Cancer doctors and cancer specialists universally agree that making good lifestyle choices is the best form of cancer prevention. The cancer specialists at CHI St. Joseph Health Cancer Center encourage you to make good lifestyle choices, according to the advice of the Cancer Prevention Foundation.
Despite conflicting reports about what does and does not cause cancer, the CPF offers seven foundational steps for preventing cancer. These seven lifestyle changes can help tremendously.
1. Don't Use Tobacco
Using any type of tobacco puts you at a much higher risk of cancer. Smoking has been linked to several types of cancer, including lung, bladder, cervix and kidney. Even if you don't personally smoke tobacco, being exposed to secondhand smoke can increase your risk of lung cancer. Chewing tobacco has been linked to tongue, gum, and pancreatic cancer.
Not using tobacco is one of the best actions you can take for your health, including cancer prevention. If you have decided to quit tobacco use, your doctor or cancer specialist can refer you to products and other strategies to help you quit.
2. Eat a Healthy Diet
Making healthy selections at the grocery store and for your meals can go a long way toward improving your health and meeting your goal of cancer prevention. Though research findings differ, no informed cancer specialist would argue against the benefits of a healthy diet. Here are some guidelines for making good choices:
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Your diet should consist primarily of fruits, vegetables and other foods from plant sources, including whole grains and beans. Cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bok choy and kale are considered beneficial for cancer prevention. These score high for containing many anti-cancer substances, such as isothiocyanates.
- Limit fat. Choose fewer high-fat foods. High-fat diets tend to be higher in calories and might increase the risk of overweight or obesity which can, in turn, increase cancer risk.
- Avoid these foods. Avoid all charred food, which create known carcinogens. Little or no red meat is best. It’s also best to avoid sugar, both white and brown, and heavily salted, smoked and pickled foods, which can lead to higher rates of stomach cancer. It’s a good idea to avoid soft drinks, French fries, chips and snack foods that contain trans fats, and food and drink additives such as aspartame.
- Drink alcohol only in moderation. The risk of various types of cancer, including breast, colon, lung, kidney and liver, increases with the amount of alcohol you drink, and with the number of years you’ve been a drinker.
3. Stay Physically Active and Maintain a Healthy Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight is thought to lower the risk of various types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, prostate, lung, colon and kidney.
Physical activity benefits your health in multiple ways. In addition to helping you control your weight, staying physically active is believed to lower the risk of several cancers, including breast and colon cancer.
For maximum health benefits, adults should strive to get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week, or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week. Or course, combinations of vigorous and moderate aerobic activities is also good. It’s best to incorporate at least 30 minutes of physical activity in your daily routine —more being better. Cancer prevention and good health go hand-in-hand, especially when it comes to physical activity.
4. Protect Yourself from the Sun
Skin cancer is common, yet highly preventable.
- Avoid midday sun. Stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun's rays are strongest.
- Stay in the shade. When you are outside, stay in the shade as much as possible. Sunglasses and a broad-rimmed hat help protect your eyes and face.
- Cover your skin. Wear tightly woven, loose fitting clothing that covers as much of your skin as possible. Bright or dark colors reflect more ultraviolet radiation than pastels or bleached cotton, so they are good choices.
- Be generous with sunscreen. Apply sunscreen heavily, and reapply regularly as long as you're outside.
- Avoid tanning beds and sunlamps. Contrary to popular belief, these are just as damaging as natural sunlight.
5. Get Immunized
Cancer prevention should often include protection from certain viral infections. Talk to your doctor about recommendations for you when it comes to immunization against:
- Hepatitis B. Hepatitis B can increase the risk of developing liver cancer. The Hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for certain high-risk adults, including adults who are sexually active outside of a mutually monogamous relationship, men who have sex with men, people with sexually transmitted infections, intravenous drug users, plus health care and public safety workers who might be exposed to infected blood or body fluids.
- Human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that can lead to cervical and other genital cancers. In addition, HPV can lead to squamous cell cancers of the head and neck. The HPV vaccine is available to men and women age 26 or younger who haven’t already had the vaccine.
6. Get Regular Medical Care
Self-exams and screenings for various types of cancers, at recommended intervals, can go a long way toward increasing your chances of discovering cancer early, and improving your chances of survival and/or minimally-invasive treatment. Cancers that can and should be screened for include cancer of the skin, colon, prostate, cervix and breast. Ask your doctor about the best cancer screening and self-exam schedule for you.
If you will take cancer prevention seriously, and follow the above advice, your risk of developing cancer should be dramatically reduced. In addition to having higher energy levels, plus looking and feeling better, your overall health will improve—all benefits that are well worth the effort and discipline required!