PHILADELPHIA (December 1, 2016) – The New Year is just weeks away. Empower your 2017 by making a resolution to reduce your risk for cancer. Your chances of developing cancer are affected by the lifestyle choices you make. Take steps this coming year to adopt positive changes and get regular recommended cancer screenings.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), more than half of all cancer deaths could be prevented if individuals avoided tobacco, controlled their weight, ate right, and got enough physical exercise. “All of these are modifiable risk factors, meaning they can be controlled,” explained Namrata Vijayvergia, MD, assistant professor at Fox Chase Cancer Center. “However, some risk factors cannot be controlled, such as family history or getting older. That’s why getting regular recommended cancer screenings may be just as important as living a healthy lifestyle.” Fox Chase offers key cancer prevention tips that can make a big difference:
Get regular screenings.
Screening increases the chances of detecting certain cancers early, when they are most likely to be curable and before individuals show any symptoms. Screening tests are available for many types of cancers, including breast, colorectal, prostate, cervical, and lung. “I advise people to speak with their physician regarding when to begin and how often to receive cancer screenings,” said Vijayvergia. “If you’re worried about your risk or your family’s risk of cancer, you may want to make an appointment with Fox Chase’s Risk Assessment Program.”
Eat a healthy diet and stay active.
A poor diet and not being physically active can increase your risk for cancer. The World Cancer Research Fund estimates that about 20% of all cancers diagnosed in the U.S. are related to body fatness, physical inactivity, excess alcohol consumption, and/or poor nutrition.
Being overweight or obese increases the risk of several cancers, including those of the breast (in women past menopause), colon and rectum, endometrium (lining of the uterus), esophagus, pancreas, and kidney, among others. “I urge everyone to get to a healthy weight and stay there,” said Vijayvergia. “Physical activity is essential, as it also helps to reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes, and can improve hormone levels and the immune system.” The ACS recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week (or equal combination), preferably spread throughout the week.
Health-minded tips include watching portion sizes, limiting high-calorie foods and drinks, eating at least one-and-a-half cups of fruits and vegetables a day, choosing whole grains over refined grains, and limiting your intake of processed meat and red meat. For those who drink alcohol, men should consume no more than two drinks per day and one drink per day for women.
Quit smoking or using tobacco.
Smoking is a leading cause of cancer and death from cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Smoking has been found to harm nearly every bodily organ and organ system in the body and diminishes a person’s overall health. It causes cancers of the lung, esophagus, larynx, mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, liver, pancreas, stomach, cervix, colon, and rectum, as well as acute myeloid leukemia.
“The longer you smoke and the more packs per day you smoke, the higher your risk,” said Vijayvergia. “Quitting smoking, or not starting, is the best thing you can do to help prevent cancer—no matter your age and even if you’ve smoked for years.” Even being around those who smoke can increase your cancer risk through exposure to secondhand smoke.
Don’t get too much sun.
Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can lead to skin cancer, no matter what the season and how cloudy the day. Skin cancer is by far the most common type of cancer, according to the ACS. Rays can damage the skin in as little as 15 minutes. To protect yourself, use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 or higher each day and limit sun exposure between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Other ways to lower your risk for skin cancer include wearing sunglasses with 99-100 percent UV absorption to protect eyes and surrounding skin, and covering up with long-sleeved shirts, long pants and a hat when possible. Other sources of UV light, such as tanning beds and sun lamps, should be avoided altogether.
To learn more about cancer risk and resources, visit FoxChase.org. Fox Chase offers a Risk Assessment Program for individuals and families concerned about their risk for certain types of cancer.