Learn, implement ‘four Ps’

Since October is breast cancer awareness month, I encourage women and men to see their health-care providers to seek appropriate cancer screening. If you have not had a physical in a year or more, take time to schedule one today. Talk with your physician to determine what cancer screening methods are appropriate for you based on your age and how recently you’ve had the screening.

A cancer screening can save your life. I received a touching e-mail from a younger first cousin this week. She announced that Oct. 10 was her three-year anniversary of being diagnosed with breast cancer. A routine mammogram found the cancer. She went through surgery and chemotherapy, and three years later is urging that all women have mammograms. Her e-mail was not limited to women, as she reminded men that they too can develop breast cancer.

Just the word “cancer” can stir up feelings, most frequently fear. There are things you can do to decrease your risk of developing cancer.

Cancer experts have come up with a simple way to help us remember what we can do to reduce our risk for cancer. They call it the four Ps of cancer prevention.

The first P stands for a plant-based diet made up mostly of vegetables, fruits and whole grains.

The second P is to control portions so you can achieve a healthy weight.

The third P is to be as physically active as possible.

The fourth P is to think practically, so you can make these changes a permanent part of your life.

Cancer experts believe 20 percent of cancers could be prevented if we ate five or more servings of vegetables and fruits a day.

The National Cancer Institute advocates five servings for children, seven for women and nine for men. This does not mean that you need to become a vegetarian. It just means that meat, poultry and fish should not be the focus of the meal.

After all, our daily need for protein is no more than 5-6 ounces. At least half of our breads and cereals should be whole grains. The plant-based diet is typically lower in fat and calories, so this will help in controlling your weight.

The plant-based diet is high in substances such as phytochemicals, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber that may be protective. There are more than 100 of these different substances just in one fruit or vegetable, and all of them seem to be important.

Try to eat foods that are minimally processed. Select fruits and vegetables that are deep in color. Include cruciferous vegetables from the cabbage family, as they also may have a protective factor.

Portion control is important, because overeating can cause us to become overweight or obese.

Being overweight increases the risk of colon cancer for men and women and breast cancer for women who have gone through menopause. It seems to contribute to cancer of the pancreas, kidney, prostate and lining of the uterus.

If a person is overweight, a loss of just 10-20 pounds could reduce the risk for getting one of these cancers.

Physical activity appears to reduce your risk of cancers of the colon, breast and lungs. If physical activity also helps you to lose weight, it also can reduce risk for those cancers associated with being overweight or obese.

Physical activity doesn’t have to be structured, like walking on a treadmill. It also includes gardening, raking the yard and window shopping at the mall — it means just getting active, so you sit less and move more.

The American Cancer Society recommends a minimum of 30 minutes of activity five or more days a week. Its recommendation states that 45 minutes or more may be better.

Cancer prevention, like weight control, benefits from well-planned changes that are done over time with support of your family and friends. Practical thinking involves planning the changes you need to make and realizing that these changes may take some time. Soon it will become second nature and you will start feeling healthier and more energetic.

Jan Baggarly is Bibb County Extension coordinator with the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension working in the field of Family and Consumer Sciences.