Cancer: Is this a Reprieve?
If you would like to Prevent Cancer,
this is HUGE News.
Cancer is the 2nd leading cause of death in the US. As you get older, you are at greater risk for cancer. In fact, age is the biggest risk factor for the cancer. More than nine out of 10 cancers are diagnosed in people 45 and older. Seniors older than 74 make up almost 28% of all new cancer cases.
Other than a few obvious things like not smoking, there really hasn't been much we can do to PREVENT cancer. Sure we have screening tests to catch cancer early, when it is more treatable, but that is not the same as PREVENTING cancer.
That's why this is such big news! The results in this study show a greater reduction in cancer than any previous study.
Of course all the standard caveats apply to this study: we need to reproduce the study in a bigger group, over a longer period of time, etc.
What did the study show?
A combination of vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, and a simple at-home strength training exercise program has been proven, in a double blind study, to reduce the risk of cancer by 61% in healthy people over 70 years old. These were the findings of an exploratory analysis in the international DO-HEALTH study, which observed 2,157 elderly people over 3 years.
Vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, and physical exercise have all been looked at as promising candidates for cancer prevention, but no study to date has shown results of this magnitude. A 61% reduction is cancer is huge in the medical world and it required the combination of all 3 to produce these results.
In this study, some people were assigned to do just 1 of the 3 interventions:
Some took only the vitamin D, and some took only the omega 3s and some did only the exercise.
Others did different combinations of 2 of the interventions,
and only one group did all 3.
The groups that did just 1 or 2 of the interventions showed minimal or no reductions in cancer. Only the group that did all 3, showed the huge, almost 2/3 reduction in cancer.
You should already be doing all 3 of these things.
Even without this cancer prevention benefit, each of these 3 things offer enough benefits on their own, that you should be doing all of this already.
Vitamin D has myriad positive benefits. Vitamin D is immune stimulating, fights depression and diabetes, helps keep bones strong and now contributes to cancer prevention. In this study they took 2,000 IU of Vitamin D3 per day. For more information about Vitamin D go here. I recommend getting plenty of natural Vitamin D from healthy sun exposure by spending lots of time out doors AND supplementing Vitamin D in pill form.
Omega 3s should also be part of your daily regimen. Omega 3 reduces inflammation, protects the heart, prevents high blood pressure, helps asthma and COPD, fights headaches and migraines, reduces muscle aches and joint pain and arthritis, and has antidepressant effects. What's not to like? In this study they took 1 g of omega-3 fatty acids per day. For more information about Omega 3s go here. Most adults can take 3 g per day to get all of these benefits.
Exercise has to be a basic part of everybody's regimen. Exercise reduces aches and pains, improves sleep, improves heart health, reduces inflammation and fights depression and anxiety. In this study they did a simple strength training program at home three times per week. For more information about exercise go here. Below is the description of the 5 step exercise program published in the study.
1. Sit-to-stand (quadriceps /hip extension strength training)
2. One-leg stance (hip muscles strength training plus static balance training)
3. Pull Backs against elastic resistance (seated position)
4. External shoulder rotation against elastic resistance (seated position)
Let's speculate a little!
It's possible that if this study were extended a few more years, the results would even be more impressive. If 2 out of 3 cancers can be prevented in just 3 years, what would happen in 6 years of following this regimen? Or 10 years? Or 20?
The people in this study were all over 70 when they started the regimen. Perhaps if you start this regimen 20 years earlier than the people in this study, could you get an even greater reduction in cancer? I don't know, I'm just speculating. But I suspect starting the regimen earlier would produce even better results!
I have been doing vitamin D, Omega 3s and exercise for decades, and have been urging my patients to do the same. Multiple studies prove the significant benefits of each of these 3 things in isolation. Now this study suggests that the COMBINATION has benefits we never dreamed of.
I am still going to do my cancer screening tests and recommend you do so too. (mammograms, pap smears, colon cancer screening, etc.). My plan is to do everything I can to prevent cancer, but still do my screening tests. If I do get cancer, I want to detect it early.
What should this study tell you?
If you are not already doing all 3 of these things, start NOW! Are you 40? Start NOW. Are you 75? Start NOW. Are you 25? Start NOW.
Each of these 3 things will have immediate health benefits, regardless of your age. And combined, we now have good evidence of even greater, more significant benefits.
According to a respected expert, this is a high quality study. He said:
"On the whole, this is a properly sized, high-quality study with a good design" . . . said Dr. Valentin Goede, MD, head senior physician at the Geriatric Medicine Center and head of the Department for Geriatric Oncology at St Marien Hospital in Cologne, Germany.
Of course you should always consult with your own physician before making any changes. This information is offered for education only and does not constitute medical advice to any person.
Good luck and BE HEALTHY!
These results, from the DO-HEALTH trial (ClinicalTrials.gov identifier NCT01745263), were published in Frontiers in Aging.