Avoiding Cancer One Day at a Time: Practical Advice for Preventing Cancer
by Lynne Eldridge and David Borgeson
Published by Beaver’s Pond Press
233 pages, 2007
Resistance is Not Futile
Reviewed by Mary Ward Menke
I’m not sure I would have willingly picked up Avoiding Cancer One Day at a Time: Practical Advice for Preventing Cancer, had the publisher not sent it to be considered fo review consideration. While I do like reading about medical topics, I also believe that the more you think about something -- negative or positive -- the more likely it is to manifest itself in your life. So when it comes to talking or reading about cancer, I tend to put my hands over my ears, close my eyes and shout, “I can’t hear you!”
I’m glad I responded to the call of duty, though. I found Avoiding Cancer One Day at a Time to be a well-written, conversational and informative discussion. The sibling authors (she’s a medical doctor who devotes herself full-time to researching and speaking about cancer prevention and nutrition; he’s an epidemiologist, research scientist and physical therapist who emphasizes health promotion in his clinical practice) offer practical advice on what individuals can avoid or stop doing to ward off the “Big C.” And their advice isn’t solely of the hard-and-fast “do this, don’t do that” variety; it’s tempered with the instruction to maintain perspective:
That’s advice I can live with.
Readers are assisted in their quest to pick and choose which advice to follow by an overview of the distribution of causes of cancer; i.e., “five to twenty percent of cancer deaths are due to inherited mutations,” while “80-95 percent are due to an inherited mutation combined with environment.” The environmental factors include tobacco (25-40 percent); diet and obesity (25-30 percent); infection (10-15 percent), ionizing/UV radiation (2-7 percent); occupational (2-8 percent); pollution and environmental chemicals (less than 1 to 5 percent); physical inactivity (1-2 percent) and alcohol (3 percent).
The “Cancer Prevention IQ Pretest” in Chapter 2 is a thought-provoking introduction to the book. Some of the questions are obvious: “Have you had your home tested for radon, knowing that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and that excess levels are found in one out of fifteen homes?” Others are more of the “What’s that got to do with anything?” variety; for example, “Do you sleep in total darkness?” and “Do you have an active spiritual life?”
As it turns out, sleeping in total darkness is strongly suggested because light -- even from a night light -- suppresses melatonin secretion. Melatonin, a hormone produced by the brain’s pineal gland, decreases the production of estrogen, “possibly explaining why a longer duration of sleep guards against breast cancer.”
Spirituality comes into play when dealing with stress, which has long been believed to have a negative effect on health in general and to be a possible precursor to cancer:
Praying, attending religious services, and practicing yoga and meditation may reduce stress, “and thereby improve the effectiveness of the immune system in combating both infection and the development of cancers.”
If Avoiding Cancer One Day at a Time simply repeated facts based on research, readers would be overwhelmed and quickly lose interest. Fortunately, that’s not the case; the book includes charts, graphs, recipes (most of them sound surprisingly tasty) and “practical points” (suggestions) to enhance learning and show the reader how simple it is to make adjustments in their lives. At the back of the book, there are worksheets and appendices and an index that makes it easy to search by topic.
Eldridge and Borgeson have done a fine job of explaining how our bodies function within our environment and what we can do to minimize our chances of getting cancer, and they have managed to do so in a reader-friendly style. | September 2007
Mary Ward Menke is a contributing editor to January Magazine and the owner of WordAbilities, LLC, providing writing and editing services to businesses and individuals. Her work has been published in The Toastmaster, Dog Fancy and Science of Mind magazines, in the Suburban Journals (a weekly St. Louis community newspaper) and on STLtoday.com.