Steps to Reduce Your Risk of Cancer
7 Steps to Reduce Your Risk of Cancer
Small changes in your everyday life might help reduce your risk of cancer.
By Mayo Clinic Staff
You’ve probably heard conflicting reports in the news about what can or can’t help you in terms of cancer prevention. The issue of cancer prevention gets confusing - sometimes what’s recommended in one report is advised against in another. What you can be sure of when it comes to cancer prevention is that making small changes to your everyday life might help reduce your chances of getting cancer. Try these seven cancer prevention steps.
Step 1: Don’t Use Tobacco
All types of tobacco put you on a collision course with cancer. Rejecting tobacco, or deciding to stop using it, is one of the most important health decisions you can make. It’s also an important part of cancer prevention. Even if you don’t smoke, avoid exposure to secondhand smoke. Being around others who are smoking may increase your risk of lung cancer.
Step 2: Eat a variety of health foods
Though making healthy selections at the grocery store and at mealtime can’t guarantee you won’t get cancer, it may help reduce your risk.
The American Cancer Society recommends that you:
• Eat an abundance of foods from plant-based sources. Eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day. In addition, eat other foods from plant sources, such as whole grains and beans, several times a day. Replacing high-calorie foods in your diet with fruits and vegetables may help you lose weight or maintain your weight. A diet high in fruits and vegetables has been linked to a reduced risk of cancers of the colon, esophagus, lung, and stomach cancer.
• Limit fat. Eater lighter and leaner by chosing fewer high-fat foods, particulary those from animal sources. High-fat diets tend to be higher in calories and may increase the risk of overweight or obesity, which can, in turn, increase cancer risk.
• Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all. Your risk of cancers, including mouth, throat, esophagus, kidney, liver, and breast cancers, increases with the amount of drinking - two drinks a day if you’re a man or one drink a day if you’re a woman, and one drink a day regardless of your sex if you’re over 65 - may increase your risk.
Step 3: Stay active and maintain a healthy weight
Maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly also may play a role in cancer prevention. Being overweight or obese may increase your risk of cancers of the breast, colon, esophagus, kidney, stomach, and uterus. Physical activity can help you avoid obesity by controlling your weight. Physical activity on its own may also lower your risk of cancers of the breast, colon, prostate, and uterus.
Step 4: Protect yourself from the sun
Skin cancer is one of the most common kinds of cancer - and one of the most preventable. Although repeated exposure to X-rays or contact with certain chemicals can play a role, sun exposure is by far the most common cause of skin cancer.
Most skin cancers occur on exposed parts of your body, including your face, hands forearms and ears. Nearly all skin cancer is treatable if you detect it early, but it’s better to prevent it in the first place. Try these tips:
• Avoid peak radiation hours. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation peaks between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Minimize or avoid being outside during these hours.
• Stay in the shade. If you go outside, minimize your sun exposure by staying in the shade.
• Cover exposed areas. Wear light-colored, loosefitting clothing that protects you from the sun’s rays. Use tightly woven fabrics that cover your arms and legs, and wear a broad-brimmed hat that covers your face and ears.
• Don’t skimp on sunscreen. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15.
• Don’t use indoor tanning beds or sunlamps. These also can damage your skin. There’s no such thing as a healthy tan.
Step 5: Get immunized
Certain cancers are associated with viral infections that can be prevented with immunizations. Talk to your doctor about immunization against:
• Hepatitis B. Hepatitis B can increase your risk of developing liver cancer. Vaccination is recommended for all babies in the United States. Certain high-risk adults also may need to be vaccinated.
• Human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that can lead to cervical cancer. The vaccine that protects against two cancer-causing types of HPV is recommended for girls ages 11 to 12. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that the HPV vaccine be given to girls and women ages 13 to 26 who haven’t completed the full vaccine series.
Talk to your doctor about whether you would beneift from immunizations to reduce your risk of cancer.
Step 6: Avoid risky behaviors
Reduce your risk of certain cancers by avoiding risky behaviors that can lead to infections that may increase your risk of cancer. Viruses transmitted sexually or by sharing contaminated needles include:
• HPV. HPV is most often associated with cervical cancer. But, HPV may also increase the risk of cancers of the anus, penis, throat, vulva, and vagina. The more sexual partners you have in your lifetime, the more likely you are to have HPV.
• Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). People with HIV or AIDS have an increased risk of anal cancer, cervical cancer, liver cancer, lymphoma, and Kaposi’s sarcoma. People with multiple sexual partners and intravenous (IV) drug users who share needles have an increased risk of HIV.
• Hepatitis B and C. Chronic hepatitis B or hepatitis C infection can increase your risk of liver cancer. Both forms of hepatitis can be passed through sexual contact with an infected person or sharing needles with an infected drug user.
Reduce your risk of these cancers by avoiding risky behaviors. Abstain from sex or use condoms and limit the number of sexual partners you have. Never share needles. Seek help for your addiction if you use drugs.
Step 7: Get screened
Regular screening and self-examination for certain cancers may not prevent cancer, but it can increase your chances of discovering cancer early - when treatment is more likely to successful. Screening should include your skin, mouth, colon, and rectum. If you’re a man, it should also include your prostate and testes. If you’re a woman, include cervix and breast cancer screening on your list. Be aware of changes in your body - this may help you detect cancer early, increasing your chances of successful treatment. If you notice any changes, see your doctor.
Cancer Prevention Tip #1: Focus on Plant-Based Foods
Plants have less fat, more fiber and more cancer fighting nutrients. These three elements support your immune system and help your body fight off cancer cells. The best diet for preventing or fighting cancer is a predominantly plant-based diet that includes a variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, and whole grains.
The less processed these foods are - the less they’ve been cooked, peeled, mixed with other ingredients, stripped of their nutrients, or otherwise altered from the way they came out of the ground - the better. One exception may be tomatoes. When tomatoes are cooked (and eaten with oil), the body can more readily assimilate cancer fighting lycopene compounds.
A good goal is to aim to fill two-thirds of your plate with whole grains, vegetables, beans, nuts, or fruit. Dairy products, fish, and meat should take up no more than a third of the plate. Keep in mind that you don’t need to go completely vegetarian. Instead, focus on adding “whole” foods, which are foods close to their original form. Just as important, try to minimize or reduce the amount of processed foods you eat. Eat an apple instead of drinking a glass of apple juice, or enjoy a bowl of oatmeal with raisins instead of an oatmeal raisin cookie.
Simple tips for getting more plant-based foods in your diet:
•Breakfast: Add fruit and a few seeds or nuts to your whole grain breakfast cereal (oatmeal!). Make a smoothie that includes berries, nuts and flax seeds.
•Lunch: Eat a big salad filled with your favorite beans and peas or other combo of veggies. Order lettuce and tomato (plus any other veggies you can!) on your sandwiches. Order whole grain bread for your sandwiches. Have a side of veggies like carrots, sauerkraut or a piece of fruit.
•Snacks: Fresh fruit and vegetables. Grab an apple or banana on your way out the door. Raw veggies such as carrots, celery, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, etc. are great with a low-fat dip such as hummus or tzatziki. Keep trail mix made with nuts, seeds, and a little dried fruit on hand. Make sure that your dried fruit does not contain sulfite preservatives, which may increase cancer risk. Dried apricots, for example, should be brown, not bright orange! Read food labels.
•Dinner: Add fresh or frozen veggies to your favorite sauces or rice dishes. Top a baked potato with with broccoli and yogurt, sauteed vegetables or salsa. Replace creamy pasta sauces with sauteed vegetables or tomato sauce made with healthy olive oil.
•Dessert: Choose fruit instead of a richer dessert. Or choose a single square of dark chocolate.
Top Fruits and Vegetables and Their Cancer Fighting Compounds
1. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries - flavanoids
2. Tomatos - Lycopene
3. Garlic - Allicin
4. Broccoli, kale, cauliflower, brussel sprouts - Indoles
5. Red grapes - Resveratrol, quercitin, ellagic acid
6. Citrus fruits - Flavanoids, hisperidin, limonoids