Nearly 1.7 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer this year, which is why prevention and early detection are more crucial than ever. The choices you make every day affect your health, both good and bad. Just know, it is never too late to start living a healthier life! During National Cancer Prevention Month, pledge to make simple lifestyle changes that will help lower your risk of cancer in the long run.
1. Overcome Bad Habits
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death and smoking cigarettes is the main cause of almost all cases. Tobacco use puts you at risk for not only lung cancer, but a number of other cancers including larynx, mouth, esophagus, throat, bladder, kidney, liver, stomach, pancreas, colon, and cervix, as well as acute myeloid leukemia. Ask yourself… is it really worth it? Even if you don't smoke, exposure to secondhand smoke might increase your risk of lung cancer too. Avoiding tobacco at all costs or deciding to stop smoking is a vital part of cancer prevention. If you need help quitting, ask your doctor about helpful products to use and other strategies for quitting
Moreover, some say a glass of wine may be good for the heart, but alcohol consumption increases your risk of cancer too. Studies around the world have shown that drinking alcohol regularly increases your risk of getting mouth, voice box, and throat cancers, according to the CDC.
2. Be Mindful of Carcinogens
Carcinogens are substances that may cause cancer. Things like diesel exhaust, asphalt fumes, gasoline, and even wood dust are considered carcinogens. The ability to cause cancer depends on the substance you’re dealing with and the length of exposure. For instance, sunlight. As you know, sunlight is a great source of Vitamin D, but over-exposing yourself to UV rays from the sun and/or tanning beds can lead to skin cancer. That’s why when you’re enjoying time outdoors, you should wear sunscreen and protective clothing like a hat and sunglasses.
3. Maintain a Healthy Diet and Active Lifestyle
Putting together a healthy grocery list and opting for a healthier meal won’t guarantee cancer prevention, but it might help lower your risk. Make whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and beans a major part of your normal diet and limit your consumption of red and processed meats. By combining a healthy diet with regular physical activity, you can reduce your chances of obesity, which is a major risk factor for a number of cancers. Getting at least 150 minutes of physical activity every week can also make a huge difference in your general health and wellbeing.
4. Get Immunized
Vaccines can also help lower your risk, however not many cancers have vaccines available. There are two specific vaccinations, Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and Hepatitis B, that have shown great success rates. If you have HPV, you are at a greater risk for developing cervical cancer, as well as anal, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. Hepatitis B is a liver disease that could last long-term and cause liver cancer. Both vaccines have been proven safe and highly effective in preventing these cancers.
5. Get Regular Screenings
Screening means checking your body for cancer before you have symptoms. Regular self-exams and screenings for various types of cancers, such as skin, colon, cervix, and breast, can increase your chances of discovering cancer early on when treatment is most successful. Because HPV and Hepatitis B are the only vaccines available, scheduling routine screenings can work as a similar safety measure. Talk to your doctor if you’re unsure about when you should be screened.
If cancer runs in your family, your doctor may recommend genetic testing. Genetic testing can help predict your risk of particular diseases, can find specific genes that may pass disease onto your children, and can even provide information to guide your personal health.
According to the American Cancer Society, there is strong evidence that an individual's risk of developing cancer can be significantly reduced by practicing healthy behaviors. Cancer prevention isn’t about listing off do’s and don’ts, it’s about valuing your health and making self-care a high priority in your life.