For the past several days I’ve been posting what I learned at the recent Frontiers in Cancer Prevention conference, I learned so much there. I am very grateful for the opportunities the American Association for Cancer Research has given me via the Scientist-Survivor Program.

I attended many other prevention sessions at the conference. Among them chemoprevention…medications that may one day be given to prevent cancer in high risk individuals. Another session was dedicated to inflammation’s role in cancer; there is an inflammation-cancer connection also.

While we all want a pill or food or chemical that will be a magic bullet in preventing or curing cancer, odds are there won’t ever be any one thing that cures or protects against all cancers. Cancer is actually 200 different diseases and even those 200 cancers can be different from each other. Biologically, even two of the same types of cancer, such as breast or colon cancer, can be very different from each other genetically or epigenetically. I get emails often from people asking me what I think of the latest chemical compound, mushroom or vitamin…will it cure their cancer, maybe? Is it the “magic bullet”? Probably not. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Seventy percent of all cancers can be prevented. We can prevent cancer, and maybe prevent a cancer recurrence, by engaging in a healthy life style. We can avoid exposure to cigarette smoke (which has been implicated in more than 10 different types of cancer including pancreatic cancer, not just lung cancer). We can avoid excess alcohol consumption. We can avoid asbestos or other environmental toxins. We can eat a healthy diet with lots of phytochemicals from fruits and veggies. We can exercise. We can be vaccinated or have our children vaccinated against diseases like hepatitis and HPV to lower risk of liver and cervical cancer. We can spend some time out in the sun and/or take vitamin D supplements. There’s lots we can do….even though it might take some time and effort on our parts. We can find weapons to use in our personal fight against cancer.

I for one am making changes. I think living a healthier lifestyle just takes working at it for awhile until it become habit. I did quit smoking years ago, but gained weight in the process that I never lost; my BMI is now greater than 25. I don’t exercise a lot as I spend too much time in front of my computer. I eat too much red meat, too few veggies and too little fruit.

I want to live a healthier lifestyle to prevent cancer, but I also love to backpack and distance bike. I’ve become a backpacker since my cancer diagnosis. Backpackers are obsessed with weight and size. We want to carry less weight….I use a postal scale to measure ounces to try to shave weight from my backpacking gear (after struggling to hike mountains with 40 lbs. in my pack a couple of years ago). I have a tiny stove that with weighs 2 ounces, together with fuel it weighs 4 ounces. I have a 2 lb. tent (also a bigger 4.5 lb. tent I like much better). I want to reduce the weight of my pack; 25 lbs. instead of 40 would be ideal though I couldn’t bring the good stuff at that weight. Then I got to thinking; I am about 25 lbs. overweight. I’m carrying an extra 25 lbs. all of the time. Maybe if I get skinny and fit I can bring better stuff when I backpack!!! Hunks of cheese instead of Ramen noodles! The big comfy 4 lb. tent instead of the 2 lb. cramped “tunnel” tent. The warmer sleeping bag.

I also like to distance bike. I have a 1993 great Trek bicycle that has an aluminum frame and titanium wheels. A newer and lighter carbon fiber bike weighing about 10 lbs. less would be great for biking…but cost about $1500. Got to thinking, I could lose the weight and ride a lot lighter for free.

If I lost the weight and got in shape, I’d feel better about myself and could wear my cute skinny clothes again, use better stuff backpacking, be faster on my bike, get to experience the natural endorphins….AND cut my cancer risk!

Hmmmm…lots of benefits to a healthier lifestyle. Look better, feel better, do more, have more energy, less cancer risk.

Since the conference I’ve signed up at my local YMCA and am working out 6 days a week now for at least 30minutes a day. I joined a running program at the Y (I’ve NEVER run before), so have a running group and a running coach now. I run three days a week, one day a week with a group that keeps me honest and holds me accountable. I’m told I’ll make lots of friends in the group. I bought the good running shoes and am already signed up for a 5K run in April, so have some motivation to stick with it. I’m starting a Tai Chi class with a friend this week. The cost for all of this is less than I used to spend on cigarettes when I smoked, and the time is less than the time I used to spend watching TV years ago. And I stand to benefit greatly.

I’m also eating better…I am eating less red meat, more fruits and veggies and trying to drink green tea once a day. I think green tea is kind of tasteless, (I do espresso coffee regularly), so I use 4 bags of green tea to a mug once a day…with 4tea bags it has some punch/taste! It’s said that 3-4 cups of green tea has great health benefits…with 4 tea bags to a mug, I get all of the benefit in just one cup! I am also now taking Vitamin D3 supplements as I live near Chicago where winters are long and dark.

So, I’m making changes…in part for cancer prevention, but in greater part as a quality of life endeavor. If I reach my goal of being skinny and in shape by April ` 1st, I’ll look and feel better. I’ll be in good enough shape to have more fun biking and backpacking….plus will enjoy the bonus of making new friends in my running and wilderness clubs. Definitely worth the effort.