5 Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Cancer Risks
When it comes to cancer, its causes are not always something you can control. A person’s likelihood of developing the condition is often influenced by hereditary factors, aging or other attributors.
However, there is one aspect of cancer prevention we can control – our lifestyle. In a study published earlier this year in the British Journal of Cancer, cancer researchers in England examined more than 135,000 cases of cancer and found that 4 in 10 cases could have been prevented.
If you’re concerned about cancer prevention, start living a healthier life overall and follow these recommendations:
Stop using tobacco
According to the American Cancer Society, smoking can reduce a male smoker’s life by nearly 12 years and a female smoker’s life by almost 11 years. It’s the contributing factor to 30% of cancer deaths in the United States, and it’s responsible for 80% of lung cancer deaths. Lung cancer is also one of the hardest cancers to treat.
Smokeless tobacco has been linked with cancer as well, so there is no safe way to use these products. Even those who inhale second-hand smoke have a higher risk.
Get active and maintain a healthy weight
Being obese or overweight has been linked to increased risk for cancers of the breast (in women past menopause), colon and rectum, endometrium, esophagus, kidney and pancreas. In fact, 8% of cancer cases in the United States are thought to have been caused by excess body weight.
Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week. You can get a combination of these and spread the exercise throughout the week if possible. Limit your sedentary behaviors such as watching TV, sitting or lying down with other physical activity as much as you can.
Eat a healthy diet
Your diet can help or harm your risks of getting cancer. There is still much research needed to be done to learn more about how diets and cancer risk are linked, but it’s important to eat consistently healthy meals in the meantime. Consider the following:
- Eat smaller portions
- Limit foods and drinks that are high in calories, fat or added sugars
- Indulge in fruits, vegetables and other foods from plant-based sources
- Limit processed meats
- Choose healthy fats such as olive oil instead of butter and fish instead of red meat
Drink less alcohol
If you consume alcohol, make sure you drink in moderation. The more you drink, the higher the risk of developing cancer will be, and alcohol consumption has been linked with these cancers: mouth, throat, voice box, esophagus, colon and rectum, liver and breast cancer.
The American Cancer Society recommends that people who consume alcohol limit their intake to “no more than 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink a day for women.”
Be safe in the sun
Skin cancer is the most preventable type of cancer, but unfortunately, it’s the most common. You can have fun in the sun – just be sure to take these steps.
- Apply and reapply sunscreen often! Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen to block both harmful UVA and UVB rays to give your skin the most protection. Don’t forget to follow the sunscreen’s directions to reapply – especially if you’ve been sweating or swimming.
- Cover your skin. If some of your skin is exposed to the sun, wear some loose-fitting clothing that can cover it. Bright or dark colors tend to reflect more of the sun’s rays. Sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat do a great job at protecting your head and face.
- Avoid direct sunlight if possible. Between 10 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon, the sun’s rays are its strongest. Either avoid it or look for a shady area when you’re outdoors.
- Say no to tanning beds. Tanning beds are just as harmful as natural sunlight. Our recommendation it to skip it altogether.
A healthy lifestyle is its own reward, but its long-term benefits for cancer prevention will be a worthy investment. If you’d like to get a check-up or speak with a doctor, Personalized Hematology-Oncology offers primary care services to help you feel your best. Request an appointment.