5 Behaviors to Help Prevent Cancer

You can lower your risk of certain cancers with simple lifestyle changes. Learn how here.

12:00 PM

Author | Kim Zapor

It's estimated that human behavior causes 40 to 50% of cancer deaths in the United States. If you think about that, it means our lifestyle choices can significantly affect a future cancer diagnosis. That means there's a lot we can do for cancer prevention.

Although not all cancers can be prevented, there are some measures we can take to greatly reduce our risk of certain types, particularly lung and skin cancers, two of the most common.

Healthy-living guidelines

Avoid all tobacco. This includes cigarettes, cigars and smokeless tobacco. Tobacco accounts for at least 30% of cancer deaths. It causes not only lung cancer but also head and neck, bladder and pancreatic cancers. If you smoke, quit. There are many resources to assist in quitting.

Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrients and phytochemicals (plant chemicals) that fight cancer. Eat at least 2½ cups of fruits and vegetables per day. The more the better. Avoid processed meats, such as bacon, hot dogs and salami; these have nitrates that have been linked to cancer. Limit red meat consumption to two servings or fewer per week.

Limit alcohol intake. Alcohol increases the risk of mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, breast and colon cancers. Women should limit intake to one drink per day, and men, two drinks. A drink equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of liquor.

Be physically active and maintain a healthy weight. Obesity and physical inactivity cause about 18% of the major cancers in the United States, including breast, colon, uterine, pancreas, gallbladder, kidney and esophagus cancers. To meet activity guidelines, experts suggest moving at least 30 minutes per day and maintaining a body mass index of 18.5 to 24.9.

Wear sunscreen and protect your skin. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer diagnosed. Protecting your skin from excessive sun exposure can prevent most skin cancers.

  1. Wear sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15.

  2. Avoid strong mid-day sun.

  3. Don protective clothing — tight-weave fabric, long sleeves and a wide-brim hat.

  4. Wear sunglasses that block 100 percent of UV rays.

  5. Avoid tanning beds and sun lamps.

These measures help not only prevent cancer but also numerous other health problems, such as emphysema, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and premature aging. Think about the daily choices you make with food, activity and that nightcap: They all make a difference.

More Articles About: Preventative health and wellness Cancer Screening Wellness and Prevention
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Department of Communication at Michigan Medicine

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