Here at the Breast Cancer Family Foundation, our mission is to empower our community and our youth by providing education on cancer awareness and prevention. Being new to the educator role, I like to share what my job entails with the people I’m close to in my life. When I tell my relatives and friends that I educate about cancer prevention I’m usually met with two comments. The first being “I thought you were a dietitian. How does that fit in with what you studied?” The second is “Doesn’t cancer rely heavily on genetics? How can you teach prevention for that?” These two questions are what makes my job so pivotal in the fight against cancer.
The more that we learn about how cancer begins, the more we learn that, like so many other health crises’ plaguing our population, many cancer cases can be tied into our lifestyle and habits. As a dietitian, I’ve spent many hours studying and learning about how what we eat impacts every facet of our health. From our mental wellness to our physical health, what we eat matters. We’ve known for a long time that diet plays a huge role in diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome but it’s only just recently that we’ve begun to see how big this picture really is.
We are starting to piece together the links between diet, obesity, and cancer and the initial findings are staggering. According to the CDC, “55 percent of all cancers diagnosed in women and 24 percent of those diagnosed in men are associated with overweight and obesity.” That’s huge! And when we factor in the findings that cancers typically seen in older adults are showing up earlier and earlier in our youth because of the spike in childhood obesity, this is definitely cause for alarm. So when my friends and family ask why, as a dietitian, I’m providing cancer-related education, I point them to these sobering statistics.
This leads me to the second question. Although cancer does have genetic links, we know that only 30% of our risk is outside of our control. The other 70% are lifestyle related. I think for so long we accepted that cancer blindly chooses its victims, which can sometimes be true but isn’t always, that we’ve become complacent with our role in our own health. I think for a lot of us it’s scary to accept that many of the choices we make day in and day out have real and lasting consequences. Most of us know that smoking cigarettes and vaping are activities that can cause cancer, but we can forget about the simple things like the food that we eat or how much we’re moving during the day.
Although it may feel like a paralyzing amount of pressure to put on our choices, I feel this is a huge beacon of hope. If we can take back our health as a community with some simple changes, that’s everything. We have so much power when it comes to how our stories play out and it’s my hope that we can see and embrace that power. This is why I chose to educate on cancer prevention and awareness as a dietitian and this is what makes my job so rewarding each and every day.
~Carese Walcyk, RD | BCFF Community Educator