5 ways living in Amsterdam can prevent cancer

Despite the evolving nature of science and our knowledge of cancer prevention, it is well-accepted that your risk of developing many types of cancer is affected by the lifestyle choices you  make. In fact over half of all serious diseases in the US (including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer) could be prevented if people adapted a healthier lifestyle.  

Sorry ladies and gents…time to own up.

A survey from Discovery Health showed that nearly 30%  of respondents blame scientists for witholding a cure for cancer. Why would scientists do such a thing? The (false) answer is because scientists and big pharma make so  much money treating cancer patients.

Firstly, as a scientist I can assure you that after 10 years of college I have finally saved enough money to purchase my first real bed. I saved up to buy it for several months. My science friends can relate that there is no excess money flowing in their direction. But it’s no problem because there is also no time to use money. They are always in the lab.

Summary number 1: time = money….science ≠ time…therefore scientist ≠ money

Secondly, The reality is that doctors and laboratory scientists along with their loved ones will die of cancer at the same rate as everyone else. The only exception is that health-care and biomedical researchers are less likely to die of tobacco-related cancers because they are better educated about the hazards of tobacco, and are hence less likely to smoke.

Summary number 2: everyone has an expiration date

So, if you meet a cancer researcher at a party, take a minute before you start accusing him/her of killing your Nana/Aunt/Uncle/Cousin/best friend and ask yourself:

“Why would anyone hide a cure for cancer? Did they hide the polio vaccine? Did they hide the discovery of antibiotics?”

The answer is clearly “No.” Biomedical breakthroughs are translated to patient care as quickly as possible.

Also know that there is no such thing as finding a cure for cancer.  Cancer is a term that loosely describes a condition of abnormal cell growth. Over the past several decades, it has been proven that cancer comes in many forms. Breast cancer is different than lung cancer, and within breast cancer you can further classify it into many subgroups…each with different growth patterns, rates of progression, and effective treatment regimes. So although mass media sources will often sell a story like this one…know that it is always usually too good to be true.

So, while researchers are still trying their best to figure out all the junk that people have done to their bodies (or inherited via their parents genetics), maybe you should consider moving to Amsterdam to reduce your risk of cancer…or just try to live like a Dammer.

1. Always Take the Stairs.amsterdam-stairs_medium

I dare you to google “Amsterdam stairs.” In the US we take elevators for granted, and you can nearly always find one if you need to reach a different floor. In fact it is often difficult to find the stairs! Try looking for the “emergency exit” signs. Guess what? Ironically, health is an emergency…and getting more exercise everyday is key.

2. Ride a bike.


my awesome (rusty) ride

baby bike IMG_1588

With over 2 million people living in the Amsterdam metropolitan area, it is the most populated city in the Netherlands. Most don’t realize it, but the Netherlands is  the most populated country in the world with 477 people per square kilometer. Riding a bike in Holland is a necessity, but it’s also a privilege. It is not uncommon to see women in high heels or men in suits riding as fast as they can on their omafiets (translation: grandma bike).

Riding a bike is a great way to start your day with a dose of cardiovascular exercise, and you can ditch the annoying traffic jams. This also lowers stress levels. Chronic stress has been shown in numerous studies to negatively effect your health.

3. Get a pet. (or at least spend time looking at them!)


Dogs in Vondelpark from Daan Pellicaan on Vimeo.

The dutch love their honden. They come in all shapes and sizes and are usually roaming around without a leash. They can come and go freely into most businesses, including restaurants and shops. Studies have shown that looking at images of cute animals can increase your productivity and increase your mood (lowering your stress). Not to mention that if you have a pet of your own you will need to walk the cutie everyday, which will give you heart-healthy exercise as well.

4. Eat a (mostly) organic, plant-based, whole foods diet. 


yummmm. Click for photo source.


click for photo source


As a Dammer, you have beautiful access to fresh, organic vegetables every Saturday at the numerous markets throughout the city. At the Noordermarkt in the Joordan, they have fresh, local produce and a huge selection of gourmet specialty items at your disposal. If you can’t make it to the Saturday markets, you can always go to the Albert Cuyp market, which is open everyday and has several organic vegetable vendors.

photo courtesy of Angela Gallagher

photo courtesy of Angela Gallagher

It is important to eat organic foods (whenever possible) because many pesticides and artificial incredients have been linked to diseases like cancer.  Many pesticides that are still allowed in food production are included in the NIH list of know cancer-causing agents. In addition, cutting out meat completely has been shown to dramatically decrease diseases in large cohort studies. 

5. Protect yourself from the sun

bike rain

Well…Amsterdam is not known for its good weather. The fact that Dammers are avoiding their midday sun exposure speaks less for their lifestyle and more for living so close to the sea, but I’m still counting this as a point for Amsterdam!

Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer and one of the the most preventable. To prevent skin cancer it is advisable to : avoid midday sun, stay in the shade when possible, cover your skin with clothing or sunscreen when outdoors, and avoid tanning beds.


  One thought on “5 ways living in Amsterdam can prevent cancer

  1. April 13, 2013 at 4:34 pm

    Read it with pleasure :))

  2. Bee_Love
    April 13, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    Very well said! 🙂 Loved the photos and links as well! 🙂 Off to watch some cute pandas

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