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5 Things This Oncologist Wants Everyone to Know About Reducing the Risk of Cancer

There are many ways that cancer is unpredictable. But here’s one thing experts know for sure: Some behaviors seem to be tied to a lower cancer risk. And making these behaviors a regular part of your life could help protect your health.

“Adopting or maintaining healthy lifestyle habits can help lower overall cancer risk,” said Rishi Jain, MD, a hematologist/oncologist at Fox Chase Cancer Center.

Here are 5 steps Jain believes everyone can take—steps that may make a big difference

  1. Work towards a healthy weight. Obesity is a risk factor for many different cancers. “It creates a state of chronic inflammation, and that can affect cellular functioning and increase the risk for DNA mutations that trigger cancer,” Jain explained.
    Excess body fat can also lead to greater production of hormones like insulin and estrogen, which could stimulate cancer growth. Your goal: Aim for a body mass index (BMI) within the normal range. If you can keep it on the lower end of normal, even better.   
     
  2. Be active every day. Regular exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight, but it may be beneficial in other ways. “We think of physical activity as having anti-inflammatory properties,” Jain said.  
    For cancer prevention, make it a point to move at a moderate intensity for 45 to 60 minutes every day. Try to avoid sitting for long periods too, since sedentary activities increase the risk for weight gain. If you work at a desk, for instance, take a short walking break every hour.  
     
  3. Aim for a healthy dietary pattern. Plant-based foods lower your risk of cancer, while highly processed foods, sugary ones, and red or processed meat could increase cancer risk. Whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables are rich in antioxidant compounds like phytochemicals, which help protect cells from damage.  
    Don’t worry about focusing on so-called miracle foods for cancer—there aren’t any. “Pay attention to what you eat over the course of a week or a month,” Jain said. “It’s about finding a healthy pattern overall.” 
     
  4.  Limit your alcohol consumption. Abstaining from drinking altogether may be your best bet for cancer prevention. “Alcohol is a cause of cancer and there are specific cancers that are most related to alcohol, including head and neck, some esophageal cancers, breast, liver, and even colon cancer,” Jain said.
    Of course, consuming alcohol is a personal choice. If you decide to drink, only do so in moderation. Women shouldn’t have more than one drink per day, and men shouldn’t have more than two.
     
  5.  Be smart about sun exposure. Skin cancer rates are on the rise. But avoiding overexposure to UV rays from the sun, as well as tanning beds, can go a long way toward reducing your risk. Wear sunscreen every day and try not to spend too much time in direct sunlight, especially between 11 am and 3 pm. Avoid indoor tanning beds—period.  
    Many people don’t realize that there are many small changes we can make every day to lower our cancer risk. The impact of these modifications to our lifestyle can be large. Each and every one can make a difference and a positive impact on overall health.