Just about everyone has been touched by cancer in one way or another. If you’re not a cancer patient or survivor yourself, you probably have a friend or loved one who’s had a bout with disease.
With cancer diagnoses seeming to increase each year, are there ways to reduce your risk?
Some cancers are rooted in genetics. Others pop up with little rhyme or reason. Either way, there are some basic healthy lifestyle choices that can help you lower your odds of developing many cancers.
1. Eat a Healthy Diet
As the saying goes, “You are what you eat.” If you’re eating fatty, greasy, or sugary foods, then you’re going to feel the negative side effects.
From a cancer prevention perspective, one of the best things you can do is eat a healthy diet that’s rich in high-fiber foods, fruits, and vegetables. Avoid consuming a lot of red meat, alcohol, and processed foods.
2. Drink More Water
“Drinking enough water each day may reduce your risk of developing colorectal cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer — all of which rank among the most deadly forms of the disease,” Rush University Medical Center points out. “Staying hydrated helps your body’s organs function properly, while dehydration can compromise your immune system.”
Very few people stay adequately hydrated on a daily basis. Nearly 43 percent of Americans drink less than four cups of water per day, with 36 percent drinking just one to three and 7 percent drinking none.
3. Avoid Tobacco
Everyone knows that smoking is terrible for you, but few realize the depth of the danger. According to the National Cancer Institute, of the more than 7,000 chemicals found in cigarette smoke, 250 or more are known to be harmful. Of these, 69 are directly linked to cancer.
Since smoking negatively affects just about every organ and system in the body, it shouldn’t surprise you that it’s a leading cause of cancers of the lung, larynx, esophagus, kidney, throat, mouth, stomach, pancreas, liver, bladder, colon, cervix, and rectum. Stay away from cigarettes and your risk will be greatly diminished.
4. Get Regular Exercise
There’s a lot of research that shows people who exercise on a regular basis are less likely to develop cancer than those who live sedentary lifestyles. Recommendations vary, but many experts advise getting at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise several times a week, and including plenty of general physical activity, such as walking, in your daily routine.
5. Avoid Too Much Exposure to the Sun
While many people enjoy getting a tan, it’s important to avoid excess exposure to harmful UV rays. Whether hot or cold, these powerful rays can penetrate your skin and cause a number of cancers.
Protect your skin with sunscreen when it’s exposed to sunlight for more than a few minutes. Wear protective clothing and hats when you’re in direct sunlight for an extended time, and seek shade whenever possible. Melanoma of the scalp and neck are especially dangerous, so keep those areas covered at all times.
Putting it All Together
Cancer. There are few words that strike as much fear as this six-letter word. The good news is that 70 percent of all known cancers are preventable. In other words, you can greatly lower your risk by simply following the rules and heeding the advice that doctors provide.
It’s also true that many of today’s leading cancer diagnoses come with relatively high survival rates. So if you do hear that scary word, know that in many cases there are ways to overcome the disease and live a happy, healthy life.