Healthy summer


It’s hard not to sound shamey, blamey and preachy — three of the lesser-known Dwarves — when you talk about cancer prevention. So many of the culprits that public health researchers point to are baked into our behaviors.

Red meat and starchy potatoes at our meals? A little sunbathing come summer? White chocolate mocha Frappuccino? Surely, that can’t be all that bad, can it? In moderation, no. In excess — absolutely.

But scientists aren’t trying to make you feel guilty when they tell you to drop a few pounds or skip that second martini. They’re just sharing the data. Disease prevention hinges on data gathered through good science.

And here at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, we’re all about the good science. Our epidemiologists have spent decades studying the exposures that increase our risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. They’ve painstakingly sifted through data to understand what drives disease and what cuts it off at the knees. Even better, they’re developing tools to help people kick the habits that harm health.

Sure, disease is sometimes driven by a wonky bit of inherited DNA (thanks, Mom and Dad!) or some biological misfiring we’ve yet to fully understand, but it’s also true that a lot of it is brought about by our exposures, our behaviors and, yes, our choices (and you bet that gets complicated when a choice is dictated by addiction, as with smoking).

Choose mindfully and you can substantially curb your risk for those four horsemen of poor health — cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity.

And that can feel pretty darn empowering. As in cutting cancer risk by 30 to 50 percent empowering, per the latest World Cancer Research Fund report. And the stuff that kicks cancer risk to the curb usually helps fend off the other diseases, as well.

Want to make this your healthiest summer yet? Empower yourself — and your loved ones — with some disease-squelching science and practical prevention tips from our public health researchers.

THINK GREEN (AND RED AND ORANGE AND YELLOW)!

Shoot for 9 daily servings of fruits and vegetables

Eat them raw or cooked

All kinds and all colors

Make veggies the star of the meal

Feast on fruits and vegetables

These colorful cancer fighters are everywhere during summer — and that bounty usually means prices are lower, too. Hit the local farmers market and stock up on all kinds and all colors.

Those that are richest in hue — like kale, spinach, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes and peppers — contain vitamin A, which can help keep cells healthy.

And fruits, such as berries and vitamin-C-rich oranges, grapefruit and kiwi are not only great for breakfast, snacks and dessert, they contain important cancer-fighting phytonutrients, as well.

Want to kick the legs out from underneath chronic illnesses like cancer and cardiovascular disease? Make vegetables, not meat, the center of most meals: they fill you up and can literally cut risk for some cancers, like prostate, nearly in half. Eat them raw, throw a bunch on the backyard grill, or make a soup and freeze it for fall.

Hutch epidemiologist Dr. Holly Harris said she tries to get her kids involved when making her summer selections. “We like to go to farmers markets and find that our kids are more likely to eat vegetables that they’ve picked out themselves.”