|Lifestyle Choices May Prevent Cancer|
While making healthy lifestyle choices cannot guarantee a person will remain cancer-free, many studies have shown that people who make healthy choices have lower chances of developing some cancers. For people seeking ways to do all they can to prevent cancer and avoid other health problems, certain recommendations are universally endorsed by health care providers: avoid smoking or chewing tobacco; eat a variety of healthful foods, especially low-fat and plant-based options; get regular exercising and maintain a healthy weight; limit sun exposure, and when outdoors wear sun block. These choices support a healthy lifestyle and may improve the body's ability to fend off cancer.
Nutrition and Exercise
Experts agree that obesity and a sedentary lifestyle may increase the risk of some cancers, including colon and breast cancers. The American Cancer Society estimates that 30% to 40% of cancers are directly linked to diet. Amy P. Abernethy, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Medical Oncology, Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina and Associate Director, Duke Cancer Institute, said consumption of red meats has been linked to cancers at several sites, most notably the colon and prostate. Drinking alcoholic beverages, especially in conjunction with smoking, can lead to cancers of the mouth, esophagus, and throat, and this risk increases with the amount of alcohol consumed.
However, the right dietary choices can have a positive effect on one’s health. Dr. Abernethy said eating more plant-based foods, including vegetables, fruits, legumes (e.g., lentils, kidney beans), and whole grains, has been shown to protect against cancers of the gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts.
Some diet and exercise recommendations developed by the American Cancer Society’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee and approved by the American Cancer Society National Board of Directors are:
Thomas A. Sellers, PhD, Director, Moffitt Research Institute, and Executive Vice President, Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, said diet and exercise influence not only the risk of cancer, but also many other common chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and diabetes. “The evidence that diet and exercise promote health are compelling,” he said. “In my opinion, this isn't something to do just to avoid disease: it will improve one's everyday quality of life.”
Getting a good night’s sleep also contributes to the body’s ability to fight cancer, according to some studies. The amount of sleep a person gets each night affects certain hormones in the body, and disruption of their natural levels can influence how the body defends itself against cancer. Furthermore, lack of sleep can undermine exercise's cancer prevention benefits. A recent study presented at the American Association for Cancer Research's annual conference suggests that regular physical activity can lower a woman's overall risk of cancer—but only if she gets a good night's sleep. Stress levels can also disrupt the body’s natural sleep/wake cycle, which may promote the growth of cancer. Regular physical activity can reduce stress levels and enable healthier sleep rhythms.
Routine Medical Care
Routine medical check-ups are important, especially in the detection of cancer. For many cancers, such as breast, cervical, and skin cancer, prognosis is good if the disease is detected early, before it can spread, Dr. Abernethy said. For some cancers, such as breast, colon, and uterine, regular screening recommendations are available:
• Mammogram – every year beginning at age 40.
It’s important to remember, though, that these are general recommendations. Depending on things like family history and risk factors, some people may need to start screening earlier, or get tested more or even less often.
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