Many cancer survivors are highly motivated about health issues.They read widely, ask informed questions and are eager to make healthy changes. Survivor research, however, is still in its early stages. Dependable, science-based advice can be hard to come by.
Many uninformed or even unscrupulous individuals are rushing to fill the gap between what science knows and what cancer survivors want to know. That's why you need to stay alert. News reports can cause confusion by overstating the results of research. Makers of pills, powders and other products may attempt to exploit survivors' desire for information by touting unverified - and unverifiable - health claims. With the advent of the Internet, baseless rumors about diet and cancer can spread around the world in minutes.
Separating fact from fiction is all-important. Here are some things to keep in mind the next time you come across something that sounds too good to be true.
Science progresses in a slow and careful fashion. That's why products that use words like "breakthrough" and "miracle" and even "discovery" should send up red flags in your mind. Another warning sign: reliance on anecdotal evidence ("testimonials" or "case histories") rather than published scientific data that is based on the results of studies with many patients.
Reports about science that appear on television or radio are too short to include many important details. Look to magazines or newspapers for more complete information, including where the report was published, who paid for it, how many people were studied and (especially) how it relates to previous research in the same field. Remember - rely on scientific consensus, not simply a single study.
Be skeptical of easy answers. It's human nature to look for quick fixes or "magic bullets" that solve health problems. But cancer is a complex disease with no single cause or cure. The human body is composed of many intricate systems that work together. Even the foods we eat contain hundreds, perhaps thousands, of protective components. The most healthful strategy will always be one that addresses the overall diet, not single foods or supplements.
These days, everyone's got something to say about nutrition and health. Survivors are bar-raged with ideas for staying healthy from television, the Internet, magazines and word-of-mouth. Things can easily get confusing. Before trying any new strategy for yourself, tell your doctor about it. Health professionals work hard to keep up with new developments, and their years of training and experience come in handy. Your doctor can be a helpful resource in your efforts to remain cancer-free, but only if he or she is kept informed about what you are taking. There are some practical reasons for this: certain herbal supplements, for example, can interact with other medications you may be taking with potentially dangerous results.
Maintaining a healthy skepticism is perhaps the most useful thing to do. That doesn't mean you have to spend the rest of your life in a research library, cross-checking each and every scientific study that comes along. Luckily, you've already got the most important thing you'll need: common sense.
Because if something sounds too good to be true, it probably isn't.
all-important. Maintain a healthy skepticism.
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