April 1, 2021

Tips for Preventing Cancer

“It is estimated that 50 percent of cancers can be prevented” (Wolin KY, 2010). “Annually 18 million new cancer cases and over 9 million cancer deaths worldwide” (Bray F, 2018). “Number one cause of death in the United States for those under the age of 80 with 600,000 people dying from cancer each year.” (Siegel RL, 2020).

“Multiple cancer risk factors have been identified. Smoking, alcohol use, diet low in fruits and vegetables, excess weight, inactivity, unsafe sex, urban air pollution, use of solid fuels, and contaminated injections in healthcare settings accounted for 35 percent of cancer deaths worldwide” (Danaei G, 2005). “Lifestyle factors have been linked to a variety of malignancies, including the most common in the developed world: lung, colorectal, prostate, and breast cancer “(Ezzati M, 2002). Only 5 to 10 percent of cancers are hereditary. It has been shown that a diet high in animal fat is associated with an increased risk of cancer in particular colon and prostate.

“The Nurses Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-Up Study populations (n = 111,562) found substantial longevity benefits in those adopting an overall healthy lifestyle” with women having an additional 8.3 years longer life expectancy without cancer and men experience an additional six years without cancer compared to those with poor lifestyle practices (Li Y, 2020).

The Adventist Health Study 1 and 2 evaluated over 113,000 Seventh-day Adventists combined. These showed that Adventists lives healthier and longer lives, 10 to 12 years longer than their peers, and had lower rates of cancer and cardiovascular disease on account of their lifestyle. A Seventh-day Adventist lifestyle consists of eating a plant-based diet, regular exercise, abstain from alcohol, caffeine and illicit drugs, abstain from tobacco use, maintain a healthy weight and trust in God. The Adventist Health Message, given over 100 years ago through Divine inspiration by Ellen G. White, contributes to the beliefs and practices of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The Adventist Health Message is part of the Three Angels’ message to Fear God and give glory to Him (Rev 14:7). Whether therefore ye eat, or drink or Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Cancer prevention includes screening to detect cancer in an early stage where it can be treated with a curative intent and reduce the cancer death rate. Screening guidelines are available for sporadic cancers and hereditary cancers. Screening test are available for colorectal, breast, prostate, cervical and lung cancers. There is no standard screening available for ovarian cancer.

Screening is initiated for the average patient at 50 years for colorectal cancer with a colonoscopy every 10 years. Alternate methods of screening are available and should be discussed with your doctor.

Breast cancer screening is dependent on the women’s risk for developing breast cancer and age. Most women have an average risk of developing breast cancer. Breast cancer risk increases with age. Women at high risk of developing breast cancer includes having a personal or family history of ovarian, peritoneal, tubal, or breast cancer; an ancestry (e.g., Ashkenazi Jewish) associated with BRCA1 or 2 mutations; a genetic predisposition (e.g., known BRCA or other susceptibility genes); prior radiotherapy to the chest; or other breast cancer risk factors. Breast screening for high-risk women includes not only annual mammography but may also include an annual breast MRI and starts earlier than age 50 years. For the average risk woman, the American Cancer Society recommends an annual mammogram from age 50 to 74 years, and shared decision-making between the doctor and patient on when to do a mammogram at age 40 to 49 years. Annual mammogram for women 75 years and older if life expectancy is at least 10 years.


Arlene Gayle, MD, member of the Marshfield (Wisconsin) Church, has specialized in medical oncology and hematology for almost a decade. Her interest is in women’s health and stem cell transplant. She is currently the medical director for the stem cell transplant program at the Marshfield Clinic Health System.