Cancer is the #1 leading cause of death worldwide and about 1 in 3 people in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime.
Although not all cancer is preventable, researchers have come to know factors in one’s lifestyle that may contribute to an increased risk of cancer.
Leading a healthier lifestyle and being self-aware is an important step in cancer prevention. By arming yourself with this knowledge you can help protect yourself and your loved ones.
Stay Away From Tobacco
Smoking tobacco is the number one risk factor for lung cancer—the deadliest cancer type. The use of tobacco products in general can also contribute to other cancers, such as that of the larynx (voice box), mouth, esophagus, throat, bladder, kidney, liver, stomach, pancreas, colon and rectum, cervix and acute myeloid leukemia.
Second-hand smoke also increases one's risk of developing lung cancer. Even if you have never been a smoker, but are frequently exposed to smoke—you are increasing your risk of cancer by 20-30%.
If you use tobacco products, quit. If you have a loved one using tobacco products, let them know your desire for them to quit. Remember their use of tobacco not only affects their health but may affect you and your loved ones as well.
Limit Your Alcohol
Alcohol is associated with an increased risk of liver, head and neck, esophageal, breast, and colon cancers. The risk rises with the amount of alcohol that is consumed. It’s estimated that 5.5% of all newly diagnosed cancers and 5.8% of cancer deaths worldwide are attributed to alcohol consumption.
If you want to reduce your cancer risk, reduce the amount of alcohol you are drinking. And if you don’t drink, don’t start! It is recommended that men should consume no more than one alcoholic drink per day, and that women should have no more than three alcoholic drinks per week.
Studies show that people who are physically active and exercise regularly have a lower risk of developing cancer, especially colon and breast cancer. And, cancer patients are less likely to have a recurrence of the cancer, when physically active. In addition, exercising helps reduce overall obesity, which has been linked to 13 different kinds of cancer.
Make a commitment to your physical fitness and set daily routines to follow. Wondering what type of exercise is best for lowering your cancer risk? Surprisingly, a recent study found that strength training twice a week may be best.
Eat a Healthy Diet
High consumption of saturated fat and red meat may increase the risk of colon cancer and a more aggressive form of prostate cancer. A healthy diet also reduces the likelihood of obesity—a major risk factor for several kinds of cancers includes breast, kidney, head and neck, esophagus, pancreas, prostate, gallbladder and thyroid.
Make healthier food choices by increasing your fruit and vegetable intake andlimiting your consumption of red meat. For adults, it’s recommended to eat 2.5cups of fruits and vegetables each day. Reduce your red meat consumption to less than two servings per week. A typical plate of food should be 50 percent vegetables and fruits, 25 percent lean proteins, and 25 percent whole grains.
Know Your Family Medical History
Although most cancers are not hereditary, there are a few inherited genetic risks for developing certain cancer types—particularly breast cancer. The most common cancer types associated with a familial gene include breast, ovarian, colorectal, and prostate cancer.
First and foremost take the time to understand your family medical history. Do either or your parents or grandparents have a history of cancer? If so, which type? Having these conversations with your family members, can literally be lifesaving for you and your loved ones. If you do discover a family history of cancer, discuss it with your doctor. He or she can determine your risk level and what if any preventative measures you can take, like more frequent cancer screenings.
Protect Yourself From The Sun
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer and yet, the most easily prevented cancer-type. It’s estimated that 1 in 5 people will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime. UV, or ultraviolet, light emitted from the sun and other devices, damages DNA in our cells, and is the agent most responsible for skin cancer cases.
Keep yourself and your loved one’s skin protected from the suns UV rays by wearing daily sunscreen of at least SPF 30, year round. Dangerous levels of UV can be detected even on cloudy days or during cold winter months. UV light is also emitted from other devices, such as artificial tanning beds, so simply put, don’t use them!
Lastly, taking part in regular skin cancer screenings is essential. Individuals with a family history of melanoma or other skin cancers should have a full-body exam at least once a year. Monthly skin self-exams to check for new or changing moles is another good idea. Approximately half of melanomas are self-detected.
While there are not many vaccines available to help prevent cancer, there are two that have great success rates. One of the vaccines is for the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is the greatest risk factor for developing cervical cancer. The other vaccine is for hepatitis B, which can cause liver cancer. Both vaccines have been proven safe and highly effective.
Because HPV can be transmitted through sexual contact, the HPV vaccine is recommended for both boys and girls between the ages 11-12, before being sexually active. Although only women can develop cervical cancer, HPV can cause an increased risk in men for other cancer types, and men can aid in transmitting the virus to women. The vaccine also remains an option for adults— although not typically recommended for people over the age of 26.
Take Part in Cancer Screening
Cancer screening tests can be helpful in detecting cancer at an early stage, increasing the chances of successful treatment. Cancer screening should be part of preventative measures and screenings are typically done prior to disease symptoms.
Understand what screening tests are available and any associated risks with screening options. Discuss with your doctor what cancer screenings you should take part in—risk factors like your age, weight, lifestyle and overall health may affect your screening recommendations.