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November 2009 Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource Highlights Reducing Cancer Risk, Tips to Reduce Flatulence and Eating Nuts for Heart Health

ROCHESTER, Minn., Nov. 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Here are highlights from the November issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource. You may cite this publication as often as you wish. Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource attribution is required. Reprinting is allowed for a fee. Include the following subscription information as your editorial policies permit: Visit or call toll-free for subscription information, 800-876-8633, extension 9751.

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10 Ways to Reduce Cancer Risk

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- The risk of cancer can be dramatically reduced through everyday choices about diet, exercise and tobacco use, according to a Special Report on Cancer Prevention in the November issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource.

Evidence suggests that one-third of the more than 560,000 cancer deaths that occur in the United States annually are related to diet, exercise and weight. Another one-third of annual cancer deaths are related to tobacco exposure. The eight-page Special Report examines the science and latest findings on 10 approaches that can make a real difference in preventing cancer. Here are some highlights from the list:

1. Don't smoke: The risk of smoking-related cancers increases with the length of time a person has smoked and the number of cigarettes smoked. The most common cancer associated with smoking is lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer death among American women and men. Quitting smoking reduces the risk of lung and other cancers -- regardless of the number of years of smoking.

2. Eat fruits and vegetables: The American Cancer Society recommends eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily because they are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other substances that lower the risk of cancer. In recent years, some studies have indicated that the association between eating fruits and vegetables and lower cancer risk isn't as strong as once thought. Most experts still believe that a plant-based diet is one of the best ways to protect overall health.

3. Limit fat in the diet: Studies suggest that high-fat diets or high intakes of certain types of fat may be linked to several types of cancer, including colon, lung and postmenopausal breast cancer. The reason may be that high-fat diets tend to be higher in calories and increase the risk of obesity. More study is needed to better understand which types of fat should be avoided and how much of each alters cancer risk.

Current guidelines recommend keeping fat intake between 20 and 30 percent of total daily calories, with most fats coming from sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, such as fish, nuts and vegetable oils.

4. Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer as well as cancers of the colon, endometrium, esophagus and kidney. There's evidence that obesity increases the risk of cancers of the prostate, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, stomach, ovary and cervix. Some studies estimate that excess weight is a factor in 14 to 20 percent of all cancer-related deaths in American adults.

5. Be physically active: Evidence increasingly suggests that people who are physically active have lower risk of some cancers than those who are more sedentary. From 45 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a day, on most days of the week, is considered optimal to reduce the risk of breast and colorectal cancers.

6. Curb alcohol consumption: Alcohol consumption increases the risks of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, colon and rectum. Women should limit themselves to no more than one alcoholic beverage a day. Men should have no more than two.

7. Limit exposure to radiation: Ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which comes from the sun, sunlamps or commercial tanning beds, is the primary cause of skin cancer, the most common of all cancers.

8. Protect against infection: Infections caused by viruses are recognized as risk factors for several types of cancer. Human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease, is the most common cause of cervical cancer. Chronic hepatitis B and hepatitis C increase the risk of liver cancer. They are most often spread through contact with contaminated blood, from contaminated needles or by having unprotected sex. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS, also increases the risk of several types of cancer. It's most commonly transmitted by unprotected sex or sharing of needles.

9. Consider chemoprevention: Chemoprevention is the use of natural or synthetic compounds to reduce the risk of cancer or its recurrence. Tamoxifen, prescribed to prevent breast cancer in high-risk women, is the best known chemoprevention agent. A caution: chemoprevention drugs can have serious side effects.

10. Get recommended screening exams: Pap tests, mammograms, colonoscopies and other routine screenings can't prevent cancer. But screenings can help find cancers early, when treatment is most likely to be successful.

Pass on the Gas: Tips to Reduce Flatulence

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- Passing gas -- flatulence -- is normal and happens to everyone. But for some people, excessive gas and pain interfere with normal activities. The November issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource offers tips to reduce gas.

Gas is often caused by what and how one eats and drinks. "One common cause is swallowed air," says G. Richard Locke, III, M.D., a Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist. "Eating fast, drinking out of a bottle or drinking carbonated beverages can increase the amount of air you swallow and the gas you produce."

Another culprit is food that contains hard-to-digest substances. Beans and other high-fiber foods commonly cause gas. Fructose, found in fruits and some sweeteners, can have the same result, as can lactose, a milk sugar. Lactose intolerance is common in adults.

What to do about gas? Over-the-counter products that contain simethicone, charcoal or an enzyme that assists in breaking down beans and vegetables can help reduce gas. Experimenting with diet -- taking away certain foods and reintroducing them -- can help determine problem foods. Other tips include eating slowly, avoiding carbonated beverages and chewing gum, and not sucking hard candies. Engaging in more physical activities such as walking can help with digestion, too.

When gas continues to be bothersome, Dr. Locke recommends talking with a doctor. "Even if the problem isn't serious, he or she may have advice about what you can do," he says.

"Be sure to let your doctor know if you're having gas or bloating along with other signs and symptoms, such as bleeding, fever, unexplained weight loss, stomach pains or changes in your bowel habits," adds Dr. Locke. These symptoms could indicate an underlying problem that requires treatment.

Go a Little Nuts: A Handful a Day Boosts Heart Health

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- Walnuts, almonds, pistachios -- almost any kind of nut -- pack a lot of nutrition into a small shell.

The November issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource covers why nuts are a good addition to a heart-healthy diet.

Most nuts contain some nutrients that can benefit heart health and help with cholesterol control. They include unsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, 1-arginine and plant sterols. Nuts have been shown to reduce low-density lipoproteins (LDL, or "bad" cholesterol) levels in the blood. Eating nuts also can reduce the risk of developing blood clots and improve the health of the lining of the arteries. These benefits suggest that eating nuts, in limited amounts, may reduce the risk of heart disease, though studies haven't yet proved this conclusively.

Almost any type of nut is nutritious -- and high in calories. It's best to eat nuts in moderation, no more than a handful a day. Consider that 1 ounce of almonds contains 169 calories and 15 grams of fat. Calorie and fat content for other nuts is similar. Also, choose unsalted or low-salt versions and use nuts as a substitute for saturated fats, such as those found in meats, eggs and dairy products.

Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource is published monthly to help women enjoy healthier, more productive lives. Revenue from subscriptions is used to support medical research at Mayo Clinic. To subscribe, please call 800-876-8633, extension 9751, (toll-free) or visit

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