Canadian Firefighter Magazine

WellBeing: October 2014

By Elias Markou   

Features Health and Wellness Wellness

Almost 30 years ago, October’s breast-cancer awareness movement helped bring cancer prevention into the mainstream.

Almost 30 years ago, October’s breast-cancer awareness movement helped bring cancer prevention into the mainstream. Five years ago, Movember was created and it increased awareness of cancer in men and made cancer education and prevention top of mind. The statistics do not lie; every one of us has had a brush with cancer, whether it was a family member, friend, or a work colleague who got cancer, or a personal diagnosis. Cancer news is never easy to receive. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, each day an average of more than 500 Canadians are diagnosed with one or more forms of cancer.      

During my six years as a firefighter and 12 years as a naturopathic doctor, I have observed countless connections among cancer patients’ depleted bodies, their toxic environments and the cancers they have. I have made it my life’s work and passion to seek and find advanced knowledge, training and therapies to treat my cancer patients. If you don’t know by now, all my cancer patients are treated using natural treatments.

The Canadian Cancer Society website goes on to say that cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada and is responsible for 30 per cent of all deaths. An estimated 191,300 new cases of cancer and 76,600 deaths from cancer will occur in Canada in 2014.

If you sit down and look at all the research associated with the risk of getting cancer, firefighters’ occupations and lifestyles would put them on the top of the list. It is time for firefighters to intensify efforts to improve their lifestyles and prevent cancer.


Naturopathic doctors use a number of risk-assessment tools to estimate a person’s risk factor for getting cancer. Academics and researchers have developed a greater understanding of what causes cancers to form and grow. To help assess cancer risk, we look at information such as age, health history, family history, lifestyle and diet.

Firefighters are already trained to think in a risk-averse way; making a good decision on a fire scene can mean the difference between being safe, becoming injured or dying. A firefighter can make smart personal-health choices to eliminate the risk of developing cancer. We now know about half of the existing cancers can be prevented by living a healthy lifestyle. Prevention is key to reducing the number of cancers in our population.

Part of a cancer-prevention plan is to look at every single risk factor in a health history and address these issues with a treatment plan that will help to decrease the risk of ever getting cancer. Comprehensive plans should be created to treat body weight, educate on diet and address genetic deficiencies, environmental risks, family history, hormones, occupational exposure, personal history of past cancers, physical activity, sedentary lifestyle, stress, exposure to the sun, tobacco, alcohol, viruses, bacteria and other infectious agents, vitamin D levels, and a poor immune system. Taking the time while you are a young firefighter to improve your health is the best way to prevent cancer.  

There so are many things you can do to lower your overall risk of developing cancer. Don’t think of it as a full-time job, or even as an inconvenience, to pursue a healthy lifestyle. Too often in our clinic we hear regrets from patients who should have done something differently and chosen to live better lifestyles when they had the chance.

Here are a few of the simple things you can start doing at home. The most popular anti-cancer diets all follow very basic nutrition principles that are essential to prevention and treatment of cancer. No more processed food; if something comes in a package, it won’t help out your immune system – it is that simple. Eat more vegetables and less meat; take this rule one step further and eat more raw vegetables, maybe even take your raw vegetables and juice them. A key to juicing is to juice vegetables and not fruit. And finally, remember to get rid of the sugar in pasta, bread, cereal, muffins, cookies and sandwiches. Sugar feeds the cancer and slows down your immune system. 

There are several nutritional ingredients that have the capacity to prevent and treat cancer. Tumeric and green tea in high doses have direct anti-cancer properties and can block cancer growth and the spread of cancer. A high dose of vitamin D can improve immune function to fight the cancer. An ingredient called modified citrus pectin can prevent cancer growth and metastasis of cancer cells.    

Years of research have found that an intravenous vitamin C dose greater than 15 grams has an amazing ability to combat cancer. A vitamin C dose above 15 grams is shown to have a pro-oxidant effect by generating hydrogen peroxide, which in turn selectively destroys cancer cells.

The integrative cancer medical model combines the best of standard, conventional treatments and natural therapies. Research now clearly shows that cancer patients have improved outcomes and reduced mortality when they use natural therapy and change their lifestyles, such as increasing fitness therapy, changing diet, doing counselling, and participating in yoga and meditation. Clinically, we see this as a favourable outcome for our cancer patients. Here is a great opportunity to have firefighters begin a lifestyle-transformation away from cancer. Make it your health mission to take up the cancer prevention challenge. 

Dr. Elias Markou is in private practice in Mississauga, Ont., and is the chief medical officer for the Halton Hills Fire Department. Markou was a volunteer firefighter for six years and is now a firefighter health expert and blogger who is regularly featured on television and radio and in print. Contact him at

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