More than 1.7 million people in the United States are expected to be diagnosed with cancer in 2018, according to the American Cancer Society. Women have a 37.6% lifetime probability of being diagnosed with cancer, while the number is 39.7% for men. While genetics play a huge role in each individual’s cancer risk and environmental factors can also be important, experts say there are ways to help prevent cancer naturally by making good lifestyle choices. In fact, half of the cancer deaths in the U.S. can be prevented if people made healthy decisions around their lifestyle, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Here are 10 cancer prevention tips to help reduce your risk of getting cancer.
1. Get regular check-ups and screening tests
Getting regular check-ups and screening tests by your doctor can help catch some cancers early or even prevent them from developing. Early detection can also significantly increase your chances of beating a cancer. Mammograms and colorectal cancer screenings are among the common tests included in every health insurance plan under the Affordable Care Act.
2. Get vaccinated
It is possible to actually get immunized against certain viruses that can cause cancer, so get them while you’re at the doctor’s office.
There are currently two cancer preventive vaccines available in the United States: the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine and the hepatitis B virus (HBV) vaccine. The HPV vaccine can help prevent HPV-caused cervical, vulvar, vaginal, and anal cancers. While the HBV vaccine can help prevent HBV-induced liver cancer.
3. Prevent cancer with food
As is the case with many other health conditions, a healthy diet can reduce your risk of developing certain cancers. Recommendations include eating a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains and opting for more fish and chicken over red meats and processed meats such as sausage and bacon. Limit sugary foods and drinks, especially processed foods. In the same vein, avoid overconsumption of salt, which is especially prevalent in processed foods.
4. Maintain a healthy weight
Obesity and being overweight are key risk factors for cancers such as breast, colon, kidney, and pancreatic cancer, so it’s crucial to maintain a healthy weight. Make sure to also avoid being underweight, as that can create its own list of health issues. Use this BMI calculator to see if you’re at a healthy weight.
5. Break a sweat
Regular exercise has been linked to reducing the risk of breast and colon cancer, among other cancers and other serious health conditions. Doctors recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week; alternatively, you could opt for 75 minutes of intense aerobic activity. Reducing sedentary activities such as sitting in front of a computer or watching TV on the couch can also be helpful.
6. Reduce your chances of cancer by reducing alcohol intake
Moderation is important if you drink alcohol. Alcohol has been linked to increased risk of cancers such as breast, liver, throat, colon, and rectal cancer. And the more you drink, the more you’re at risk. Experts suggest that men limit their alcohol consumption to two drinks per day and women limit it to one drink per day. The type of alcohol does not matter, as the link between alcohol and cancer is based on the ethanol found in all alcoholic drinks. So drinking red wine will not be better for the prevention of cancer than drinking beer.
7. Avoid tobacco completely
Tobacco, including smokeless tobacco, has been linked to a variety of cancers, including lung, pancreatic, bladder, throat, and kidney cancers. In fact, studies have shown that approximately 30% of all cancer deaths in the United States are linked to tobacco.
Inhaling second-hand smoke can increase your chances of getting cancer as well. So if there’s someone in your household who smokes, trying to help them quit can benefit both of you. Resources to help you or a loved one stop smoking is available through nonprofit organizations such as the American Cancer Society.
8. Ensure adequate sun protection
One of the most preventable yet most common cancers is skin cancer, so make sure to protect yourself from the sun. While getting some vitamin D is important, always wear generous amounts of sunscreen that’s at least SPF 15, and don’t forget to reapply per the instructions. You can also avoid getting burned by staying in shaded areas. Especially when the sun is the strongest between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., and by covering up with hats and clothing. Don’t forget to protect your eyes as well with sunglasses. Lastly, avoid artificial rays from tanning beds and sunlamps.
9. Play it safe with sex
Practice safe sex. It can decrease your chances of contracting STIs such as HPV or HIV, both of which can increase your risk of certain cancers.
10. Check your household items for carcinogens
While your home may be sparkling clean, it can actually be full of toxins that increase your risk of cancer. Besides naturally-occurring environment risks such as radon, common things found in homes such as air fresheners, makeup, water bottles, and cleaning supplies can include carcinogens. Check your belongings and see if they include known or probable human carcinogens.
No need to worry too much about your cell phone though. While the risk of getting cancer from cell phones has been talked about, research has shown that there isn’t a clear link between the two. Should you want to be extra cautious, however, doctors say you can do so by using headphones instead of putting the headset right next to your ear.
Putting these cancer prevention tips to use as early as possible and throughout your life is crucial to reducing your risk of getting cancer. While cancer impacts older people more often, experts say the reason is that cancers can take a long time to develop. All the more reason to start your healthy choices today.