World Cancer Day: Connecting Global Action to Personal Stories

Since 2000, World Cancer Day has been an annual occasion for us to reflect on current progress and future action needed for cancer prevention, detection and treatment. World Cancer Day 2014 statistics show that people who engage in risky but modifiable lifestyle Vivica Kraak_Deakin photo_2013behaviors — smoking, unhealthy alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, and a poor diet — will be among the 25 million new annual cases.

Each one of these new cancer cases and cancer deaths has a personal story attached to it. Here is why this year’s World Cancer Day has special relevance and how cancer has affected my life.

In May 2013, representatives of 194 countries at the 66th World Health Assembly in Geneva approved a landmark resolution to reduce non-communicable diseases (NCDs) by 25 percent by 2025. NCDs, which include cancers, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes, are illnesses that are non-infectious, chronic and slow to progress.

The World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) Global Action Plan 2013-2020 encourages collaborative partnerships among government agencies, public-interest groups and the private sector to reach this ambitious outcome. Country representatives committed to track and report their progress — using 9 goals and 25 indicators — to create healthy food environments, promote physical activity and strengthen health systems. Continue reading

Reflections about Nutrition on World Cancer Day

We don’t need special foods for cancer prevention.WCD_Logo_RGB_2012

Buckminster Fuller was a true genius of our times, but he nearly killed himself with a special diet. He reasoned that because mankind was at the top of the evolutionary ladder he should also be at the top of the food chain, so for several weeks he ate only meat. After his collapse and hospitalization for kidney failure he decided he might be wrong about that. Because Steve Jobs occasionally purged himself by eating only fruit, and was a creative and successful man before he succumbed to pancreatic cancer, the actor Ashton Kutcher reasoned that a fruit-only diet might be a good idea. After his recent hospitalization for pancreatitis caused by that diet, I suspect he is now re-thinking that idea too.

I am an epidemiologist with a particular interest in studying how nutrition affects one’s risk of getting cancer. Over the past 30 years I have many times been struck by the constant parade of ideas about how cancer risk might be reduced by eating special foods, by taking special supplements, or by adopting particular cuisines.

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