10 Lifestyle Changes to Help Prevent Cancer

Reducing your risk for cancer may be easier than you think. Sometimes it requires little more than a few lifestyle changes to make all the difference in the world. And while, yes, people can still get cancer even though they do all of the "right" things, research tells us that nearly half of all cancers are linked to avoidable factors that we can control.


Exercise for Cancer Prevention

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When you exercise, you are not only making yourself healthier, you are decreasing your risk of certain types of cancers as well. The American Institute for Cancer Research currently recommends that everyone exercise for at least 45 minutes per day.

This doesn't mean, of course, that you have to go to the gym to lift weights. Even activities as light as gardening a few times a week is known to significantly decrease the risk of lung cancer. Moderate exercise, by contrast, will not only improve your cardiovascular health, but it is believed to cut the risk of colon cancer by as much as 40 percent, too. Even for those who have already had cancer, exercise can make a big difference in preventing a recurrence.


Eat Your Fruits and Vegetables

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A well-balanced diet is advantageous for many reasons. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables greatly reduces your risk of not only developing cancer but heart disease, diabetes, and other potentially deadly illnesses, too.
Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants which help repair damaged cells. Of these, cruciferous vegetables and berries pack an extra punch with a multitude of vitamins, fiber, and disease-fighting phytochemicals.

In addition to berries, top choices include broccoli, kale, cabbage, radishes, and rutabaga.


Limit Red Meat and Avoid Processed Meats

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Numerous studies show that a diet high in animal fat increases the risk of several types of cancer, including colon cancer. And while a high intake of red meat is of concern, packaged and processed meats present an even greater risk.

Moderation is key when it comes to the intake of these foods, but pay attention to how you prepare them as well. Did you know, for instance, that marinating meat can significantly reduce the reduce carcinogenic content before grilling?

Moreover, trimming fat from red meat is not only good for your heart health, but it can reduce the risk of colon and breast cancer.

Research has also shown that fatty foods boost the production of bile acids and hormones that contribute to the development of cancer. By contrast, vegetarians are less likely to get cancer when compared to regular red meat eaters.


Avoid Smoking and Exposure to Smoke

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Smoking is the most significant cancer risk factor we can control. It is responsible for not only lung cancer but many other types of non-pulmonary cancer.

One of the best ways to reduce risk is to quit smoking or never start. In the end, it's never too late to stop and your body will reap benefits even if you've smoked for 20, 30, or even 40 years.

And it's not just cigarettes to be worried about. Cigar smoking is equally problematic and there's even increasing evidence that hookah smoking may be dangerous as well.

Even if you don't smoke, avoiding secondhand smoke is key to reducing risk. If someone is bothering you with their smoke, don't sit quietly back and tolerate it. Either move or ask them to put it out.


Practice Sun Safety

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Over one million Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer each year. Today, it is the most common type of cancer among men and women, accounting for about half of all cancer diagnoses.

The first step in preventing skin cancer is to avoid ultraviolet (UV) ray exposure. We can do this by wearing sunscreen, avoiding the midday sun, wearing protective clothing when outdoors, and staying well away from tanning beds.

It's also important to remember that skin cancers can develop in parts of the body that never see sunlight. If you have a lot of moles, keep an eye on them and learn the ABCDE rules to better spot signs of developing malignancies.


Limit Your Alcohol Intake

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It can be of little surprise to anyone that drinking excessively increases your risk of cancer. Numerous studies have shown that men who consume as little as two drinks per day and women who consume as little as one have a far greater chance of developing hepatocellular carcinoma as well as a slew of other cancers.

For every 10 grams of alcohol consumed on a daily basis, the risk of breast cancer goes up about 7%.

So, cut back if you can and seek alcohol treatment if you are unable to stop. Treatment options vary, but many are offered free for those seeking rehab or support.


Know Your Family Medical History

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While a family history of cancer is one of those risk factors you can't change, it can help us make better choices when it comes to avoiding cancer. Most of us know, for example, that certain genes can predispose a person to breast cancer. Increasing evidence now suggests that other cancers (such as melanoma) might soon be flagged by genetic testing as well.

When meeting with a doctor, take the time to construct a complete family history, including any cancers or illnesses a relative may have had. By doing so, you and your doctor can a formulate a strategy to address the factors you can control with the aim of reducing your personal cancer risk.


Practice Safe Sex

How to Buy Condoms

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We have known for some time that certain viruses can cause cancer.  The Epstein-Barr virus, for example, has long been implicated in nearly half of all Hodgkin's disease diagnoses as well as several types of leukemias and lymphomas.

One of the biggest threats today, however, is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) called the human papillomavirus (HPV), a viral infection responsible for nearly all cases of cervical cancer. HPV is also thought to be responsible for other types of cancer, as well, including head, neck, anal penile, vulvar and vaginal cancers.

Practicing safe sex can significantly reduce your risk of cancer by preventing exposure to the virus. Consistent condom use, whether for vaginal, anal, or oral sex, is still considered among the best means of preventing STDs, including HPV and HIV.

Certain individuals can also reduce risk by getting the HPV vaccine. Immunization is currently recommended for all children between the ages of 10 and 12. People up to the age of 26 can also get vaccinated, especially if they are at high risk of infection.


Check Your Home for Radon

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Exposure to radon in homes is something we often don't think about, even though it is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. and the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers (accounting for 23,000 deaths each year).

Radon is an odorless, colorless gas that is released from the normal decay of uranium. It has been found in all 50 states and around the world and can affect not only the air we breathe but the water we drink. 

To avoid the ill effects of radon exposure, buy a radon test kit for around $10 at your nearest hardware store. If levels are high, radon mitigation technologies can normalize levels to where they are harmless and less likely to contribute to the development of cancer.


Know What You're Being Exposed To

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Chemicals in your home and workplace can significantly increase your risk of developing many types of cancer. 

Always take the time to read labels when choosing products, whether at home or at work. Practice good ventilation and wear gloves when working with harsh chemicals or cleaners. Learn to recognize the carcinogen hazard symbol on product labels as well.

When at work, don't be afraid to ask what chemicals you're being exposed to in the course of your employment. It's not only your prerogative, but it's also your legal right. Read the Material Data Safety Sheets (MDSS) your employer is required to maintain and contact the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) if you have any questions or concerns.

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