A study I reported on a few weeks ago post posed an intriguing question: Would you rather bet your life on science discovering a cure for cancer or bet on yourself preventing cancer in the first place?
Now we love to gamble. Casinos, lotteries, March Madness pools. But when comes to battling cancer, wagering our lives on science and not on ourselves is a bad gamble, according to the Harvard study.
Researchers found that about half the cancer deaths in America could be prevented or forestalled if we do just four things: Quit smoking, reduce drinking, maintain a healthy weight, and exercise at least 150 minutes a week.
Before we take a look at the science most of us are betting on, let’s take a closer look at the lifestyle proposals.
Smoking. Just 17% of Americans smoke, but that’s still 40 million people. And about 20% of us have a history of smoking.
Drinking. The study says women who consume an average of more than one drink a day, and men who consume two drinks a day, are living what it calls “an unhealthy lifestyle.” Under that criteria, 20% of us drink too much.
Weight. 38% of Americans are obese, and 33% are overweight. Nuff said.
Exercise. Experts say we need at minimum two-and-half hours of aerobic physical and muscle strengthening activity each week. About 20% of us meet that guideline. And about 20% of us say we didn’t exercise at all during the past month.
So the vast majority of Americans are saying: “When it comes to cancer, we’ll bet our lives on medical breakthroughs to save us from our unhealthy ways.”
The scientific battle against cancer has on going on for years. Let’s take one example. Over the past 40 years, the National Cancer Institute has spent 90 billion dollars on cancer treatment and research. Earlier this year, President Obama announced a one billion dollar program to conquer cancer. Meanwhile, countless cancer researchers, institutes, universities, and charitable organizations are seeking a cure.
Now progress has been made. Recent improvements in cancer therapy have saved more than a million lives, according to researchers. But we could save 300-thousand lives a year by adjusting our lifestyles, according to the Harvard study.
One prominent cancer researcher put it this way: “We need to avoid…thoughts that… new medical gains are needed to make gains against cancer. We must embrace the opportunity to reduce the collective cancer toll by… changing the way we live.”