Vail health: Keys to preventing cancer |

Vail health: Keys to preventing cancer

Melaine Hendershott
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado – Cancer is the No. 1 killer of Americans under the age of 85. Heart disease is still the No. 1 killer of Americans, but cancer is expected to surpass this by 2010. In Colorado, cancer incidence has a rate of one in two in men and two in five in women. However, we know that up to 65 percent of all cancers could be prevented with a proper diet and a healthy lifestyle. The top four cancers in the U.S. are largely preventable and make up over 55 percent of all diagnoses. These cancers are lung cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer and colorectal cancer.

Lung cancer is overwhelmingly the No. 1 killer of all the cancers. Unfortunately, there is not a good screening tool for this disease. However, lung cancer can easily be prevented by avoiding smoking, second hand smoke and Radon. If you smoke, call Colorado Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT NOW or visit their Web site at You can also pick up a Radon test kit for your home at any local hardware store.

Prostate cancer, although not a top killer, is the top cancer diagnosis among men. Screening usually begins at age of 50 with a simple blood test called Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) and a digital rectal exam (DRE). Discussion and screening should start at 45 for African Americans. Prostate cancer and especially aggressive prostate cancer is correlated with a high fat diet (especially saturated fat and trans fats), overweight/obesity and lack of exercise. A prostate cancer prevention diet should include soy, cooked tomato products and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and brussels sprouts). Maintaining a healthy weight or body mass index (BMI) between 18-25 along with 30 minutes daily of moderate intensity exercise are also reccomended for cancer prevention.

Breast cancer is the top cancer diagnosis among women. Women should start screening at an early age, with monthly self breast exams and yearly clinical exams. Yearly mammograms should start at age 40. Breast cancer is also preventable. Prevention habits include a diet low in fat, maintaining a healthy weight and daily exercise of 30 minutes of moderate intensity. Also, have your vitamin D levels checked with a blood test. Having adequate vitamin D can reduce your risk of breast cancer by up to 80 percent.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death. Colorectal screening should begin at 50 with a colonoscopy. This cancer can, for the most part, be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, limiting red meat, avoiding processed meat and having adequate vitamin D levels. Weekly exercise of four hours of vigorous intensity reduces colorectal cancer by up to nearly 50 percent.

The primary ways to prevent cancer are:

•-Avoid tobacco in any form.

• Maintain a healthy weight.

• Exercise regularly.

• Eat a plant-based diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (beans), nuts and seeds and low in red meat and processed meat.

• Limit alcoholic beverages to one per day for women and two per day for men.

• Know your family history.

• Wear sunscreen and avoid sunburn.

•-Get regular screenings.

The Shaw Regional Cancer Center is hosting its first biannual cancer screening day on Oct. 10 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The screening will cost $40 for full lab draw, including PSA for men, skin screening, oral cancer screening, breast exam/pap smears for women, DRE for men with elevated PSA’s, colorectal screening, fecal occult kits, body fat percentages/body mass Index calculations, family history screening, laboratory interpretation and nutrition counseling, and tobacco cessation kits, plus much more. You can call for more information or to schedule appointment for the screening by calling 970-569-7644 or by visiting Join the fight against cancer by following the cancer prevention guidelines and getting screened regularly.

Melaine Hendershott is the registered dietician at the Shaw Regional Cancer Center. E-mail comments about this column to

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