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Dr. Len's Cancer Blog

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It's Groundhog Day; So How Large Is Your Shadow ?

by Dr. Len February 02, 2012

It's Groundhog Day, and that means millions of people will focus their attention on a furry little creature in Punxsutawney PA to see whether or not the animal sees its shadow. Breaking news bulletins say that he did, so we have six more weeks of winter to look forward to.

 

I--on the other hand--think there is a greater significance to Groundhog Day. It is the day when I check on my own shadow, and determine whether or not I have kept my commitment to keeping my weight steady during the past year, which has proven to be a difficult accomplishment. The answer this year is mostly yes, partly no.

 

A brief history:

 

A couple of years ago I took a look at my weight charts for the past decade (yes, Virginia, there are some of us who do that). What I saw disturbed me: for the three previous years, my weight would go down in January and February when I would rigorously diet, only to rise over the remaining months of the year. And, on top of that, when I looked back I saw that both the peaks and valleys were becoming higher and higher, so that each year my weight at the bottom of the trough was higher, and so was the peak in December. And that, my friends, would not suggest a healthy outcome.

 

So I dubbed this observation my "Groundhog Day Diet," based on the Bill Murray film of the same name. You may remember the picture: Murray relives Groundhog Day every day until he gets it right. Much like Mr. Murray, I decided that I would get it right by not going through the same cycle year after year.

 

Finally, this year I met with some success: I did gain some weight, but the peak was lower. And the numbers on the scale were steadier over the course of the year. I partly accomplished my goal. Where I missed was that I still weigh too much, just like lots of you. And, as any good doctor would tell you, over time weight takes its toll on things like our joints, our blood pressure, our cholesterol, you name it. More...

Filed Under:

Diet | Environment | Exercise | Prevention

At Long Last, Some Useful Rules About Sunscreens But Questions Remain

by Dr. Len June 14, 2011

Good things-hopefully-come to those who wait.

 

That time-worn phrase may well apply to today's announcement by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that they have (finally) updated the regulations as to how sunscreens must be tested and labeled to provide consumers with accurate information as to what is actually inside the sunscreen package.

 

Why the patience piece?  Because we have been operating for decades in the United States without effective, modern oversight of claims made by some sunscreen manufacturers.  Hopefully today's announcement by the FDA is the beginning of the process to correct that problem.

 

Too many people believe that what the claims they read on the sunscreen label-with words such as "sun block", water resistant, SPFs approaching 100-are in some way regulated by someone when in fact they actually are not. Today's announcement should help clear some of that confusion.

 

And, lost in all the babble is the fact that sunscreen is just one part of an effective approach to engage in sunsafe behavior. More...

Tomorrow is "Don't Fry Day"--So Stay Safe In The Sun (And Remember, It's Not All About Sunscreen)

by Dr. Len May 26, 2011

Here comes the sun... 

 

Summertime means--for many of us--more time outdoors in the sun, whether it be a vacation at the beach, walking along a country road, or working on our lawns and gardens. It also means thinking about skin cancer prevention-which is much more than using gobs of sunscreen to protect yourself from getting burned in the sun.

 

This Friday is "Don't Fry Day", sponsored by the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention along with a number of collaborating organizations (including the American Cancer Society).  "Don't Fry Day" is designed to remind people that it's ok to have fun in the sun, so long as you pay attention to your skin while enjoying the great outdoors.

 

Being sun-safe isn't all that difficult.  It's really a matter of remembering a few simple rules, including the real role that sunscreen plays in sun-safe behavior: More...

Filed Under:

Exercise | Other cancers

DetermiNation: It's All About The Meaning When Winning Isn't Everything

by Dr. Len March 28, 2011

Sometimes you read something that just touches you in a special way.  That's what I thought after reading the note below, sent to me by Kimberly McAdams, a colleague at the American Cancer Society.

 

Kimberly's email found its way to me as a thank you and follow-up for her participation in the Society's recent DetermiNation event in New Orleans.  What made the note stand out was not that she was someone I (along with many others) supported financially and emotionally as she prepared for her marathon, but the points she touched on as she related how her participation impacted her life.  It wasn't just about raising money.  No, it was much more: about how she did this together with friends, how she won the race before she ever finished it (a theme I have echoed in another blog this past summer), and how it was personal for her as she carried the thoughts and prayers of so many of her family and friends with her as she prepared for and participated in the race.

 

Most important was the fact that her mother is a cancer survivor, and at the same time Kimberly was preparing to run the race, her mother was declared to be cancer free.

 

There are a lot of messages in this note: messages about the wonderful people at the American Cancer Society and why we do what we do, messages about personal determination and commitment, and messages about the journey of life.

 

I hope you enjoy Kimberly's note as much as I did.  As she said frequently in her email, all of us join her in saying "Thank you!" for everything you do every day to help us do better for those we serve, whether they be people who depend on us for services, people who support us in our efforts, and people who hear every day that their lives continue and their birthdays will be celebrated hopefully for many years to come. More...

Filed Under:

Cancer Care | Exercise | Research

A Progress Report On My "Groundhog Day Diet": Yes, I Still See My Shadow

by Dr. Len February 02, 2011

Today is February 2nd, and it's Groundhog Day.

 

For me, it is the first anniversary of my Groundhog Day diet, so it's a good time to reflect on whether or not I met my personal goal set last Groundhog Day not to repeat the diet mistakes of the past, and try to maintain my weight for a whole year.

 

Was I successful?  Partly yes, and partly no.  But the good news is I did better this year than I did in the past, so that's a start-as long as one has a long term view of life. More...

Filed Under:

Diet | Exercise | Prevention

And Now A Message About Your Weight (Just What You Want To Hear This Time Of Year)

by Dr. Len December 03, 2010

I hope your Thanksgiving holiday was a happy one, and that you are looking forward to a pleasant December.  But vigilance about your health is not taking a holiday, as two new releases yesterday--one in a medical journal and the other from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention--are bound to make you think twice about that extra helping of stuffing you ate while enjoying your Thanksgiving meal.

 

The first report is in today's edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, and written by a number of authors--including a colleague of mine from the American Cancer Society, Dr. Michael Thun--who examined the interminable question of whether or not being overweight as well as being obese can impact how long you will live. 

 

This article will give the boot to the old adage that you can never be too rich or too thin.  The scientists don't say anything about being too rich--we will have to leave that one to the psychologists to answer--but they do suggest that in fact you can be too thin.

 

The other report, from the United States Department of Health and Human Services offers statistics on the rate of obesity in the United States today, and sets goals for what we can accomplish in reducing those rates over the next decade. More...

Filed Under:

Diet | Exercise | Prevention

The Follow-up...If You Are Interested

by Dr. Len July 26, 2010

1)The son in law came in at 1:35, #11 in his class.

 

2) The wife came in at around 2:35, but she did finish after walking a portion of the 5k run at the end.  And just finishing was a terrific accomplishment in our eyes.

 

3) The 19 yo daughter finished around 2:25, running strong at the end. She won 3rd place in her group.  There were only 3 entrants.

 

4) The real hero was in the 15 yo son. He is in good shape and was doing well until the final run when he developed terrible leg cramps. He had to walk the entire 5k, part of it "straight legged" and the last 1/2 mile limping severely. He made it across the finish line--unassisted--at 2:56, which was 4 minutes before he would have been disqualified. He got a second place award, since there were only two entrants in his age class. He showed incredbile determination.  We are very proud of him.

Filed Under:

Exercise | Prevention

You Can Do It If You Try!

by Dr. Len July 25, 2010

 

A lot of experts write and talk about getting more exercise and making the commitment to a healthier lifestyle.  I am one of those folks who think staying active is important, especially as we get older.

 

But there are many out there who just can't seem to get it done.  One excuse or another, whether it is time, work, travel or other obligations-whatever, we just can't seem to get where we need to be when it comes to our health.

 

So forgive me while I take a personal moment to share with you my pride and admiration of someone very close to me who has made that commitment for the sake of her health and well-being to do something special, something they never dreamed they would be able to do.

 

More...

Filed Under:

Exercise | Prevention

"Choose You" Is All About You--And Us

by Dr. Len May 04, 2010

Today is a special day at the American Cancer Society as we launch our brand new “Choose You” movement, which is designed to inspire women to take action and put their health first in order to stay well and help prevent cancer.

 

As I reflect on this moment while here in New York with other volunteers, friends and Society staff, I can’t help but think of how difficult it is for any of us these days to try to take care of ourselves given the frequently hectic, overcommitted and overstressed lifestyles that many of us face every day.

 

At heart, that’s what Choose You is all about: finding time for women to take care of themselves, making the commitment to do just that, and creating a social network that supports their efforts and gathers their friends and family around them as they strive to develop and maintain a healthier lifestyle.

More...

Filed Under:

Diet | Exercise | Prevention

Groundhog Day Diet: Overcoming Everyday Challenges

by Dr. Len March 16, 2010

It’s been about six weeks since I wrote about my “Groundhog Day Diet” so I thought it might be time for an update.

 

For those of you who are unaware, this is my annual diet ritual that—like many of you—I start every January to lose the same 20 or 30 pounds I have gained over the prior year, only to try to lose it again. 

 

(The inspiration for the name as you may have already guessed was Bill Murray’s movie of many years ago where he was consigned to live the same 24 hours again and again as he reported on the annual Groundhog Day “celebration” in Pennsylvania.)

 

For those of you who have no interest in my successes and failures of the past 10 weeks, you can move on.  But for some of you who share my frustration over trying to heed the call to eat healthier, you may find some inspiration in the struggles, solutions and outcome of my most recent dieting adventure.

More...

Filed Under:

Diet | Exercise | Prevention

About Dr. Len

Dr. Len

J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, MD, MACP - Dr. Lichtenfeld is Deputy Chief Medical Officer for the national office of the American Cancer Society.

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