How Do You End Illness?

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Washington

What do high heels, over-the-counter supplements and getting a dog have in common?

Dr. David B. Agus, M.D. discusses all these topics in relation to cancer in his book, The End of Illness.

What Do High Heels Have to Do with Cancer?

Like Dr. David Servan-Schreiber, M.D. in Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Life, reviewed a few weeks ago in the post, What Does What You Eat Have to Do with Cancer?, Dr. Agus, also a cancer doctor, believes inflammation plays a large part in the onset and recurrence of cancer.

Once diagnosed with cancer, patients should do what they can to reduce sources of inflammation.

Wearing high heels constricts blood flow. Dr. Agus recommends wearing comfortable shoes.

Why Should I Get a Dog?

The underlying recommendation from Dr. Agus is to put your life on a routine.

Taking care of a dog that has to be walked several times a day not only has the advantage of getting you outside in the fresh air, where you can absorb Vitamin D naturally from the sun, but ensures that you will also be out walking often.

Dr. Agus recommends eating at the same time every day, exercising at the same time, and going to bed at the same time every night.

His explanation is that when you disrupt your schedule, your body is stressed trying to compensate, in an effort to even out levels of the nutrients it needs.

Can’t I Just Take Vitamin D Supplements?

Dr. Agus’ research suggests that only in those few cases where you actually have low levels of vitamins in your diet are vitamin supplements necessary or advisable.

British sailors had scurvy from a lack of Vitamin C before their Navy started stocking limes and oranges on board ships.

In the early 1900s, American children who had moved from the countryside to work in city factories had rickets, from a lack of sunlight. As a result, Vitamin D was added to milk and orange juice.

Virtually no Americans today have any vitamin deficiencies.

And, studies of supplements conclude that they do not successfully substitute for the naturally occurring vitamins in fruits and vegetables.

Still, in 2002, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) recommended that all adults take one multivitamin a day.

In 2009, The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, after following 10,000 post-menopausal women for ten years, reported that multivitamins, regardless of eating habits, did not prevent death from cancer, heart disease or all causes of death.

Dr. Agus stopped taking multivitamins when he did this research.

In fact, the doctor who co-wrote the JAMA article in 2002 recommending that every American take multivitamins, Kathleen Fairfield, M.D., associate chief of medicine at Maine Medical Center, has since stopped taking them herself for the same reason.

Research not only does not turn up a need for them, but in some cases, taking supplements beyond what is needed stops your body from manufacturing them naturally.

What About Genetics?

Dr. Agus, a professor of medicine and engineering at the University of Southern California, heads USC’s Westside Cancer Center.

He is also the cofounder of two personalized medicine companies, Navigenics and Applied Proeomics.

Not only does he include in this book his own genetic profile, but, he includes a number of pie charts that show how much influence genetics versus the environment have on getting a number of different types of cancer.

Breast cancer, for instance, is 73% due to genetic factors and only 27% environment.

Colon cancer, by contrast, is only 35% genetic factors and 65% environmental factors.

Lung cancer is 14% genetic and 86% environment. Melanoma is 21% genetic and 79% environmental.

Stomach cancer, cases of which have dropped as much as 20% for men worldwide between 1995 and 2005 with increased access to refrigeration and fresh fruits and vegetables, is 28% due to genetic factors and 72% due to environmental factors.

By contrast, for example, glaucoma is 87% genetic and 13% environmental.

In this case, by environment, Dr. Agus means your ability to influence what happens in your body, not just outside forces.

And, that is where his optimism comes in.

Yes, genetics play a role, the hand we are dealt.

But, that does not mean we can’t change the outcome by focusing on the environment we do have control over – our own bodies.

Focusing on altering your environment is especially important if you know you have a genetic predisposition to a condition.

Dr. Agus, for example, found from his genetic profile that he has a predispostion to cardiovascular disease, so he introduced more exercise into his daily routine.

Is Sitting All Day Really As Bad as Smoking?

Where Dr. Servan-Schreiber emphasized the importance of eating the right foods, Dr. Agus focuses on the importance of exercise.

According to a 2009 British Journal of Sports Medicine article, being sedentary and out-of-shape causes more deaths than obesity, high cholesterol and smoking.

Agus suggests keeping a pair of 2.5 pound weights near your desk or couch, standing on one foot and lifting the weights in 20 bicep curls whenever you are talking on the phone.

Whether you prefer a gym workout, dancing, exercise videos or walking with friends, the important thing is to do something physical up to an hour a day, and throughout the day, even on weekends.

What Is A Family Health Tree?

Since genetics do play a part in a person’s risk for certain diseases, it can be helpful to document how many and which people in your family have had those conditions.

Cancer has a genetic component, as does Alzheimer’s, obesity and multiple sclerosis.

Dr. Agus suggests including environmental factors in the family health tree that may further affect inherited risk, such as smoking, alcoholism or asbestos exposure.

The American Heart Association (AHA) has a Family Health Tree for Kids. Though it focuses on heart-related conditions such as stroke and diabetes, it could easily be used to track incidents of cancer in a family.

Click here to go to the AHA site where you can download a free pdf of My Family Health Tree for kids .

Have you ever filled out a Family Health Tree with your grandchildren?

Do you have any pets?

Have you ever wondered about your genetic makeup?

To you and the continued good health of your grandchildren.

Click here to order this blog for your Kindle for continued advice about keeping your grandchildren healthy.

Click here to order the book discussed in this post, The End of Illness

Carol Covin, Granny-Guru

Click here to order my book, affectionate, candid advice from mothers to grandmothers and grandmothers to mothers about parenting and grandparenting, “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers.”


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