For the past 10 years, The Huffington Post has been a part of our lives, bringing us news from around the world. It is also a place where individuals with interests and expertise in a wide variety of areas can express their views and share information. I am grateful to Huffington Post for giving us this opportunity to learn and increase our awareness of many important issues.
As a medical doctor, and the author of A World Without Cancer, my mission is to encourage the establishment of a “prevention-based society,” as Surgeon General Vivek Murthy recently called it.
If prevention were a national priority, how would our lives change? That question is followed by another one, which is: What will happen 10 years from now in terms of the health of Americans? Will the year 2025 find Americans stronger, healthier and living longer?
We hope that one day soon, and certainly before 2025, Americans everywhere will accept a diet focused mainly on vegetables, fruits and whole grains, low-fat or non-fat dairy, nuts and legumes. Protein will be consumed in the form of beans, fish and poultry. Red meat and processed meat will be kept to a minimum. These are the recommendations of the The Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee that was issued in February, 2015. The Committee was established by the Secretaries of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HSS), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
By 2025, water will be the beverage of choice to quench thirst, and soda will be an infrequent and “old-fashioned” drink.
School cafeterias will serve lunches with varied menus that are rich in colorful vegetables, fruits and appealing whole grains, such as brown rice, quinoa and barley. Food suppliers will cooperate in suggesting healthful choices for students and their teachers. Students will be encouraged to drink water and green tea for good health. Health and science classes will teach our students that cancer risk can be significantly reduced through lifestyle factors, beginning with a healthful diet. In teaching elementary, middle school and high school students about the dangers of alcohol and tobacco, it will be mentioned that alcohol also raises the risk for cancer.
In 2025, our children will be taught by their parents and teachers that being physically active improves overall health, and reduces cancer risk.
More time will be spent riding bicycles, jumping rope, playing volleyball and catch in the school yard and at home.
Workplaces will encourage employees to take physical exercise breaks during the day, whether they work in an office or a factory or construction site. Climbing stairs rather than taking the elevator, walking to an appointment rather than taking the bus or subway, and doing simple exercises at their place of work. These are all practical ways in which we can increase physical activity.
In the next decade, it is hoped that the rate of cigarette smoking among teens and adults will continue to decrease. E-cigarettes will be carefully regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, and appropriate warnings and age restrictions will apply. Teens will not buy or use e-cigarettes because they will understand that they are a threat to good health.
Young and old alike will wear sunscreen and protective clothing when spending time in the sun. Tanning beds will be considered dangerous and obsolete, and tanning salons (if they still exist) will display clear warnings that they increase the risk for skin cancer.
And harmful chemicals in pesticides, varnishes, household cleaners, personal care products, cosmetics, clothing, bedding, and many other products will be outlawed and will be replaced by safe, sustainable ingredients. In 2025, government and industry will collaborate in the development of safe products that do not raise the risk for cancer or other diseases.
While we wait for Congress to update and improve the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA, (the only major United States environmental law that has escaped reform), California has made strides in protecting its consumers from harmful chemicals in many products with the Safer Consumer Products Act.
It is reasonable to expect that soon, and certainly before 2025, many states will enact legislation to protect consumers from chemicals that promote diseases, including cancer. New York State’s Cancer Prevention Summit on May 20, 2015, is a bold initiative that will highlight the power of prevention. Leaders in public health and disease prevention will share their research and insights. Over 50 percent of all cancer is preventable by applying what we know right now. The Cancer Prevention Summit will present practical strategies for cancer prevention in our daily lives, transforming the cancer agenda for the next generation.
Cancer prevention requires awareness, determination and creativity. There is much more that each of us can do to prevent cancer, but first and foremost, we need to commit to a collaborative effort involving every segment of our society. Whether we are adults or children, members of the media or medical community, government, industry, academia or cancer advocacy group, we can all contribute to a healthier environment, a stronger, more vibrant society, and ultimately, to a world where cancer is considered a preventable illness.
What kind of a society will we see in 2025? I am hopeful that it will be a “prevention-based society.” If we start now to make prevention a priority, this dream will become a reality.
This post is part of a series commemorating The Huffington Post’s 10 Year Anniversary through expert opinions looking forward to the next decade in their respective fields. To see all of the posts in the series, read here.