According to the World Health Organization, 30-50% of all cancers are preventable. Since February is National Cancer Prevention Month, this is an excellent opportunity to discuss actions we can take to help prevent this disease. In the U.S., the most common cancers are breast cancer, followed by prostate and lung. Unfortunately, this is closely followed by colorectal cancers and melanoma. While no cancer is 100% preventable, you can lower your risk for these common cancers by making impactful lifestyle changes.
Let’s take the time to examine our lifestyles and recognize the changes we can make to help us. Here are some positive choices you can make to help prevent cancer:
Lung cancer is not the only cancer linked to smoking. Tobacco use has also been identified as causing cancers of the kidney, pancreas, cervix, colon, rectum, esophagus, stomach, mouth, throat, bladder, and more. In addition, cigarette smoking introduces carcinogens into our bodies, including ethylene oxide, aldehydes, benzene, PAH, and N-nitrosamines. Cigarette chemicals damage DNA, making it hard for cells to repair themselves and protect us from cancer. And as those cells suffer from DNA damage over time, it can ultimately lead to cancer.
Maintain a healthy body weight
The best way to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight is by eating a balanced diet, getting adequate quality sleep, engaging in regular physical activity, and managing stress. Being overweight and having obesity have long been associated with increased cancer risk. Being an unhealthy weight means having excess body fat, which disrupts normal body functions and can lead to chronic inflammation, excess amounts of estrogen, and increased blood levels of insulin and insulin-like growth factor.
Practice sun protection
Some sun exposure a few times a week is considered healthy as it provides the body with essential vitamin D. However, overexposure to the sun’s rays can be dangerous. Between 80-90% of skin cancers are associated with exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation. UV radiation can damage the DNA in our skin cells, causing them to grow out of control and develop into cancer. Practice sun protection every day (not just the hot and sunny days) by using sunscreen, wearing clothing that covers the skin, sporting a hat, and seeking shade.
Choose the right foods
Berries, tomatoes, oatmeal, walnuts, and broccoli are just some of the superfoods that should be part of any cancer-preventing diet plan. These foods have been scientifically proven to contain cancer-fighting nutrients, such as antioxidants, folate, vitamin C, fiber, and vitamin E. On the other hand, foods that have been associated with an increased risk for cancer include processed meats, red meat, sugary drinks, alcohol, and fast food.
Understand your screening needs
Screening may not prevent cancer because the tests are meant to detect cancer at the early stages before symptoms appear. However, understanding what cancers you should be screened for means recognizing your risks. Cancer prevention means being aware and proactive about learning about your personal and family history of cancer and knowing which age you should be asking about cancer screening.
Contact Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology today for more information about cancer-fighting tips.