Cancer is the second leading cause of death after heart disease, claiming the lives of 567,000 Americans in 2009. The medical field still has a lot to discover about the causes of cancer, but scientists with expertise in cancer research agree that cancer isnâ€™t always caused by genetic factors. Instead, your lifestyle choices can affect your cancer risk. These are 12 ways that can reduce your risk of developing various kinds of cancer.
1. Quit Smoking
Or, if you are lucky enough to have never started, donâ€™t start. This includes all kinds of tobacco, such as regular and low-tar cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco. Avoiding tobacco means a lower risk for lung, mouth, larynx and throat cancers.
2. Maintain a Healthy Weight
According to the American Cancer Society, being overweight or obese is linked with an increased risk of several types of cancer. Weight gain occurs when you eat more calories than you burn off, or expend. To lose weight, you can consume fewer calories and exercise more.
3. Wear Sunscreen
Sunscreen protects your skin from the sunâ€™s ultraviolet radiation, which can cause skin cancer. Choose a product with a sun protection factor, or SPF, of 30 or higher and reapply every hour or after heavy sweating or swimming.
4. Eat more Fruits and Vegetables
They not only help you control your weight, but also provide fiber, which lowers your risk for colorectal cancer. Whole fruits and vegetables contain more nutrients than processed choices, such as juices.
5. Avoid Unnecessary Radiation
Radiation can cause a variety of cancers, and you may be exposed if you take unnecessary x-rays for medical purposes or are a frequent air traveler.
6. Inspect Your Home
Depending on the age of your home and where you live, your home may have radon or lead. Exposure can lead to cancer, but simple tests are available to help you eliminate the risk.
7. Avoid Processed Meat and Eat Less Red Meat
Nitrates in processed meat, such as bacon and luncheon meats, may be carcinogenic. Good sources of protein include beans, fish and soy products.
8. Limit Alcohol Intake
Alcohol raises the risk for mouth, pharynx, liver and breast cancers. Moderate consumption means no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink for women. Less may be better.
The American Cancer Society recommends that adults get at least 30 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity, and children get at least 60 minutes of exercise most days of the week. Donâ€™t get discouraged if this sounds like a lot. Start with a small amount that you can handle, and aim to increase the amount until you meet recommendations. You donâ€™t have to do your daily exercise all at once, and you can choose fun activities, such as dancing or hiking, to meet your goals.
10. Eat more Whole Grains
Whole grains are natural sources of vitamins and minerals as well as antioxidants, which can support immune function and lower your risk for cancer. Examples include whole wheat bread, whole grain pasta, barley, bulgur, oatmeal and brown rice.
11. Know Your Risk Factors
Some cancers are more likely if you have a family history or you have had certain infectious diseases.
12. Get Screened Regularly
Follow all of the recommendations for someone of your gender and age for regular cancer screenings. This does not prevent cancer, but early detection makes treatment much easier.
Cancer still has a lot of uncertainty surrounding its causes and treatment, but what is clear is that you can take steps to reduce your risk of developing cancer. A healthy lifestyle, including a Many of these choices also lower your risk for other chronic diseases, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.