15. PTC Cancer Life Phases: Prevention
Updated: 2/29/2020 JMG
Prevention is clearly the best option when it comes to post-transplant cancer (PTC). Start here for an education in both text and video about preventative things you can do to avoid cancer or at least minimize the higher risks associated with our post-transplant lives given cancer friendly medications we take to stay alive.
Be sure to check out the recommended actions and associated links below for more resources and interesting research articles. There's even a link to a month planner resource to support your cancer prevention efforts.
(Note: While there seems to be mostly skin cancer prevention materials here, that's because its the most common post-transplant cancer we experience. Be assured there's more content and videos to come, but here's an important and easy place to start...)
Needless to say, the best treatment is to prevent post-transplant cancers in the first place. The advice of your transpant team in this regard is your first source, so ask, ask and then ask again!
Can Cancer Be Prevented?
Cancer can take years, or even decades to develop, yet many people believe that getting cancer is due to genes, fate or bad luck. But scientific research shows that our cancer risk depends on a combination of our genes, our lifestyle and our environment – things we can and cannot control. So, when we talk about cancer prevention, we focus on the areas we can control and how we can lower our risk. This is important: there are things you can do today that can help to prevent, delay, or even stop the cancer process at all stages of life.
Reduce your risk for skin cancer
Protection from ultraviolet (UV) radiation is important all year round, not just during the summer or at the beach. UV rays from the sun can reach you on cloudy and hazy days, as well as bright and sunny days. UV rays raise also reflect off of surfaces like water, cement, sand and snow
The CDC recommends easy options for protection from UV radiation:
- Stay in the shade, especially during the midday hours
- Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs
- Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade your face, head, ears and neck
- Wear sunglasses that wrap around block both UVA and UVB rays
- Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher, and both UVA and UVB broad spectrum) protection
- Avoid indoor tanning
Why Is Prevention Important?
Prevention is more important than ever. In the U.S., 1 in 4 people will develop cancer at some point in their lives. A cancer diagnosis can be devastating for patients and their families. The physical and emotional distress may be a compelling enough reason to help individuals lower their cancer risk. But we also know that rates of cancer are increasing in the United States, which translates to a growing burden in terms of treatment and costs for care. By preventing cancer, the number of new cases will be lowered and reduce the burden that cancer places on the population.
How Many Cancers Could Be Prevented
Around 40 percent of cancer cases are preventable, which means that 694,000 cases of cancer could be prevented in the U.S. every year by reducing our exposure to the cancer risk factors that we can control – including diet, weight and physical inactivity.
Start with the most common post-transplant cancer
For the most common forms of PTC's, ie., skin cancers, especially with the increased sensitivity of the skin as a side effect of our meds, staying out of the sun is paramont. But then who can really do that with our active life styles? The use of shade inducing hats and the abundant use of high level sunscreens is equally important. As one of our PTC faculty members puts it, "If they aren't making fun of your hat, it isn't large enough yet!" (Thanks Chris Miller, for that funny yet sage advice.)
The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes. Follow these recommendations to help protect yourself and your family.
You can reduce your risk of skin damage and skin cancer by seeking shade under an umbrella, tree, or other shelter before you need relief from the sun. Your best bet to protect your skin is to use sunscreen or wear protective clothing when you’re outside—even when you’re in the shade.
When possible, long-sleeved shirts and long pants and skirts can provide protection from UV rays. Clothes made from tightly woven fabric offer the best protection. A wet T-shirt offers much less UV protection than a dry one, and darker colors may offer more protection than lighter colors. Some clothing certified under international standards comes with information on its ultraviolet protection factor.
If wearing this type of clothing isn’t practical, at least try to wear a T-shirt or a beach cover-up. Keep in mind that a typical T-shirt has an SPF rating lower than 15, so use other types of protection as well.
For the most protection, wear a hat with a brim all the way around that shades your face, ears, and the back of your neck. A tightly woven fabric, such as canvas, works best to protect your skin from UV rays. Avoid straw hats with holes that let sunlight through. A darker hat may offer more UV protection.
If you wear a baseball cap, you should also protect your ears and the back of your neck by wearing clothing that covers those areas, using a broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15, or by staying in the shade.
Sunglasses protect your eyes from UV rays and reduce the risk of cataracts. They also protect the tender skin around your eyes from sun exposure.
Sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays offer the best protection. Most sunglasses sold in the United States, regardless of cost, meet this standard. Wrap-around sunglasses work best because they block UV rays from sneaking in from the side.
Put on broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15 before you go outside, even on slightly cloudy or cool days. Don’t forget to put a thick layer on all parts of exposed skin. Get help for hard-to-reach places like your back. And remember, sunscreen works best when combined with other options to prevent UV damage.
How sunscreen works. Most sunscreen products work by absorbing, reflecting, or scattering sunlight. They contain chemicals that interact with the skin to protect it from UV rays. All products do not have the same ingredients; if your skin reacts badly to one product, try another one or call a doctor.
SPF. Sunscreens are assigned a sun protection factor (SPF) number that rates their effectiveness in blocking UV rays. Higher numbers indicate more protection. You should use a broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15.
Reapplication. Sunscreen wears off. Put it on again if you stay out in the sun for more than two hours and after swimming, sweating, or toweling off.
Expiration date. Check the sunscreen’s expiration date. Sunscreen without an expiration date has a shelf life of no more than three years, but its shelf life is shorter if it has been exposed to high temperatures.
Cosmetics. Some makeup and lip balms contain some of the same chemicals used in sunscreens. If they do not have at least SPF 15, don’t use them by themselves.
In general, the best prevention of all kinds of cancers involves proper exercise and diet. Once initial transplant recovery is achieved, most find renewed energy and passion for those two areas of our lives, but lifetime discipline in those is another challenge. Setting goals and tracking/celebrating achievements is a good practice for long-term committments and success.
Another simple practice may be the taking of a daily dose of aspirin. Check out the TIME article,
"Should you take aspirin every day? Here's what science says..."
Liver cancer: Can You Prevent It?
No, but you can lower your chances of getting liver cancer:
- Get the hepatitis B vaccine.
- Stay a healthy weight through the food you eat and exercise.
- Limit the amount of alcohol you drink: up to one a day for women, two for men.
- Don’t use intravenous (IV) drugs -- if you do, use clean needles.
- Get tattoos and piercings only at safe, clean shops.
- Practice safe sex.
Armed with knowledge, you are ready to take next steps with these actions . . .
- continue your reading here on the TRIO PTC web site, walking through the remaining LIVE topics of DIAGNOSIS, TREATMENT and LONG TERM RECOVERY to round out your knowledge of this important education using the links below
- need inspiration? Watch the PATIENT CANCER SURVIVAL testimonials in the LINKS secction of this site (if you are willing to add your own PTC survival story, write to info@TRIOweb.org with contact information)
- Review the 10 Best Practices offered in the LINKS section and build your own life plan with those that apply to your life (do you have additional 'best practices' you would like to suggest be added, go to the BLOG from the LINKS section and make a contribution to that topic - we may even add yours to our list!)
- Go to the BLOG section under LINKS and review the topics there to see if you find one of interest to you. Add your own comments to that topic if you can, to help others with similar interest.
- Check out the research article links below for more insights
- download the 30 Day Cancer Prevention Planner to help with your own daily habit development
- read: Reduce Your Cancer Risk with Physical Activity
- read: Cut unhealthy behaviors to reduce cancer mortality by one third
- read: 10 Cancer Prevention Recommendations
See the easy to use next step links below . . .