Health Column: Reducing your risk of lung cancer

11/23/2010 9:31 PM |

The following column is provided by The American Institute for Cancer Research.

Q: Are there steps that can reduce lung cancer risk in nonsmokers?
A: Tobacco is unquestionably the major cause of lung cancer, accounting for nearly nine out of 10 deaths from lung cancer. Yet that still leaves thousands of cases we wish we could prevent. Passive smoking, technically referred to as Environmental Tobacco Smoke, accounts for 3,000 deaths from lung cancer among nonsmokers in the United States each year according to a National Cancer Institute report. Making homes and workplaces nonsmoking territory is a major step to lower risk. It’s also important to follow recommended precautions to avoid radon, airborne asbestos and occupational exposure to other chemicals identified as carcinogens. Diet plays some role, too, though we need more research.
Increased amounts and variety of vegetables and fruits show the greatest potential for protection so far. Recently, a large population study in Europe linked greater variety of vegetable and fruit consumption with nearly a 25 percent drop in lung cancer risk; however, this was only significant among current smokers. An American Institute for Cancer Research report concludes that fruits and foods containing carotenoids — vegetables and fruits that are deep orange or dark green — probably help prevent lung cancer. Others include vegetables like broccoli, brussels sprouts and cauliflower, spinach and kale, and fruits and vegetables providing antioxidant flavonoid compounds may also work together to increase protection. Regular physical activity might help prevent lung cancer, in addition to its clearly beneficial effect on the risk of several other cancers.

Q:  Would Pilates exercises be an effective way to get rid of my belly fat?
A: Pilates-type exercises focus on strengthening the abdominal and back muscles. They also improve flexibility and joint mobility and build strength. Primarily using one’s own body weight as resistance, participants are put through a series of progressive, range-of-motion exercises, which also include attention to the mind/body connection. Adherents say Pilates can help you develop long, strong muscles, a flat stomach, a strong back and improved posture. But this doesn’t take care of the problem of layers of fat on top of those muscles. If you have an unhealthy amount of fat there, you probably need to change the calorie balance in your diet. Take a look at your eating habits to see where you might be eating or drinking a couple hundred extra calories a day. Also, since Pilates-type exercises are generally done just two days a week, look for other types of exercise to do on the other days for overall health and to burn off some of that excess body fat you’ve stored.

Karen Collins is a registered dietician and certified nutritionist with The American Institute for Cancer Research, a cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk.