How to Stop Cancer
5 Ways to Reduce Cancer Risk
If only it were possible to wave a magic wand and give yourself and your loved ones 100% protection against cancer. While you might not be able to fully cancer-proof yourself, there are some things you can do to cut your risk considerably. As an added benefit, taking steps to reduce your cancer risk can also give your overall health a boost.
1. Eat a Healthy Diet
Your dietary choices can affect your overall cancer risk. Some foods, such as red meat and processed meat, can increase your risk of developing colorectal cancers1. Additionally, some foods, such as vegetables and fruits, can help to reduce the risk of certain cancers.
You can make small changes to help improve your diet and cut your cancer risk. For example, the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables to consume daily is 300 grams, or about 2.5 cups1. If you currently don't eat any fruits and vegetables a day, try adding one of each. You can try eating an orange or apple in the morning and add a serving of broccoli, sweet potato, or carrots to your evening meal.
If possible, try to limit the amount of processed foods you eat, as these tend to be high in fat, salt, and sugar, which can increase your risk of other health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
2. Avoid Tobacco Products and Limit Alcohol
Every year, nearly half a million people die from smoking cigarettes and around 16 million people in the U.S. have a disease caused by cigarettes2. Among the diseases smoking and tobacco use can cause is cancer. Smoking is connected to the majority of lung cancer cases. It can also lead to throat and mouth cancers, bladder cancer, and pancreatic cancer.
You can get help with quitting tobacco products if you currently smoke. Your family physician can provide assistance or point you toward support groups and other resources.
Even if you don't currently smoke, it's important to avoid exposure to tobacco products, as second and third-hand smoke can also increase cancer risk.
Alcohol consumption can also contribute to cancer, so try to cut back on any drinking. The daily limits for alcohol are two drinks a day for men and one drink daily for women. But, in reality, drinking less alcohol is ideal.
3. Get Recommended Cancer Screenings
Several types of screenings are available, which can detect cancer in its earliest stages, when it's easiest to treat. Some of the types of cancer that screenings exist for include3:
● Breast cancer
● Cervical cancer
● Lung cancer
● Colon cancer
When you should get screened for cancer depends on your risk and age. For example, annual PAP smears are recommended for young women to detect cervical cancer early. Mammograms can detect breast cancer and are often recommended for women over 40 or earlier if there's a family history of cancer.
Colonoscopies can detect early signs of colorectal cancer and are often recommended starting at age 45. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, earlier screening is often recommended.
4. Get Vaccinated
Vaccines prevent or reduce your risk of developing certain illnesses. Getting certain vaccines can also reduce your risk of cancers associated with some diseases.
For example, the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine can cut the risk of cervical cancer, as some types of cervical cancer develop as a result of HPV. The HPV vaccine is usually recommended for people up through the age of 26, but can benefit people up through age 45, depending on their risk4.
The hepatitis B vaccine can also help to protect against liver cancer. In some cases, hepatitis B can be a long-term condition, which leads to cancer. The vaccine is available to people of all ages4.
5. Limit Sun Exposure
Some of the most common types of cancers are skin cancers, including melanoma. In many cases, exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays can increase the risk of skin cancer.
To protect yourself, your best bet is to reduce the time you spend in the sun and take other sun protective measures, such as wearing long sleeves and long pants and using sunscreen.
If you're worried about your cancer risk or are concerned about developing a certain type of cancer due to a family history or other concerns, your family physician can help. Feel free to ask your doctor any questions you have about cancer and to share anything that concerns you.
1. Diet and cancer, Medline Plus, https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002096.htm
2. Fast Facts, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fast_facts/index.htm
3. Cancer Screenings, CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/dcpc/prevention/screening.htm
4. Vaccines, CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/dcpc/prevention/vaccination.htm