There are many ways to possibly reduce your risk of cancer. The good news is that since 1991, cancer deaths have declined 31%. That is good news, but there were still over 1,785,000 newly diagnosed cancer cases in the US in 2020. According to an American Cancer Society study, at least 42% of these – 750,000 – were potentially preventable. Today is the first day of National Cancer Prevention Month, held every February. This is a good time to assess your health and determine ways you can reduce your risk of cancer.
How can you reduce your risk of cancer?
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are seven tips that anyone can do and at the top of the list is taking charge of your own health. Review these known guidelines and see if you can make changes in your lifestyle.
- Limit exposure to toxins: About 90 percent of lung cancer is caused by smoking or by spending time with others who do smoke. Another source for lung cancer is through inhalation of asbestos fibers. Asbestos can also lead to mesothelioma, a deadly disease. This can be through certain occupations, products – even cosmetics – that still contain asbestos. It can also occur through renovations of homes built before 1980. If there is a chance of asbestos in any products, contact an abatement professional. There is no safe level of exposure to asbestos, but limit your exposure to any toxin.
- Eat a healthy diet: Fill your plate with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans. Meanwhile, alcohol can increase your chances of getting liver, breast, and colorectal cancers. Eating processed meats can also increase risks of some types of cancer.
- Be active and watch your weight: For best results physically and reducing your risk of cancer, have at least 30 minutes of daily physical activity. More is better. Not maintaining a healthy weight can increase the possibility of breast, prostate, lung, colon and kidney cancers.
- Watch your time in the sun: That includes tanning beds. Use sunscreen of at least an SPF or 30 and reapply generously every two hours. Cover up with dark or bright loosely fitting fabrics when possible. These reflect more ultraviolet radiation. Between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. the sun is strongest and most dangerous. If possible, stay in the shade.
- Utilize the vaccines available: Hepatitis B has a vaccination to lessen the risk of acquiring this disease that can lead to liver cancer. Ask your doctor if this vaccine is right for you. There is also a vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV can lead to cervical and genital cancers in addition to squamous cell cancers of the head and neck. This vaccine is geared to both boys and girls aged 11 and 12. There is also a newly approved vaccine, Gardasil 9, for males and females aged 9 to 45.
- Stay away from risky behaviors: Don’t share needles as this can result in HIV as well as hepatitis B and hepatitis C – these can heighten the risk of liver cancer. Practice safe sex by limiting sexual partners and use condoms. With many contacts, the chance of acquiring HIV, AIDS, or HPV rises. These diseases can lead to a number of cancers.
- Visit your doctor: Pay attention to your body so you can quickly recognize changes. This, plus regular checkups and screenings, can catch many cancers at an early stage which leads to more positive outcomes.
National Cancer Prevention Month: An opportunity to learn and improve our health
Every February is an opportunity to revisit out successes and failures in dealing with all types of cancers. This is an exciting time of progress as researchers make new discoveries and develop new treatments. It’s also a time to think of new ways to involve people in their own healthcare solutions.
To access more information on the statistics from 2020, the American Cancer Society website is a great resource. Below is the latest news on current and future developments to reduce your risk of cancer from the Cancer Network:
- Over the next century, successful implementation of the World Health Organization (WHO) elimination strategy could reduce cervical cancer mortality by almost 99% and save more than 62 million women’s lives.
- A recent study determined circulating tumor cells were associated with melanoma relapse, suggesting that this form of liquid biopsy could help identify patients who would benefit from adjuvant therapy.
- According to researchers, when individuals quit smoking it not only stops further damage from accruing, but it also may lead to the reawakening of lung cells that were not damaged by tobacco carcinogens.
- A new AI system could possibly surpass human experts in the prediction of breast cancer, potentially leading to enhanced screening results and earlier identification of the disease.
- Online and digital videos were found to play a key role in cancer education, leading to increased knowledge and interventions, however access for vulnerable populations needs to be improved.
- Engaging in the recommended amount of leisure-time physical activity (7.5-15 MET hours/week) was found to be associated with a lower risk for 7 different cancer types.
- Greater adherence to the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF)/American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) cancer prevention recommendations appeared to be associated with decreased colorectal cancer (CRC) risk for both African Americans and whites.
- A blood-based screening test, presented at the 2020 Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium, held from January 23-25, in San Francisco, California, could potentially diagnose multiple cancer types earlier, including gastrointestinal cancers across stages at high sensitivity.
Potential for great progress in cancer prevention
So much good news, but still a huge number of people suffering and dying from cancer. You have read of steps which could prevent, or get an early and more treatable diagnosis. Each one of us has a responsibility to do what we can to stay healthy and to encourage our family and friends. While we cannot prevent every cancer with our due diligence, much can be accomplished.
If you recognized yourself in the seven tips from Mayo Clinic, make a plan to reduce your risk of cancer by changing at least one bad habit or behavior before the 2022 National Cancer Prevention Month.