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Help Prevent Cancer With Eight Healthy Habits

by C.H. Weaver M.D. 8/1/2018

An important part of cancer prevention is as simple as making healthy lifestyle choices, or choosing healthful habits while avoiding unhealthy ones. The following is a list of everyday healthy choices that can lower your cancer risk.

  • Don’t smoke. Smoking is widely recognized as a risk for lung cancer and has also been linked to several other cancers. For smokers, kicking the habit is an important step in reducing cancer risk. Non-smokers should of course not take up smoking and should also be aware of the risk of second-hand smoke; this means avoiding individuals who smoke as well as smoke-filled environments.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese increases your risk for many health conditions, including cancer. If you’re overweight or obese, consult your doctor about a healthy weight-loss plan. If you’re at a healthy weight, maintain it with a balanced diet and regular physical activity.
  • Keep moving. Physical activity can have a great benefit to overall health and well-being and may also help prevent cancer. So, there’s no reason not to keep moving. Even moderate amounts of exercise—as little as 30 minutes a day—can decrease cancer risk and boost health.
  • Eat your fruits and vegetables. Diets rich in plant-based foods (fruits and vegetables) may help lower cancer risk. As well, beans, whole-grains, and lean meats and fish can fill your cancer-fighting plate.
  • Limit alcohol consumption. Alcohol consumption may raise cancer risk, and risk is likely to increase with increasing amounts of consumption. If you drink alcohol, you can control cancer risk by limiting intake to moderate amounts (no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two for men).
  • Control stress. Though it’s not known for certain whether stress can increase cancer risk, most of us will agree that too much stress can have a negative impact on general well-being and quality of life. As well, some unhealthy methods of coping with stress (smoking, overeating, and excessive drinking, for example) can raise cancer risk. So, it’s important to find healthy ways to manage stress. Consider exercise and relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation.
  • Get screened. The next best thing to cancer prevention is detecting disease in its earliest, most treatable stages. Mammograms for breast cancer and PSA testing for prostate cancer are examples of screening tests. Some tests can also find precancerous changes and treat them before they progress to cancer (such as Pap smears for cervical cancer and colonoscopies for colorectal cancer). Maintain a regular screening schedule and consult your doctor if you notice anything unusual.
  • Know your family history. Risk for some cancers runs in families. Learn about cancer incidence (including disease type and age at diagnosis) among your relatives and share this information with your doctor. Your family history will help you and your doctor determine your cancer risk and develop a screening and prevention plan.
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