Does cancer prevention mean never getting cancer? Not necessarily, but it can decrease your chances immensely. It all begins with you.
Proactive cancer prevention
Life, procrastination, even denial possibly get in the way of doing what we know we should do to be healthy individuals. Annual checkups, knowing our family’s health history, eating healthy foods, and exercising are just a few areas that can affect our health. What else can be done to protect overall health and even deter cancer?
First is the use of tobacco products
There is no safe amount of smoking. A study showed that even smoking fewer than one cigarette each day resulted in a 64 percent increase in death over people who never smoked. The more cigarettes smoked, the higher the percentage as it climbs to an 87 percent higher death risk when smoking between one and 10 per day versus never smoked.
Eating an overall healthy diet is key
Studies show that instead of focusing on one type of food or beverage as “good” or “bad”, it’s the entire diet over a long period of time that most affects our health. This nutrient intake includes supplements as well. Supplements cannot replace the benefits of ingesting nutrients through foods – and can sometimes even be a detriment. Eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans and limit refined sugars and processed meats to reduce the possibility of acquiring cancer.
Premature death associated with extreme obesity
What is extreme obesity? In general, it is when a person is 100 pounds or more over their recommended weight for their height. Since this is usually measured in BMI rankings, it was found that people in the 40.0 – 44.9 BMI category lost over six years from their normal life span. Those at an even higher level of 55.0 – 59.9 BMI lost almost 14 years of life. To compare, smokers and extremely obese individuals had about the same years of life lost. These losses are generally due to heart issues and cancer.
Breast cancer prevention
Limit alcohol consumption. Latest recommendation to prevent breast cancer is to drink no more that one drink per day. Alcohol increases the risk of breast, colon, lung, kidney and liver cancers.
Stay active regularly. Aim for 150 minutes each week with moderate activity or 75 minutes of aerobic activity. This will burn calories and also keep blood flowing.
Weigh the risks of hormone therapy over the rewards. If you decide to proceed, stay under a doctor’s monitoring as combination hormone therapy can increase risks if used for more than 3-5 years.
Protect yourself in the sun
Melanoma can be a vicious cancer, so protecting yourself when outdoors pays big dividends. This protection needs to be used on cloudy days as well as sunny. Stay in the shade, use a minimum of SPR 30 and reapply frequently – especially when going in and out of water. Cover skin when outdoors using tightly woven fabrics in bright or dark colors. Finally, completely avoid tanning beds or sunlamps. These will damage your skin and bring about skin cancer just as much as the sun.
Certain behaviors create risks
Hepatitis B increases risk of liver cancer. The hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for people at risk through intravenous drugs, people with sexually transmitted infections, and people exposed through their occupation in health care or public safety.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted virus. It can lead to cervical cancers and squamous cell cancers on the head and neck. The HPV vaccine is recommended for girls and boys 11 and 12 and the Gardasil 0 for adults ages 9 to 45.
Practice safe sex. This will aid in protection against cancers of liver, lung, and various genital cancers. \
Don’t share needles. This behavior can lead to diseases that increase the risk of liver cancer.
Environmental cancer prevention
Many people still do not realize the dangers that may lurk in homes and offices built before 1978. For decades, asbestos was used in multiple ways – for insulation, tiles, mastic, shingles, popcorn ceilings, the list goes on. There is no safe level of asbestos exposure. Though it is primarily dangerous when disturbed, allowing fibers to float and be inhaled or land on clothing or furniture, it poses a hazard within any pre-1978 building. For that reason, any type of renovation, or accident, or weather event that disturbs an asbestos laden material is dangerous. Inhalation can lead to lung cancer, asbestosis, and the fatal disease, mesothelioma. Always employ a professional abatement company when a project may involve asbestos. They will test any suspicious materials, and if necessary, clean and dispose of all contaminated debris.
There are other dangers that may be in your home. Search the Internet and you’ll find articles and preventative methods on talc (may contain asbestos), cleaners, makeup, as well as other products to check. A good place to start is ewg.org, a website of the Environmental Working Group that “empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment.” Their research and education on common products can be eye-opening.
No one wants to experience the symptoms or go through the treatments for cancers. There is so much we can do to lessen the risks – more than written here. What can you do to decrease your – and your family’s – risk for cancer? It’s worth making changes in lifestyle. Proactive cancer prevention can save your life.