Nobody wants cancer, but in the U.S. one in every two men and one in every three women will get it at some point in their lives.
February is National Cancer Prevention month, and although there are no guarantees—we all know those who have developed the disease through circumstances beyond their control—science has shown us that many cancer cases are preventable through practical, healthy lifestyle choices.
The Harvard School of Public Health estimates up to 75 percent of cancer deaths in the U.S. could be prevented, while the American Cancer Society declares about 60 percent of American cancer cases to be preventable.
Here are five research-proven way to lessen your risk:
- Don’t smoke or use tobacco products—or quit if you are: 30 percent of cancer deaths are a result of this one risk factor alone. In addition to lung cancer from smoking, tobacco use increases the risk of larynx, mouth, esophagus, throat, bladder, kidney, liver, stomach, pancreas, colon and rectum, and cervical cancers as well as acute myeloid leukemia. If you are currently a smoker, quitting reduces your risk of mouth, throat, esophagus and bladder cancer by half in five years and lung cancer by half after 10 years.
- Maintain a healthy diet and a healthy weight—Research shows obesity and poor eating habits contribute as much to the risk of cancer death as smoking. A meal plan oriented around fruits and vegetables and with little to no red or processed meat, refined sugars or unhealthy fats and properly controlled portions reduces your risk for numerous cancer types. For example, obese and overweight women are two to four times as likely to be diagnosed with endometrial cancer. Liver cancer is twice as likely in those who are overweight, with a greater emphasis toward men. And pancreatic cancer is one-and-a-half more times as likely to develop in men and women who are overweight or obese.
- Exercise at least 30 minutes a day—In addition to helping prevent weight gain, physical activity also protects hormone balance. High levels of hormones have been shown to increase cancer risk. Exercise also improves immunity and digestion, which in turn allow us to effectively process more nutrients, keeping cancer at bay.
- Drink in moderation, if at all—Alcohol consumption is directly linked to several cancers, including mouth, throat, voice box and esophageal cancer as well as colorectal cancer. Women’s risk of breast cancer is raised by as little as a few drinks a week—a risk raised, potentially, for women who do not get enough folate in their diets. So what’s safe? The American Cancer Society recommends no more than two drinks per day for men and one for women. And don’t think to save up your limit for the weekend. Drinking in larger quantities also raises cancer risk—not to mention the chance of injury and other health problems.
- Get sunshine—Too many rays, of course, can raise your risk of skin cancer, but about 15 minutes per day supplies your body with needed vitamin D, which serves as a buffer against multiple types of cancer.