Nobody want to hear the words “you have cancer”, and while survival rates are generally increasing every year, too many of us are still hearing those words. Valerie McKen explains what more we could be doing to reduce the chances of getting cancer in the first place.

We all know someone whose life has been impacted by cancer. I can’t imagine how terrifying it would be to hear the diagnosis. For me, a reference point for this is the Cancer Research advert where an older man starts crying when he hears he has cancer and the doctor says ‘its ok to shed a tear or two’ in a very matter of fact way.

I have personal experience of this scenario having worked for a very short time at the Guys Cancer Centre in London Bridge. I spoke to a good number of people who were undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Some were determined to beat it whilst others broke down in tears. My feeling is that those with the ‘I can conquer this’ attitude were the ones who would eventually overcome the disease.

According to the latest stats from Cancer Research, between:

  • 2014 – 2016 – there were 363,484 new cases of cancer
  • 2015 – 2017 – there were more than 165,000 deaths from cancer
  • 2010 – 2011 – there was a 50% survival rate of 10 years
  • … and 38% of cancer cases are preventable!

So, according to the Cancer Research statistics, there are things we can do to prevent cancer.

Combining the last two statistics, there is an 88% survival and preventable cancer rate. That’s good! Nevertheless, cancer is still an issue. In my experience, too many of us, just accept defeat when it comes to accepting a prognosis. Not enough of us challenge doctors. The human body is super intelligent; however, we have been conditioned to think certain things about disease and healing. So of course, when we hear the big ‘C’ word, we instantly think ‘I’m doomed’. That depends of course on how far advanced the disease is and your state of mind.

I believe our minds plays a huge part in our healing. Ok, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. What causes cancer and why do cancer rates seem to be increasing?


According to the American Cancer Society (ACS): “Cancer is a group of diseases characterized by uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells. If the spread is not controlled, it can result in death. Cancer is caused by both external factors (tobacco, infectious organisms, poor nutrition, chemicals, and radiation) and internal factors (inherited genetic mutations, hormones, immune conditions, and mutations that occur from metabolism).”


“In 2009, the death rate for all cancers combined continued to be 31% higher in African American men and 15% higher in African American women than in white men and women, respectively.” Not great news.

In my research, I understand certain factors may lead to cancer through the constant exposure of the body to carcinogenic compounds, but how exactly do these cause cells to mutate? And why do people, particularly Black women die from it?

A study published only this month showed that oestrogen, a natural hormone found in females and males, in excess, enhances the proliferation and migration of ovarian cancer cells. It has also been implicated in breast cancer. Oestrogen has been classified as a carcinogen. Carcinogens (cancer causing agents) have been linked to cancer.

Also linked are external oestrogens found in Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) such as pesticides, food additives and chemicals found in make-up, hair and skin care products.

When you add in junk food, the lack of sleep, negative thought patterns, low self-esteem, stress and dehydration, it’s clear your body will struggle.

“We as Black people are genetically different, and generally, many of us are living and eating in a way that is causing us harm.”

We live in a world that is totally different from how our ancestors used to live. When it comes to health and wellbeing, Black people suffer most. Not great at all!

We as Black people are genetically different, and generally, many of us are living and eating in a way that is causing us harm. That could explain why we lead the way when it comes to most diseases. Because we are not aware of who we are and how genetically different we are, we take the advice of others who do not look like us. If you look deeper, you will realise this world has not been set up with the Black person in mind. Let me give you an example…

71353026 - doctor talking to unhappy female patient in exam room It’s Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month – here’s what you need to know
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Back in November 2019, an article in The Guardian caught my eye. The title read: “The female problem: how male bias in medical trials ruined women’s health.” It reads, “For much of documented history, women have been excluded from medical and science knowledge production, so essentially, we’ve ended up with a healthcare system, that has been made by men for men…

…not only have doctors, scientists and researchers mostly been men, but most of the cells, animals and human studies have also been male. Most of the advances we have seen in medicine have come from the study of male biology.”

This article is talking about the European male. Could the Black woman be any further from the narrative?

“That is the beauty of the human body. It is very forgiving. Your body will work with you to keep you safe, so please avoid abusing it!”

If you are prone to cancer, perhaps because it is in your family blood line, you can take steps to prevent it ever happening no matter how high the risk. That is the beauty of the human body. It is very forgiving. Your body will work with you to keep you safe, so please avoid abusing it!

Loving and nurturing is what we all need and that starts with nourishing your mind, body and soul with sunlight (hard when living in the UK!), deep breathing, stress management (this is vital!), water and lots of fruit and vegetables.

If you already have cancer, you can massively upgrade your lifestyle and mindset as highlighted above. Do your research so that you can take back full responsibility for your health and avoid leaving it in the hands of others (unless you want to).

Remember, your body is powerful and can heal from just about anything as long as you are willing to do the work.


This content is based on my personal knowledge, opinions, African-centred research, and experience as a holistic health and wellbeing mentor. It is intended to be provided for informational, educational and self-empowerment purposes ONLY. Always consult your doctor for medical advice

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