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How To Lower Your Cancer Risk

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Updated October 30, 2009

Cancer is a group of diseases characterized by the growth and spread of abnormal cells. This can occur in any part of the human body. The most common cancer is lung cancer which causes more deaths each year than breast, prostate and colon cancers combined.

You may wonder, "Is there anything I can do to lower my risk of getting cancer?" Incorporating the following tips into your daily routine will help to lower your cancer risk.

Time Required: A Lifetime

Here's How:

  1. Eat a healthy diet. A healthy diet not only reduces your risk of cancer, it also lowers your risk of heart disease, and helps improve or maintain your overall health.

    A healthy diet, according to the American Cancer Society, includes:

    • at least five servings of fruits and vegetables,
    • three servings of whole grains,
    • and limiting your consumption of additives and preservatives found in processed foods (certain cheeses, canned foods, boxed foods) and meats (lunch meats, breakfast meats, others). Also avoid or eliminate red meats which are high in fat.

  2. Be physically active. Eating right and exercising regularly go hand-in-hand. Just 30 minutes of physical activity, on five or more days of the week is all it takes to reap the health benefits of physical activity. You will not only help to control your weight, you'll also significantly reduce your risk of cancer, as well as your risks for heart disease and diabetes.

    You have many choices for how to exercise. You can walk, dance, bike, run, join a gym -- whatever suits your fancy. Other ways to increase your level of activity include taking stairs, walking rather than driving, and parking farther away.

  3. See your doctor. You should schedule a gynecology exam, including a Pap smear, annually to screen for cancer and other diseases. Your annual visit is also a time when you can ask questions and discuss any concerns you may have with your physician.

    Pap smears are necessary for all women beginning at age 21, or within three years of sexual activity if under 21. Other important screening tests for cancer include:

    • yearly mammography beginning at age 40 to detect breast changes,
    • and colonoscopy every ten years beginning at age 50.

    See also: Your GYN Exam and Pap Smear

  4. Don't smoke! If you already smoke, quit! Cigarette smoking is the most preventable cause of death. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths. Smoking also contributes to a number of other types of cancer, heart disease, reproductive health issues, and other diseases.

    See also: Smoking - The Women's Health Perspective

  5. Drink alcohol in moderation. Don't over indulge in alcholic beverages. Consume less than one alcoholic drink per day to reduce your risk of colon cancer, breast cancer, high blood pressure, stroke and osteoporosis.

  6. Always wear sunscreen. Never go outdoors without wearing sunscreen. Sunscreen is not just for summer. Use sunscreen throughout the year. Many cosmetic companies now include sunscreen in their products. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer diagnosed in the US. Regular use of sunscreens significantly reduces your skin cancer risk.

  7. Know your breast cancer risk. Do you understand your personal breast cancer risk? Talk about your breast cancer risk with your health-care provider before using any form of estrogen. This includes estrogen contained in oral contraceptives, as well as estrogen for hormone replacement therapy during menopause.

Tips:

  1. Choose fruits and vegetables that have the most color. Fruits and vegetables with more color have higher amounts of nutrients and antioxidants than less colorful produce.
  2. Discuss your family history with your physician to determine whether estrogen use could raise your breast cancer risk. Also discuss any family history of cancer.
  3. The Pap smear is the only cancer screening tool that has caused a significant reduction in cancer deaths (cervical cancer).
  4. The American Cancer Society says that 33 percent of all cancers are related to diet and physical activity issues. Other studies have found that 50 percent of cancers are preventable with regular exercise and healthy eating habits.
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