You make choices every day that affect your health. Did you know that many of your choices can lower your risk for several types of cancer?
Research shows that up to 50% of cancer cases and about 50% of cancer deaths are preventable with the knowledge we have today.
Lifestyle changes, like choosing more vegetables instead of red meat or wearing sunscreen every day, can make a difference. Here are the best ways to reduce your cancer risk or detect cancer early, when successful treatment is more likely.
Tobacco use (including cigarettes, cigars, hookah, chewing tobacco and more) has been linked to many types of cancer, including lung, colorectal, breast, throat, cervical, bladder, mouth and esophageal cancers. It’s best never to start using tobacco, but if you do use tobacco products, it’s never too late to quit.
According to the American Cancer Society, cigarette smoking rates reached a historic low in the U.S. in 2019. However, smoking still accounts for about 30% of all cancer deaths. About 80 to 90% of all lung cancers are related to smoking.
Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke are also at risk for cancer of the lungs and other sites, as well as other diseases. E-cigarettes also have serious health risks with increasing use seen among young people, which may lead to addiction or may also serve as a gateway to other tobacco products. The Prevent Cancer Foundation stands firm in discouraging the use of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.
Skin cancer is the most common—and the most preventable—cancer diagnosis in the U. S. Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation causes most skin cancers. Be sure to use adequate sun protection year-round. Never use indoor tanning beds.
Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains, limit red meat and foods high in salt and cut out processed meats. Avoid drinks with added sugar. A large 2021 study found that three servings of vegetables (not starchy ones, like potatoes) and two of fruit (not juice) every day resulted in a 10% lower risk of death from cancer.
Drinking alcohol is linked to several cancers, including breast, colorectal, esophageal, oral and liver cancers. If you drink, limit your drinking to no more than one drink a day if you are a woman, and no more than one or two a day if you are a man. The more you drink, the greater your risk of cancer. Even small amounts of alcohol might increase your risk.
Getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity at least five days a week can make a big difference in your general health and well-being. Make it a priority to move more and sit less. If you spend most of your time at work sitting at a desk, for example, find a way to get up and move around every hour.
Physical activity is linked to a lower risk of colorectal, breast and endometrial cancers, and there is some evidence that also links it to reducing the risk of other cancers. Add exercise to your routine to reduce stress, increase energy, boost your immune system, control your weight and reduce your risk of cancer.
Certain types of the human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause cervical cancer, oropharyngeal cancer (cancer of the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils) and at least four other types of cancer. Because HPV is spread through vaginal, anal or oral sex, using a condom the right way every time you have sex can help protect you, but it is not 100% protection.
The hepatitis B and hepatitis C viruses can be spread from person to person through sex or blood (for example, by sharing needles and syringes for injection drug use). The hepatitis B or C viruses can cause long-term liver infection that can increase your chance of developing liver cancer. Avoid risky behaviors and practice safer sex to decrease your risk of hepatitis B or C and liver cancer.
Getting vaccinated can protect you from certain viruses that are linked to certain cancers. One of these viruses is HPV. All children should get vaccinated against HPV between ages 9-12 and older teens and young adults (ages 13 to 26) who have not been vaccinated can get a “catch-up” vaccination series.
In the U.S., most liver cancers are linked to hepatitis B or hepatitis C. While there is no vaccine at this time for hepatitis C, a hepatitis B vaccine is available and is recommended for all children and adults up to age 59, as well as adults age 60 and over who are at high risk for hepatitis B infection. (Testing and treatment are available for both hepatitis B and C.)
Share your family history with your health care provider and discuss cancer screenings. Some tests can help detect cancer early, when treatment is more likely to be successful, and some can also detect precancerous conditions before they become cancer. While screening has been proven to save lives, screening guidelines may not be “one size fits all.”