The article, "Preventing Cancer - 4 Specific Types", written by my colleague, Dr. Maqbool Ahmed, discussed the reduction of risk for a few specific cancers for which there are significant known risk factors. I want to focus on reducing your overall risk of cancer through lifestyle factors. Nutrition, weight management, physical activity, avoiding tobacco and other lifestyle choices can not only help reduce the risk of cancer, but can also reduce the risk of cancer recurrence—or of cancer “coming back.”
- Eat a healthy diet, with an emphasis of plant based foods.
- Choose foods and drinks in amounts that help you get to and maintain a healthy weight.
- Limited how much processed meat and red meat you eat.
- Choose whole grains instead of refined grain products.
The American Cancer Society’s “Stay Healthy” website has excellent nutritional advice for the prevention of disease.
The American Cancer Society recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate activity, so 30 minutes five times per week is a great way to get that time in.
Exercise is tied to cancer prevention in several ways.
- It helps control weight, as excess weight is linked to numerous cancers.
- It helps improved hormone levels and the way your immune system works.
- Overall limiting of sedentary behavior, such as TV, video games, etc.
- However, anything is better than nothing. Any intentional activity can have benefits, so start slow and work your way up.
Click for more guidelines and tips.
Other lifestyle recommendations
- Limit alcohol use. Women should have no more than one drink per day, and men should have no more than two. And you can’t “bank” those drinks, either, such as drinking 2-3 a day only twice per week. Women who have a strong family history of breast cancer should consider avoiding alcohol completely, as it’s a known risk factor.
- I’ll mention it again: Avoid tobacco in all forms. Smoking has been discussed, but I want to mention e-cigarettes. We don’t really know what chemicals are in the solution. We know that it’s very toxic if someone drinks it, so I don’t recommend you put it in your body in any way. Also avoid chewing tobacco. Oral cancers are strongly linked to chewing tobacco and “snuff.” Oral cancer is really terrible and usually disfiguring.
- Watch your weight. Obesity is a significant risk factor for several common cancers, including breast and colon. Too much body fat produces hormones and chemicals that are tied to the development of cancer.
- If you’re a woman considering hormone replacement therapy, talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks.
- Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to some cancers. Talk with your doctor about your vitamin D levels.
- Limit your exposure to carcinogens. There are several professions that tend to be exposed to cancer-causing agents. So follow safety recommendations in the MSDS sheets for all chemicals.
- Establish a good relationship with a primary care doctor you trust. First of all, he/she can help you stay on top of screening recommendations. They can also work with you on healthy lifestyle modifications. And finally, those who regularly see their doctor may be more “in tune” with their bodies and can notice changes sooner.
If you have more questions about this topic, please feel free to comment below.
Learn more about Deaconess Cancer Services here.