Fight Cancer with Lifestyle Changes
Research shows a healthy lifestyle can cut your lifetime risk of cancer--and raise your odds of surviving if you get it. Obesity, lack of physical activity, and poor nutrition cause about one in three cancer deaths. Only tobacco causes more.
Here are some things you can do to reduce your cancer risk:
The relation between the foods you eat and cancer risk is complex. A lot of questions must still be answered. But there is strong evidence that those who eat a healthy diet with an emphasis on plant sources have less chance of contracting some of the most common cancers.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) suggests you focus on getting at least five daily servings of a variety of fruit and vegetables and eating whole grains. For protein, choose fish, poultry, or beans rather than red and processed meats. Opt for smaller portions, particularly of meats and other high-calorie foods.
Adults should do at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity at least five days a week, the ACS says. To reduce colon and breast cancer risk, 45 to 60 minutes is better. Exercise also helps you stay at a healthy weight. That reduces your risk of cancers tied to obesity.
Being overweight or obese plays a role in 14 to 20 percent of all cancer-related deaths, the ACS says. That includes cancers of the breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, and kidney.
It may come as no surprise that smoking causes 87 percent of all lung cancer deaths. But smoking ups your risk for at least 14 other types of cancer, too, including throat, stomach, and kidney cancer.
When 11 of the 18 major cancers are found early, their five-year survival rates range from 90 to 100 percent. Survival plummets for more advanced cancer.
Mammography, for instance, is an important tool for detecting breast cancer early on, when it's easiest to treat. But the benefits and limitations of mammography vary based on factors like age and personal risk. Experts have different recommendations for mammography. Currently, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening every two years for women ages 50 to 74. The ACS recommends yearly screening for all women ages 40 and older. Women should talk with their doctors about their personal risk factors before making a decision about when to start getting mammograms or how often they should get them.
Don't get too much sun
Cover up, use lots of sunscreen, and make sure your family avoids bad sunburns, especially while young. Too much exposure to ultraviolet rays causes more than a million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancers each year. and doctors expect to find nearly 70,000 cases of more serious melanoma in 2009.
Avoid environmental triggers
The culprits may include cancer-linked chemicals on the job and in the home. A lot of contact with secondhand tobacco smoke, pesticides, and dioxins might raise your risk, for example. Ask your employer about materials you handle. Test your home for radon. Read the labels of household products.
On the whole, most authorities suggest a well-rounded diet rather than supplements. In fact, two of three studies of one supplement, the antioxidant beta-carotene, concluded that high doses actually increased smokers' lung cancer risk.
4 foods that may help--and 4 that may hinder
You should enjoy:
Cruciferous vegetables. Cabbage family members, such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and kale, may lower the risk of colorectal and prostate cancer.
Lycopene-bearing fruits and vegetables. Tomatoes and fruits with this antioxidant, including apricots, pink grapefruit, and watermelon, may cut the risk of cancer, especially of the lung, stomach, and prostate. Some new research, though, questions the prostate health link.
Whole grains. Choose whole-grain rice, bread, pasta, and cereals. A diet high in whole grains and other plant foods may help prevent colon and other cancers.
Water. Drink at least eight cups of water and other liquids a day to reduce your bladder cancer risk.
Limit your intake of:
Alcohol. It causes cancers of the mouth, throat, voice box, esophagus, liver, and breast. The risk rises sharply for women who exceed one drink a day and men who drink more than two.
Red and processed meats. They're linked with higher risk of colon, stomach, and advanced-stage prostate cancers.
Processed meats. They, too, are tied to higher risk of colon, stomach, and advanced-stage prostate cancers. Nitrate and nitrite preservatives may play a role.
Fried foods. They provide extra calories that can lead to obesity.