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10 Ways to Reduce Your Cancer Risk

Published on December 3, 2010

Updated on September 17, 2020

The Foundation’s #2PreventCancer Campaign is encouraging individuals to take simple steps every day to reduce their cancer risk and to share these smart choices, no matter how big or small, with others. We believe that together we can support each other on our journey to live smart, healthy lifestyles – one tweet or Facebook status update at a time. With help from our Medical Advisory Board and other leading experts, we have compiled a list of 10 ways to help you get started today.

1. Quit smoking
“One out of every two deaths before age 65 in our society is due to smoking,” said James Mulshine, M.D., professor of internal medicine and associate provost for research at Rush University Medical Center. You can add up to 10 years to your life by quitting.  Strive to break the addiction, and create smoke-free environments in your home and community.

2. Get screened
Be sure to continue annual screening tests like the Pap test and mammogram if you are a woman, and talk to your healthcare professional about the pros and cons of a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test if you are a man. Both the Pap test and PSA can detect cellular changes before they become cancerous, and the mammogram can detect breast cancer in its earliest stages. Fifty is the magic age for colon cancer screening. Remember, some cancers are over 90 percent curable if detected early, so don’t forget to schedule your 2011 screening!

3. Lose excess weight
Being overweight is one of the main risk factors for uterine, colon, breast, esophageal and kidney cancers. Both ovarian and pancreatic cancers have also been linked to excess weight. “When you’re overweight by any amount, you’re absolutely increasing your cancer risk,” said Curtis Miyamoto, M.D., professor and chair of radiation oncology at Temple University Hospital. If you are overweight or obese, losing weight will likely reduce your cancer risk.

4. Be active
“Where cancer prevention is concerned, physical activity is important to maintaining a normal, healthy body weight,” says Richard C. Wender, M.D., Chairman of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University. Shape up — make the effort to become physically active for at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.

5. Eat more green
According to a study presented at the American Association for Cancer Research annual international conference, Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research, eating four or more salads a week may further reduce a former smoker’s risk for lung cancer. Vegetables are rich in antioxidants, which help repair cells damaged by smoking. But we all know how important eating more green is to overall good health — just do it!

6. Limit alcohol consumption
Drinking alcohol in excess is associated with an increased risk of a number of cancers including liver cancer and colon cancer. Generally accepted limits are one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.

7. Add some color to your diet
A recent study found that anthocyanins — the compounds that give fruits and veggies intense red, purple, or blue hues — may slow or prevent the growth of colon cancer. “Anthocyanins are not absorbed efficiently into the bloodstream,” said study author Monica Giusti, Ph.D., assistant professor of food science at Ohio State University, “so they remain in the gastrointestinal tract, where they interact with the tissues.”  Try working more colorful fruits and vegetables into your diet.

8. Cut back on red meats
Any meat is a great source of protein, but white meats like fish and seafood are the healthiest choice, said Andrew Weil, M.D., founder and director of the Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona’s College of Medicine. Red meats like beef, pork and lamb have a high fat content, which promotes inflammation — a contributing factor in the development of many chronic diseases, including cancer.

9. Wear sunscreen
Skin cancer is the most common and most preventable of cancers. “The most important thing you can do is limit sun exposure and protect your head and neck, where most skin cancers appear, with a sunscreen that blocks UVA and UVB radiation,” said Darrell Rigel, M.D., professor of dermatology at New York University School of Medicine.

10. Breastfeed
Attention all mothers-to-be! The longer you breastfeed your baby the greater your breast cancer risk is reduced, according to a study published in the July 20, 2002, issue of The Lancet.

2 Comments

You made a great point when you talked about how it is important to get annual screenings so that you can reduce your risk of cancer. My family has a history of testicular cancer, and I am worried that I might develop it the older I get. I’m going to have to start going in for regular screenings.

Reply

It’s interesting that 90% of some cancers are curable when it’s detected early. Prostate cancer runs in my family and I’m worried that as I get older, it’s only a matter of time before I get it myself. It’s probably smart to now get regular screenings to detect anything early.

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