NYACK, N.Y. -- What causes cancer? Is there something I can do to prevent it? What happens if I'm diagnosed? Dr. Sung Ho Lee of Hematology/Oncology Associates of Rockland answers these and other common questions in honor of February's World Cancer Day.
What lifestyle changes can lower cancer risk?
Despite the widely held belief that cancer is largely a hereditary condition, only five to ten percent of cancers are inherited. "Smoking cigarettes and excessive exposure to direct sunlight are well-known cancer risk factors, but there are many others we can avoid to reduce our risk of cancer," said Lee.
Developing a healthy diet can reduce your cancer risk greatly. "Eat in moderation, with a diet rich in vegetables, fruits and fiber," said Lee. "Limit processed foods that contain chemicals and additives, especially processed meat products which have been recently designated as carcinogens by the World Health Organization." These can include bacon and sausage.
Secondly, maintaining healthy body weight can also reduce risk of cancer. "It is well known that excess weight can cause an increase in circulating estrogen and insulin, which can stimulate cancer growth," said Lee.
What easy cancer screenings are important?
"Pap smears, mammograms and colonoscopies have been proven to be cost-effective in detecting cancer at an earlier stage, and produce higher rates of cure," said Lee. Since screening measures differ by age group, it is important to discuss methods with a physician to receive age-appropriate screening.
What are some myths and misconceptions about cancer?
"Many people often think of a cancer diagnosis as a death sentence. But in fact many cancers are considered curable, and many otherwise incurable cancers can be managed successfully with only a small impact on quality of life, so that it becomes like a chronic illness," said Lee.
Another myth that persists is that the use of many everyday items can cause cancer. "Some people believe that certain products ranging from deodorants to hair dye to cell phones can cause cancer, but there is no solid scientific evidence linking these environmental exposures to cancer," said Lee.
What advice would you give to someone who has been diagnosed with cancer?
Like dealing with any medical diagnosis, knowledge is key when fighting cancer. "It can be difficult to find the correct information amongst the myriad of misinformation flooding the internet," said Lee. "It's of utmost importance to speak to a knowledgeable medical oncologist and explore treatment options before jumping to conclusions based on information found online."
To learn more about Dr. Sung Ho Lee and the cancer services provided at Highland Medical Group, click here.