Second to heart disease, cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Certain individual characteristics, such as genetic makeup or certain carcinogens found in natural environments can make cancer difficult to prevent. A recent study led by a chief medical and scientific officer (Otis W. Brawley) at the American Cancer Society concluded that 42% of cancer cases and 45% of deaths from cancer in the United States were linked to lifestyle habits (FSH 2018).
The following are 6 lifestyle habits that can help reduce our risk of cancer (FSH 2018):
1. Stop smoking: Quitting smoking will not only help a healthier you, it will also help others around you avoid second-hand smoke. “Cigarette smoking has been tied to at least 12 different types of cancer,” including throat, mouth, and stomach and “more than 80% of lung cancers are due to smoking.”
2. Lose weight: Excess body weight is associated with different types of cancer, including uterine cancer. Kidney, gall bladder, and liver cancer account for 1/3 of cancer cases related to excess body weight. Avoiding high calorie fast foods and sugar-rich beverages can help you control your weight.
3. Eat Healthy: Healthier eating habits can also help reduce your risk of cancer. Colorectal cancer is increased by eating red meats and especially processed meats such as sausage, ham, and bacon. A high-fiber diet can help protect against colorectal cancer and a steady intake of fruits and vegetables can also help cut the risk of lung, larynx, pharynx, and oral cancer.
4. Exercise: Reducing sedentary time by getting exercise (e.g., gardening, housework, or walking) will help maintain a healthier you and thus, cut the risk of cancer.
5. Don’t consume alcohol: Some researchers maintain that drinking in moderation has health benefits associate with cardiovascular functions, but alcohol consumption increases esophageal, oral, breast, and various other cancers even at low amounts.
6. Wear sun protection: Melanoma accounts for 95% of cancer cases and is the deadliest type of skin cancer. Melanoma is linked to exposure ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun, and tanning lamps/beds. Using sunscreen with an SPF rating of 30 or greater and using adequate clothing and wide-brimmed hats to cover your skin will greatly reduce your risk of overexposure.
There is no definitive guarantee that cancer can be avoided 100% of the time, but these lifestyle habits can certainly help reduce your risk of getting cancer. You don’t need to try them all at once; start with the easy one(s) and work your way up from there.
National Safety Council, Family Safety & Health (FSH). 2018. 6 ways to cut your cancer risk. Available from the NSC Family Safety & Health magazine, fall 2018.