got 2,000 IU's of Vitamin D a day had half the risk of breast cancer and one-third the risk of colon cancer. You can take a Vitamin D tablet or get your Ds the natural way. Just 10-15 minutes of sun exposure daily (with 40% of the body exposed) allows you to absorb 2,000-5,000 IU's of Vitamin D naturally.
5. Get Your Zzzzzs
Sleep is important for your mood, your relationships with others, your concentration and, maybe most importantly, your immune system. According to recent studies, women who sleep less than seven hours a night have higher incidences of breast and colon cancers. Try to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night to reduce your risk of cancer.