7 Changes You Can Make to Save Your Life from Cancer

You or a family member may be concerned about the “big two” killers (cancer and Alzheimer’s.) This month we focus on cancer and the July issue will be on Alzheimer’s.

By the way, every year these suggestions get so many rave reviews that they are re-sent, forwarded and “re-gifted.”  Feel free to do so yourself.

DISCLAIMER: Before I begin any comments about health, I am required by law to make a disclaimer: “The following comments are not meant to diagnose or treat any disease, nor have they been approved by the FDA.” (By the way, an oncologist would have to make the same disclaimer.)

The Research

Many have heard that there is some randomness to getting cancer. A study got quite a bit of publicity when it said the majority of cancer is just “bad luck” (Tomasetti & Vogelstein, 2015). But a careful reading of the study showed they used a very select few tissue samples (31), and it excludes the most common cancers like breast and prostate cancers. The study is too small to generalize their data.

Many highly renowned researchers have already denounced the study. Do not buy into this; it was not generalizable science. Truthfully, there is some bad luck, but not much. The majority of all cancers are preventable. In fact, the heritability of most cancers is between 5 and 10%. That’s why you want to focus on environmental factors.

If you think the “heritability” percentages are WAY too low, consider this…

Girls often (but not always) grow up in the same house as their mother. They eat the same foods, breathe the same air, and get exposed to the same molds, toxins and noise stress. They might use the same cleaning products (bleaches, sprays, toxins, etc.), the same personal care products (creams, hair color, deodorant, toothpaste, etc.) and they can take on similar beliefs and attitudes. In short, females are often immersed in their mom’s environment. This shared and sometimes toxic environment is the real reason why breast cancer has been very tough to prevent and treat, not the heritability factor.

Prevention is the way to go for many reasons. Typical cancer treatments are expensive and often painful. The established treatments of “cut, poison, and burn” or, in more polite lingo, “surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation” are common. The best-selling cancer drugs are Rituxan, Avastin, Herceptin, Gleevec, Celgene, and AbbVie, and all have side effects.

This year, more than 1 million Americans are expected to be diagnosed with cancer, a disease commonly believed to be mostly preventable. As an example, I had a small patch of melanoma removed last year. Too much sun exposure for me; I have been a surfer for over 50 years. It’s hard to surf that long and avoid the sun!

Surprisingly, cancers do arise continuously in your body. Fortunately, through a quite normal process of cell mutation, cells are mostly kept in check through the activity of our immune systems.

Most of us fear cancer, but the contribution of genetic factors and environmental factors towards cancer risk is surprising.  Most cancers (depending on which type) have a shockingly low 2-10% heritability. For example, ladies did you know that the heritability of breast cancer is a shockingly low 1.8% from your mother? The real risk areas are those pesky environmental factors (Anand, et al., 2008). Let us see if we can do some prevention, and see what can be done.

Seven Changes to Save Your Life

1.  Eat more of the foods packed with antioxidants.

Antioxidants include enzymes or other organic substances, such as sunlight, vitamin or food sources that are capable of counteracting the damaging effects of oxidation.

Focus on Superfoods, which reduce damage or repair damage from harmful free radicals. Choose any foods from the following groups. If you dislike five of them, eat the ones you do like. To get any value at all, eat something from these groups 4-5 days a week. Eating these once a month is a joke; you’re kidding yourself if you think your body will make changes from one broccoli serving a month! If you don’t like the taste of certain vegetables, put just a dash of organic honey on them during cooking.

Here is my list of anti-oxidants: sweet potatoes, watermelon, colored berries (like blueberries… frozen is OK), cold water (NOT farm raised) fatty fish (like salmon), colorful vegetables (such as peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, etc.), green tea, olive oil, coffee, dark chocolate (60-65% is best), plain Greek yogurt, mangos and papayas. If you like to eat fish, eat fresh! If you like pork or red meat, eat more from the healthier grass or range-fed animals.

Plus, folic acid is known to reduce cancer risks. That includes the following dark greens (in order): spinach, collard, turnip and mustard greens, broccoli and asparagus, papaya, beans, peas, lentils and avocado (Willett, 2000). When you slowly reduce, and then eliminate the products made by humans (chips, cookies, bread, candies, etc.) and focus on nature-made foods, health often improves.

Cook your foods with oxidation in mind. You’ve heard of “free radicals.” They are mostly bad for you (with some exceptions). For example, free radicals contribute to the heart being able to pump more blood in stress-filled situations. But, too much stress and free radicals are very dangerous for you.

Free radicals play a fundamental role in the development of cancer. When you cook above 320 degrees, the high heat (grilling, frying or smoking) produces carcinogens, damages the protein content and oxidizes fats. Each of these increases body inflammation and bump up free radicals. You just bumped up your chances for cancer. Use high heat sparingly; a couple of times a month may be okay.

2. Put fewer toxic products into (or on) your body.

Please, please, start reading the labels of what you put into your body. The products that absolutely MUST be safe for your body are the ones that you either ingest or put on your skin regularly. I am suggesting that you PAY attention to the ingredients that interact with your body, especially shampoo, conditioner, hair coloring products, deodorant, face cleaning products, soaps and makeup products. One time usage does not put you at risk. But using slightly dangerous products over time is a higher-risk behavior. It’s time to learn about risky ingredients.

For starters, avoid the “Parabens.” They’re a family of chemicals used in various Personal Care products and have long been linked to cancer. They disrupt estrogen function. As an alternative, buy from the companies Arm & Hammer (“Essentials Natural Deodorant”) and Tom’s (“Natural Deodorant” and toothpaste) who both sell healthy products. You’ve just started to lower your risks!

3. Eat less of the “slow-risk” foods.

You won’t die from these this week, but over the long haul, these are terrible. Three of the worst offenders are “the whites.” They are white sugar, white rice, and white bread (all are “high glycemic index” foods). Even wheat bread is nowhere near the product it was 50 years ago. These all raise your blood sugar levels, and you produce extra insulin in the pancreas. An example of a known dietary cancer risk is diabetes (Anand, Nath & Saraswathy, 2014). Change your diet, and you can change your life. I made myself a promise to cut all carbohydrates by 80%, and I feel pretty good every day.

Most products you buy with more than five ingredients are suspect. Any product that has ingredients that you can’t pronounce is suspect. I often get asked, “Don’t you ever eat junk food, like chips?” Sure, but I am careful. I like Fritos corn chips (corn, salt, and oil) and a few other brands of chips are also healthy. Do you think healthier foods are expensive? They are! A better question to ask is, “How much does it cost you to miss just ONE day (or week, or month) of your life?” Stick with the healthier foods.

4. Reduce exposure to risk detection devices.

This caution includes Mammograms (consider taking less often, perhaps every 3-5 years instead of annually, to reduce risk), Prostrate screening (once every 5-7 years), dental X-ray screening (take once every 2-3 years) and airport X-rays (less is better.)

Those who profit from the above exams typically defend all of these tests, but the science is NOT entirely clear on the safety when the tests are used often. That’s why I reduce the amount of radiation in my body as much as possible. When traveling through airports, if I’ve got an extra few moments, they can pat me down. Better to be safe than sorry.

5. Move your body.

Researchers have long linked exercise with lower breast cancer risk for women past menopause, believing it works partly by lowering the estrogen levels. Higher estrogen levels can raise breast cancer risk. If it’s 1-3 floors at a hotel, take the stairs down to the lobby. If you have to park an extra thirty seconds from the store entrance, embrace the walk. At home, I swim or surf six days a week. I get out in the yard to do gardening, and so does my wife, Diane. If you are a member of a gym, work out 3-6 days a week. If you are not a member, find something you love to do, then do it daily. These activity requests are meant to nag you. Your body was designed to move!

6. Talk back to the voice in your head.

Learn to manage your self-talk. If the voice in your head is replaying stressful conversations, redirect it to another more productive conversation. There are many reasons why certain people become stressed or even depressed. Just one of them is their inner conversations that get them worked up into a stressed state.

Most people think of depression as a medical condition or disease. Another point of view is that it’s a symptom that something’s “off” or “wrong” in your life.  When I hear people tell me about the voice in their head that replays stressful conversations or creates new ones, I ask the question, “And who is directing that voice in the head?” You are! Change the conversation to something more inspiring, optimistic and empowering. You are the driver of your bus. You are not a victim of the “inner voice.” If the voice is counter-productive, don’t feed it; redirect it elsewhere.

7.  Get your Vitamin D.

The most common cause of skin cancer is the sun. That statement might sound like a “Duh,” but some medications actually can cause melanoma as a side effect! Read your labels carefully.

There’s no risk of skin cancer at short exposures (15 minutes or less) and a HUGE upside. The Vitamin D helps facilitate healing from illnesses and helps metabolize the potassium and calcium needed for strong bones. So, Vitamin D is good for you. BUT, if you want to stay out longer, do intervals of sun, then shade. It is the continuous sun exposure that stacks up the radiation, not the intervals.

When you use sunscreen, use the lowest number that can work for you. Most people think they’re doing a better protection for themselves by using a higher numbered sunscreen. But the higher the number, the more risk you’re taking with toxic chemicals.

The higher SPF is also a waste of money… Sunscreens with SPF 8 block 87% of UVB rays (the ones that burn your skin). SPF 30 blocks 97%. SPF 100 sunscreens block 99%. In any case, read the ingredients on what you buy.

Most of the 500 most popular sunscreen products may actually increase the speed at which malignant cells develop and spread skin cancer. Consumer Reports Magazine said that only 39 of the 500 products they examined were considered safe and effective to use.

Certain sunscreen ingredients may be potentially carcinogenic or have other health risks (anything with oxybenzone, benzophenone, octocrylene, or octylmethoxycinnamate.) Read the label: Avoid personal care products with retinyl palmitate and oxybenzone.

The product I buy (from Amazon) and use is: Beyond Coastal Active Sunscreen SPF 34. Please do not buy and use cheap products that may increase cancer risk. If you want to save money, save it on something besides your life! Remember, a little sun is good and too much is dangerous.

The Breakthroughs in 2016-17

Cancer breakthroughs are happening continuously. There are now five ways to treat cancer: surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, nutrition (zero sugar + curcumin) and immunotherapy.

Simply put, immunotherapy “activates” certain parts of your immune system to fight disease. According to the American Cancer Society, this is done in two ways:  1)  stimulating your immune system to work harder or smarter to attack cancer cells. Or, 2)  giving your immune system certain components, like man-made immune system proteins, to fight cancer cells. All of the top 10 cancer centers in the U.S. have proton therapy or are now developing a center, which shows they believe in it. Why does no one suggest nutrition? That’s hard to know; my guess is the liability and you can always “follow the money.”

Now, let’s summarize with a few good ideas.

Focus on the “Big 3” factors. You must keep 1) oxidative stress, 2) inflammation, and 3) endocrine imbalance under control. These are three of the primary risk factors for cancer and other diseases. Here is how to solve the problem.

Stop sugar intake! Cancer cells often revert to a state in which they can eat only sugar. Start your “beat cancer” diet with no carbohydrates. That means no sugar and no starch. Eat meats (ideally, grass fed/range raised, including nutrient-dense organ meats), fish, eggs, non-starchy vegetables (not corn) and plenty of healthful added fats such as quality olive oil, coconut oil, and butter from grass-fed cows. If you have an oncologist, ask for 3-bromopyruvate, known as 3BP, since it can slam doors on sugar’s entry into cancerous cells.

Take curcumin…daily. Turmeric’s active compound is a yellow spice, called curcumin. This spice is commonly used in Indian foods. I typed the two keywords into the National Science database (cancer, curcumin) and got over 3,800 peer reviewed scientific studies. Curcumin may be a viable option for preventing or reducing cancer effects. We still need better studies before we scream from the rooftops. Yet, there are no nasty side effects or immune suppression.

In one recent study, two researchers concluded, “Curcumin can selectively modulate multiple cell signaling pathways linked to inflammation and to the survival, growth, invasion, angiogenesis, and metastasis of cancer cells.” (Hasima & Aggarwal, 2016).  Studies have shown that curcumin even kills cancer stem cells, the “mother” cells that control the growth and spread of cancer cell colonies. You can buy curcumin capsules in most drug stores and supermarkets. I buy mine from Amazon (VitaLabs as Curcumin C3 Complex).

Plant Therapy. Annona Muricata (also known as Soursop, Graviola, and guanabana), is an amazing evergreen plant found in tropical and subtropical climates. Multiple studies have substantiated its effects as being anticancer, anticonvulsant, anti-arthritic, antiparasitic, hepatoprotective and antidiabetic. This fruit extract may be purchased from Amazon as Biotech Nutritions Graviola. Paul J, Gnanam R, Jayadeepa RM, Arul L. (2013), Antony P, Vijayan R. (2016), Moghadamtousi SZ, Fadaeinasab M, Nikzad S, Mohan G, Ali HM, Kadir HA. (2015)


Today, doctors can use an analysis of the genetic characteristics of the specific cancer that is present in the patient and use the patient’s genome to customize an individualized treatment. This engineers the patient’s own immune response so that it specifically targets the cancer that has attacked him/her. Today, that procedure is slow, expensive and not guaranteed. But, it is promising.

Cancer prevention requires serious lifestyle commitments to healthy living. Those changes include smoking cessation, increased ingestion of fruits and vegetables, moderate-low use of alcohol, caloric restriction, sufficient exercise, avoidance of over-exposure to sunlight, minimal meat consumption, use of whole grains, and use of vaccinations, getting sufficient Vitamin D, avoiding toxic personal care products, cutting the sugar, use of curcumin, Graviola, and getting regular check-ups with fewer radiation doses.

Do you think those suggestions are too expensive? How much would having cancer cost you? Do you think exercise, eating better and Vitamin D takes up too much time? If you get cancer, how much of your time is left in this life?

Practical Application 

While some of the suggestions above may not be new, every one of them is backed by solid science. I generally enjoy good health and never, ever take it for granted. I have the immune system of one much younger than myself. Why? What you see on the list above, are things that I also pay attention to, and I actually do most of the “preventions” every day.

I take 60-80 flights a year, but travel does not make anyone sick; a weak immune system does. I work extra hard to manage my health and I constantly work to maintain my immune system. The plan is working so far; I’ve been sick maybe two or three days in ten years.


I follow the suggestions that I make; it’s my life hanging in the balance. Even if you only made one change a month or even one per year, you’ll move yourself to greater health. Tell me your new health change for this year, please.

Your partner in learning,

Eric Jensen
CEO, Jensen Learning
Brain-Based Education

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