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The Answer to Cancer    by Carolyn D. Runowicz, Sheldon H. Cherry & Dianne Partie Lange order for
Answer to Cancer
by Carolyn D. Runowicz
Order:  USA  Can
Rodale, 2004 (2004)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Despite the catchy title, this book provides less of an answer to cancer than an overview of the current state of research, with strong advocacy for proactive, preventive action. In their Introduction, the authors tell us why cancer scares us - a leading cause of death in mid-life, it comes without warning, treatments are harsh, and its 'risk factors seem to be everywhere'.

A 'Cancer Primer', quotes Dr. H. Robert Horvitz, who describes 'cancer as a change in the equilibrium between cell division or growth and cell death.' It introduces four fundamental characteristics of the diverse variety of cancers, and tells us that only 10-15% of cancers are familial. An overview of risk factors and screening techniques leads into a major focus on prevention. The risk reduction list covers the usual (with clear explanations) - stop smoking, watch your weight, eat a healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables, drink alcohol moderately, exercise regularly, protect yourself from the sun, indulge in safe sex, avoid excessive X-rays, and protect against job-related hazards.

The authors introduce us to 'Chemoprevention', which emerged as a field of cancer research in the 70s, and 'involves using a natural or synthetic substance - a nutrient or drug - to keep cancer at bay or to derail the disease process before cancer becomes invasive.' They call it 'the next frontier in cancer research', with 400 compounds under study today. The book introduces five classes of chemopreventives, including retinoids, tamoxifen, finasteride and calcium. The breakthrough development of a vaccine versus cervical cancer is mentioned.

The next third of the book details recommendations on 'self-care' against nine common cancers - Melanoma, Prostate, Breast, Lung, Colorectal, Ovarian, Pancreatic, Cervical and Oral. Topics covered for each cancer include risk factors, causes, screening, preventive strategies, chemoprevention, and a 'What You Can Do Now' summary on proactive care. The final section, which compares the state of cancer prevention now to heart disease prevention two decades ago, focuses on 'Your Cancer Prevention Plan'. For each risk reduction area, the authors give very specific advice on how to go about developing new and healthier habits. They conclude with a chapter on the importance of appropriate screening tests.

The epilogue has perhaps the book's most important advice ... 'While many exciting breakthroughs lie ahead, you don't need to wait for them to take action.' If you are concerned about this disease for yourself, a friend or a family member, The Answer to Cancer can help anyone to make smarter short-term choices to increase the probability of better long-term health.

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