Fighting Cancer: Minimize your risk with the Four Pillars of Modern Wellness

Cancer remains one of the leading causes of death worldwide—particularly in developed countries, where higher life expectancies give cancers more time to develop. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, in 2018 there were 18.1 million new cancer cases and 9.5 million cancer-related deaths worldwide. The agency expects the incidence rate to increase to 29.5 million by 2040, and the number of cancer-related deaths to 16.4 million.

Despite the increase in cases, did you know that the mortality rate is going down for most cancers? In fact, according to the American Cancer Society’s most recent annual report, Cancer Statistics 2023, the overall cancer mortality rate has declined 33% since peaking in 1991. So the bottom line is:

If you’re healthy enough to live a long time, you’re still relatively likely to develop cancer; yet you’re also more likely than in the past to survive it.

While this is good news, prevention is clearly preferable. Not only does cancer take a toll on your body, but the treatment itself can also be daunting—surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or some combination of all three. Prevention is clearly preferable. Fortunately, if you practice my Four Pillars of Modern Wellness, you’re well on your way to minimizing your cancer risk.

The Four Pillars of Modern Wellness summarize my basic prescription for living a long and healthy life in an age of constant stress, or what I call Cultural Stress. Think of them as your blueprint for not only a lifetime of beautiful skin, but also for preventing cancer. Here they are:

Pillar #1: Nourish your skin.

Skin is literally your body’s first line of defense against a potentially hazardous environment. In addition to “keeping you all together,” skin provides a protective barrier against dehydration, infection, and a host of environmental agents—from the seemingly benign, like sunlight, to the harshest, like cancer-causing chemicals. So, when you nourish your skin, you’re also preventing cancer—especially skin cancer, which will affect some 3.3 million Americans this year. Preventing skin cancer also means preventing its most deadly form—melanoma—which has increased by over 30 percent in the past decade (2012-22).

How do you nourish your skin? Part of the prescription is topical: you keep it clean, hydrated, and protected from the sun. That means you moisturize and wear sunscreen daily.

The second part of the prescription is internal. You nourish your skin from the inside.

Pillars #2: Eat your water.

Just as in a defensive military line, your skin depends on reinforcements from behind. What you feed your body in the way of healthy, moisture-rich foods, is the number-one way of reinforcing your skin’s protective barrier from the inside. “Eat your water” is my shorthand way of remembering this. After all, water is necessary to cell health: the human body is 50-65% water! Moreover, the common thread in all theories about why our bodies break down as we age is loss of hydration. The average adult is composed of around 57-60% water, but infants’ water percentage is much higher—typically 75-78%!

Eating your water—rather than drinking it—is vital because water you drink tends to run right through you as urine. However, when you eat water-rich foods—such as fresh fruits and vegetables, which are about 80% water—your body has time to absorb the water, along with the other healthy ingredients, such as antioxidants, phytonutrients, and the vitamins and minerals that fresh produce contains. A healthy diet boosts your immune system, which includes cancer-fighting T-cells. ALSO, certain foods—like pomegranate and watermelon—protect your skin from sunburn from the inside!

Pillar #3: Awaken your body.

The Third Pillar of Modern Wellness is to “awaken your body,” which means to move! And, best of all, to move in a way that excites and inspires YOU. Movement is not only healthy—getting the heart and lungs pumping, the blood flowing, and activating your other organs—it also builds muscle. And because muscle is 70% water (whereas fat is only about 10% water), building muscle also helps you maintain hydration—which means helping your skin maintain its barrier function. Exercise is also a great stress reducer—stimulating the production of endorphins, the “feel good” hormones, and getting us out of our heads, where worry is generated, and into our bodies.

This brings us to Pillar #4, which, though last, is by no means least.

Pillar #4: Be kind to your mind.

In other words, manage your stress. In terms of cancer prevention, stress relief and stress reduction may be just as significant as stopping smoking and limiting exposure to other environmental toxins. That’s because chronic stress leads to chronic inflammation—which damages DNA and can flip the epigenetic switches that enable cancers to flourish. According to an article in the leading science journal, Nature, “overall, CNS-initiated stress responses may lead to exacerbated tumor growth and spread, and to peripheral stress–inflammatory–cytokine responses, which feed back to the CNS, altering cognition and mood, and facilitating stress responses, creating a vicious cycle.”

In other words, managing stress is not just good for you in the moment, it can prevent the physiological changes that lead to cancer in the future. AND, it’s good for your skin—reducing the likelihood and severity of a variety of skin conditions, from acne to eczema to wrinkles.

So, this February, in honor of Cancer Prevention Month, do your skin and yourself a favor and practice the Four Pillars of Modern Wellness. Along with recommended cancer screenings, including skin checks, Pap tests, mammograms, colon cancer screenings, and PSA tests, they deliver a four-pronged strategy for preventing cancer and optimizing wellness.

To your health!

DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this site is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider, who should also be consulted with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.


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