The dreaded “C” word makes us cringe – and with so many people diagnosed every day, preventing cancer can seem insurmountable. But cancers don’t develop overnight, and there are ways you can dramatically reduce your cancer risk just by tweaking daily activities like eating, drinking, and exercise.
In honor of World Cancer Day, the World Health Organization has identified nine ways to reduce your risk and improve your overall health:
- Don’t smoke – or use any form of tobacco. If you’ve never smoked or have already quit, congratulations – you don’t have to do a thing. If you do smoke or use tobacco products, you can cut your cancer risk by stopping right now. Quitting isn’t so easy, but the benefits are almost instantaneous: Medical experts have found that a person’s health can improve within minutes of the last puff (or snuff) – and the health advantages can last a lifetime. Here’s a simple step-by-step plan to get you started.
- Make your home (and car) smoke-free. Okay, so you don’t use tobacco, but is the rest of your life up in smoke? All the cancer-causing ingredients in cigarettes, cigars, and pipes are also found in secondhand smoke. Even the remnants of tobacco smoke on surfaces, known as thirdhand smoke, can be a health hazard. If you live with a smoker, ask him or her to quit – or to smoke outside, away from your home or car. Adults, kids, and even pets are all at risk from the danger of secondhand and thirdhand smoke.
- Be physically active. We all know that moving does the body good, but did you know that it plays a big role in preventing cancer as well? Convincing research shows that regular exercise can reduce the risk of breast and colon cancers and studies are underway connecting the benefits of activity with lower risks for other cancers. Need an easy program to get you off the couch? Start moving with this simple exercise routine you can do in just 20 minutes a day!
- Eat a heart-healthy diet. Want the ultimate health boost? Just eat better. The anti-cancer diet just happens to be a heart-healthy eating plan, and it’s very simple: Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, switch to whole grains, limit your salt, and choose healthy oils and fats. Here are ten foods to add to your daily anti-cancer defense.
- Limit your alcohol intake. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that alcohol-related cancers accounted for 3.5 percent of all cancer deaths in the United States in 2009. While some research suggests there may be benefits to drinking alcohol in moderation, it’s best to abstain or watch the amount you drink. The CDC recommends no more than one drink per day for women and two for men.
- Avoid too much sun and use protection. The journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention found that women who had at least five sunburns between the ages of 15 and 20 had an 80 percent increased risk of melanoma. The fact is most skin cancers can be prevented with good skin care, and that means avoiding prolonged sun exposure and wearing sunscreen every day (not just on sunny days). Make skin cancer prevention a priority, and use lotions and moisturizers that contain SPF.
- Breastfeed to reduce your cancer risk. If you’re currently breastfeeding (or have breastfed in the past), you’re doing double-duty – providing your baby with innumerable benefits and reducing your cancer risk in the process. Breastfeeding lowers estrogen levels in the body, which is a protective factor breast cancer.
- Ensure your children get Hepatitis B and HPV vaccines. With the outbreak of measles, the importance of vaccinating your children has never been more evident. But did you know that two childhood vaccinations can ward off cancer later in life? Hepatitis B, a virus that is spread through contact with bodily fluids, causes 80% of all primary liver cancers. Since 1990, hepatitis B rates have fallen more than 80% – a direct result of the hepatitis B vaccine. The human papillomavirus, or HPV, is a group of more than 150 sexually-transmitted viruses that can cause anal, cervical, penile, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. The CDC recommends that boys and girls be vaccinated between the ages of 11 and 12, while the body is building immunity and well before the age of sexual activity.
- Take part in cancer-screening programs. One of the most important breakthroughs in the war against cancer is the ability to catch cancers in the early stages. Regular screenings and tests such as mammograms, colonoscopies, and prostate exams are recommended for specific age groups. Speak to your doctors regularly about cancer screenings based on your risk factors, age, and medical history. Source