Cancer on the rise – healthy eating helps fight back


TOKYO (majirox news) — One in three deaths in Japan is caused by cancer – 353,000 deaths in 2010, according to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, having overtaken heart disease in 1981. Heart disorders now take second place as the nation’s killer, but are responsible for only about half of the deaths caused by cancer.

Lung cancer is the major cause of cancer-related deaths, followed by cancers of the stomach, colon, liver and pancreas. Cancer is not just a condition that affects the elderly, either. One third of men dying in their early fifties die of cancer, and for men in their late 60s, almost half (45 percent) are afflicted by a fatal cancer. Up to 40 percent of women dying in their late thirties die from the disease, rising in those dying in their late 40s to 50 percent, and for those in their late 60s, nearly 60 percent.

Trend in the mortality rate - Japan Cancer Society

Immediately following World War II, between 50,000 and 60,000 Japanese died of cancer each year. However, according to Hiroshi Konishi, a director of the Japan Cancer Society, the cancer death rate is increasing for different reasons.

“It is mainly because of an aging population,” he said. “People who have been smoking for many years are living longer and now getting lung cancer. At the same time, colon cancer has been increasing because of the Western diet, and again an aging society.”

He adds that the more Westernized diet enjoyed by many Japanese is heavy in processed foods, meat, sugar, and dairy products.

Another reason for the increased incidence may be due to potential sufferers putting off the screening procedures. In 1960, the Miyagi Prefecture Cancer Society toured northeast Japan, conducting screening for stomach cancer. This practice has now spread to other prefectures, who have established their own screening centers, or work with local medical institutions.

There is, however, greater public awareness of the disease, and better public education on the subject.

“We are encouraging people to take better care of their health,” Konishi said. “For example, we organize a series of lectures and seminars to spread awareness of how to fight the disease.”

The Japan Cancer Society also runs a “cancer hotline,” available every day of the week. Cancer patients and their families, or others affected by the disease, can call and talk about their problems. Launched in 2006, in 2010 over 9,000 callers used the service, and in 2011 many more thousands phoned for help and counsel available from the nurses and social workers staffing the hotline.

Other alternative and complementary therapies are also on the rise, including traditional Chinese-style kampo medicine and herbal remedies. Healthy eating and diet also forms a part of alternative treatments, and according to one Web site, “healthy eating” does not need to equal “bland food.”

Minestrone Soup

Healthy food tailored for cancer patients’ needs – and it’s delicious
Healthy dishes listed on the site include: Lemon and Rosemary Baked Fish, Asparagus Soup with Spring Herbs, Egyptian Lentil Soup and Sweet Potato Muffins. Cook for Your Life, the first such site of its kind, helps cancer patients, survivors, and their family members and caregivers to cook nutritious and delicious food.

Two-time cancer American survivor Ann Ogden Gaffney founded the not-for-profit site, supported by Nancy Rutter Clark with a $500,000 grant from her Octavia Foundation. Cook For Your Life allows cancer patients to find recipes to match their feelings at any time during or after their courses of treatment. Specialist recipe categories such as “in radiation,” “in chemo,” “bland,” “quick and easy,” and “spicy” provide an easy way to match the meal to the mood.

Gaffney started out as an enthusiastic home cook, then in 2006 a hands-on cooking workshop for cancer patients and survivors. What was intended as a healthy cooking class for beginners grew into something of a community. “Graduates” of the workshops left with friends, a new-found confidence in cooking and, most importantly, an appetite.

“Our guiding principle is that good food should be guilt-free, easy to prepare, and a source of replenishment for the body and soul of the patient and their whole family,” Gaffney says. “This is especially important when nutrition is a prime concern during and after cancer treatment.”

The site aims to get people back into the kitchen to rattle those pots and pans, and have fun doing it. She adds that sometimes patients undergoing chemotherapy only want to eat spicy food, but tastes vary and Cook For Your Life tries to cover the range of wishes.

For those who are searching the Internet for crucial information at a critical point in their lives, seeks to be a dependable resource, providing help and assistance to an ever-growing part of the population.

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