National Cancer Prevention Month: How to Prevent Cancer
February is National Cancer Prevention Month. An estimated 1.8 million new cases of cancer occur each year in the United States alone. These include all types of cancers, with the five most common being breast cancer, lung (and bronchial) cancer, prostate cancer, colon (and rectal) cancer and melanoma of the skin. In addition, it is estimated that over a third of all men and women (38.4%, to be exact) will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. Some of those cancers are easily treatable; some have no cure. Finally, over $100 billion is expected to be spent on cancer treatment each year, with further billions going towards research and other cancer-related expenses. As you can see, cancer is a disease that affects everyone.
To help raise awareness about cancer and the efforts to stop it, February has been designated as National Cancer Prevention Month, with February 4th named World Cancer Day. These special events exist to teach the public about cancer and the ongoing effort to eradicate it worldwide.
These statistics all sound like bad news, but they don’t always have to be. Did you know that many cancers are preventable? That’s right. If you don’t want to get cancer, there are things you can do now that will help lower your risk in both the immediate and the distant future. Read on to find out more.
The first item on our list is one of the most obvious ones: avoid smoking and all tobacco-related products. Tobacco has been linked to lung cancer, throat cancer, mouth cancer and about a score of other long-term diseases and health issues. Today, after all of the studies have been made public and talked about time and time again, there is no reason for anyone not to understand just how bad smoking (and other forms of tobacco use) are for you. It’s so bad it can even destroy the health of people who happen to be next to you! So, if you’re looking to prevent cancer, this is the first step. In fact, it’s such an essential step that not doing this almost makes all of the other prevention tips moot.
Drink in moderation
If we’re talking about vices to avoid, we might as well throw this one out there too. This might confuse you at first, because numerous studies have shown the drinking a glass of wine or beer can actually be beneficial. That is true. This is why we’re not saying, “don’t drink,” — we’re just saying drink in moderation. That means take it easy and don’t drink too much. Most experts say that an average of one drink per day is perfectly fine and can help. More than that, however, and the extra work placed on the liver increases its risk for various diseases, which can lead to cancer in the long term.
There are so many reasons to follow this piece of advice that preventing cancer is probably not why most people watch their food intake, but that doesn’t make it any less true: you can increase or reduce your risks for certain types of cancer based on what you eat. Certain foods – red meats, for example, and certain saturated fats – have been linked to higher rates of colon and prostate cancer. Processed foods are also known to increase one’s risk of cancer.
Plant-based diets that are rich in nuts, grains, fruits and vegetables are healthier in general, which is always good to be no matter the reason, and are also considered one vital part of any cancer prevention regimen. It is also known that certain diets, such as a Mediterranean-based diet rich in olive oil and mixed nuts, can also lower the risk of breast cancer.
Being active comes with many rewards, but one of them might be a body’s heightened ability to fight certain types of cancer. Recent studies have shown that being moderately active for 150 minutes per week, or vigorously active for 75 minutes per week can significantly reduce a person’s risk for breast cancer and colon cancer. The goal, many researchers say, is to try and add at least 30 minutes of activity per day. This activity needs to include aerobic exercises that push oxygenated blood through your body and strengthen your cardiovascular system as a whole.
It’s important to note that this exercise can help reduce your risk, even if it doesn’t have a direct effect on your body weight.
Maintain a healthy weight
Speaking of body weight, it should be stated now that people who are considered overweight or obese have a much higher risk of certain types of cancers, including breast, prostate, lung, colon and kidney cancer.
Much like eating healthy, this is also a prevention method that carries rewards, because cancer is just one of the many devastating physical issues that can develop when someone is overweight.
Avoid bad habits, such as smoking and drinking, eat healthy, limit the amount of food you do eat and exercise regularly. Not only will these habits make you healthier and happier overall, but they will also go a long way towards keeping you free and clear of many different types of cancers.
Avoid sun exposure
Much like tobacco use, the damages of sun exposure are well-known at this point. Staying in the sun unprotected for too long can lead to sunburns and other complications, which can lead to skin cancer. This is easily preventable, however, by being proactive and limiting your sun exposure. Stay out of the sun during peak hours, from about 10 am to 4 pm. Use a high SPF sunscreen (at least 30) even on cloudy days. Stay in the shade whenever possible. You want to make it so that the sun’s harmful UV rays have as little chance as possible of actually making contact with your skin.
Finally, one of the most effective things you can do to help stay cancer-free is to get screened regularly. Whether it’s colon cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer or any of the more than a hundred types of cancer we know of, much of it can be prevented through the course of regular medical checkups and screenings. If the best offense is a good defense, then you should look at these screenings like they are your best defensive measure. They help you stay aware of your body’s condition, and should cancer – or a pre-cancerous area – be detected then that early detection can be the key to preventing serious problems later on.
If you don’t want to be one of the statistics mentioned above, then following these practices is a must. While these tips can’t guarantee a cancer-free future, they can certainly reduce your risk of contracting some of the most common forms of cancer we see today. Furthermore, following these tips will help you to promote and maintain a healthy lifestyle, which will be a reward as well. So, why not get started today?