Five lifestyle changes that can reduce cancer risk
Throughout this month of October, there have been various campaigns and events targeted at Breast Cancer Awareness as it is done annually at this time of the year. These events and campaigns aim to educate people on preventive measures they can take in order to decrease their chances of getting cancer. In addition to this, there have also been a lot of conflicting information on this matter as well, and these remedies and alternative treatments such as aromatherapy or use of certain herbs as treatments to prevent cancer, are being broadcast as text and social media messages.
Cancer is a disease resulting from uncontrolled cellular growth and is mainly caused by an interaction of genetic, environmental and dietary risk factors. So basically, the elimination of these risk factors would be the main approach in cancer prevention. Not to say that there might not be any proof these other ‘remedies,’ rather to reiterate that there are certain lifestyle changes have been medically proven to reduce the risks of developing cancer, not just breast cancer, but all cancer. Here are some of them:
Regular screening and immunization: Regular doctor visits ensure that you get the screening that you need. It’s never a good idea to only visit the doctor when you feel ill, it is also not a good idea to not follow up with your screening schedule. Most people may just get a mammogram once and never go back; that’s not good enough. The key word there is regular; depending on your age, medical history and family history, the doctor would be able to determine what screening a person would need and how often to get the screening done.
Quit cigarette smoking: Quitting smoking is the single most important thing you can do for your health. I’m sure most of you know that smoking and exposure to tobacco has been linked to lung cancer, but it doesn’t just end there; Smoking is linked to most cancers. It is responsible for 85-90% of lung cancer cases, responsible for 70-80% of esophageal cancer cases, responsible for half the cases of bladder cancer and larynx/pharynx cancer cases. It is also responsible for about 30% of kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, cervix cancer, stomach, colon and rectum cancer cases. Even if you don’t smoke, but you are exposed to cigarette smoke, your risk is also increased. If you need help quitting, you can talk to your doctor as there are several medications and products available to aid in the process.
Diet modification: There is strong evidence that increased intake of foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, decrease the risk of certain cancers. A diet such as the Mediterranean type which comprises mainly fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and low-fat dairy products, has been shown to decrease the risk of both cancer and heart disease. Try to avoid fatty foods; instead go for healthy fats like avocado and extra virgin olive oil. Limit intake of overly processed foods and meats and lastly, try to reduce sugar intake. Excessive alcohol intake also increases the risk of liver, colon, kidney and breast cancer.
Exercise: This goes hand in hand with a proper diet. Being overweight or obese, and having increased waist circumference or excessive abdominal fat, has a clear link with increased risk of cancers affecting the breast, esophageal, colon, pancreatic etc. Weight loss would reduce this risk. Research done by the National Cancer Institute shows that women who exercise four or more hours in a week have a lower risk of breast cancer. In order to maintain a healthy weight, it is important for all individuals to incorporate a minimum of 30 minutes exercise into a daily routine to help reduce cancer risks.
Avoid excessive sunlight: I’m sure we’ve all heard that the sun is good for you and it’s a good source of Vitamin D, an essential vitamin. That is true. However, prolonged exposure to sun has been linked to skin cancer. Skin cancer is one of the most preventable cancers, yet it is still very common. Try to minimize sun exposure to just a few minutes a day and avoid going out in the sun between 11 am and 4pm when the sun is hottest. Always remember to use sunscreen and try to wear protective clothing to help minimize sun damage.
It’s important that we do all we can to keep cancer at bay. Although cancer is not entirely preventable, certain health and lifestyle changes such as these, along with healthier diet choices go a long way in reducing the risk of developing cancer.
Disclaimer: The medical information provided on here by Dr. Nini Iyizoba is provided as an information resource only. This information does not create any patient-physician relationship and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment
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