February is National Cancer Prevention Month
There are approximately 1.7 million new cases of cancer diagnosed per year in the United States. While cancer can affect anyone, regardless of health and lifestyle, 1 out of 3 of the most common types of cancer are preventable. To help, February is National Cancer Prevention Month, which aims to educate people on ways to reduce their cancer risk.
To keep yourself healthy and reduce your cancer risk, consider these health tips:
1) Don’t use tobacco
Using any type of tobacco puts you at risk of cancer. Smoking links to various types of cancer, including lung, mouth, throat, larynx, pancreas, bladder, cervix, and kidney. Additionally, chewing tobacco can lead to oral and pancreatic cancer.
Not using tobacco (or committing to quitting it) can go a long way in terms of cancer prevention. If you need help quitting tobacco, ask your doctor about stop-smoking products or see if your employer offers a tobacco cessation program.
2) Reduce your alcohol consumption
While a glass of wine may be good for your heart, alcohol consumption increases one’s cancer risk. High alcohol consumption correlates positively with cancers of the mouth, throat, larynx, esophagus, colon, liver, and breast.
When drinking alcohol, the body breaks down a chemical called acetaldehyde. This chemical damages DNA and prohibit the body from making repairs. Without being able to repair damaged DNA, cells may grow out of control and create a cancerous tumor.
While you don’t need to cut out alcohol completely, moderation remains key to reducing your cancer risk.
3) Eat a healthy diet
A well-balanced diet won’t guarantee cancer prevention, but it could reduce your risk. Consider these guidelines:
- Base your diet on fruits, vegetables, and other foods from plant sources, such as whole grains and beans.
- Eat lighter and leaner by choosing fewer high-calorie foods, including refined sugars and fat from animal sources.
- Limit your consumption of processed meats (ham, sausage, etc.), as studies show that eating large amounts of processed meats can slightly increase your risk of certain types of cancer.
- Avoid sugary drinks, such as soda, as much as possible.
- Limit consumption of salty foods and foods processed with salt.
- Do not use dietary supplements as a substitute for a healthy diet of nutrient-rich foods.
4) Maintain a healthy weight
Obesity increases your risk of various types of cancer, including breast, prostate, lung, colon, and kidney cancer. Physical activity also matters—on its own, exercise might lower your risk of breast and colon cancer.
While exercise of any amount delivers some health benefits to people, you should aim for 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity. As a general goal, include at least 30 minutes of physical activity in your daily routine—and if you can do more, that’s a bonus.
5) Avoid unnecessary exposure to radiation
Skin cancer represents one of the most common kinds of cancer, but also one of the most preventable forms. For example, overexposure to radiation from the sun can be harmful to your health. You can protect yourself from the sun by:
- Using sunblock
- Avoiding midday sun (from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
- Staying in the shade when possible.
In addition, radiation from medical imaging tests can slightly increase your cancer risk. As a result, get medical imaging studies done only when you need them.
Lastly, radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that forms naturally from the decay of radioactive elements, such as uranium, which is found in different amounts in soil and rock throughout the world. For both adults and children, most exposure to radon comes from being indoors in homes, offices, schools, and other buildings. To keep your living environment safe, get your house checked for residential radon, which increases your risk of lung cancer.
However, do not worry about electromagnetic radiation from high-voltage power lines or radiofrequency radiation from microwaves and cell phones. They do not cause cancer.
6) Get vaccinated and attend your regular medical exams
Cancer prevention includes protection from certain viral infections. Talk to your doctor and make sure you’re up to date on your vaccinations, including those for Hepatitis B and Human Papillomavirus (HPV).
Also, regular exams and screenings for various types of cancers—such as cancer of the skin, colon, prostate, cervix, and breast—can increase your chances of discovering cancer early, when treatment is most likely to be successful. This includes your regular annual exam with your primary care physician.
Interested in learning more about cancer prevention? Check out the links below.