Tips to Reduce your Risk of Cancer
- STOP SMOKING Smoking is responsible for 30% of all cancer deaths and can shorten your life by a decade or more. 70% of smokers want to quit but self-quit success is only 6% while tobacco treatment programs can reach 45%. If you are a smoker, learn how to quit at smokefree.gov
- EXERCISE: Just 15 minutes of daily moderate exercise (brisk walk) can increase your life-expectancy by 3 years and reduce cancer and other age-related diseases. 30 minutes is even better.
- UV PROTECTION: Skin cancers are the most common cancers in the United States and most result from excessive UV exposure. Avoid tanning beds, adopt sun safety habits (sun screen), and get an annual skin exam from a board-certified dermatologist. Children are particularly vulnerable.
- MANAGE STRESS: Chronic unrelenting stress accelerates aging and increases incidence of age-related diseases including cancer. Proper sleeping habits, coupled with coping strategies such as mindfulness training, are effective in quelling stress.
- GET VACCINATED: Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) account for many cancers globally. Safe and effective vaccines now exist for these viruses. Since nearly all adults will become infected by HPV, boys and girls should be vaccinated optimally at age 11. HBV vaccination is important, particularly in endemic areas such as parts of Asia.
- TAKE DAILY ASPIRIN and VITAMIN D: A daily baby aspirin (81 mg) not only reduces the incidence of cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and stroke but also reduces a number of cancers including colon cancer. Vitamin D supplementation (1000IU) can prevent numerous diseases including neurological conditions, cardiac disease and some cancers. Get your Vitamin D levels checked.
- EAT WELL: Many diets come and go but certain core principles remain. First, limit overall calorie intake to maintain your BMI in the normal range. Weigh yourself daily with a scale that measures weight and percent body fat. Second, diets should be rich in fruits, fish and vegetables, minimize red meat particularly charcoal-charred meats, and avoid processed foods and sugary drinks.
- DRINK IN MODERATION: Excessive alcohol consumption – more than 2 glasses for men, 1 glass for women daily — is associated with several lethal cancers including cancers of the breast, liver and esophagus.
- CATCH CANCER EARLY: It is critical to get screened, know your family history and control what you can. Best practice screening includes: Colonoscopies for both men and women starting at age 50 (in some cases you should start earlier); Mammograms after age 40; Pap smear every three years from 21 to 65 (highly effective way to screen for cervical cancer). See the American Cancer Society site for complete recommendations.
- KNOW YOUR FAMILY HISTORY: Learning about your family’s cancer history can help you. Cancers such as breast, colorectal, ovarian, prostate and uterine can run in families. If cancer exists in your family, you should review your ancestry and family cancer history (blood relatives, age of onset of cancer, type of cancer) with your physician, preferably in consultation with a cancer geneticist. In some cases, genetic testing will be recommended. While only 10% of cancers are hereditary (from an inherited gene mutation), those carrying the cancer gene are at much greater frequency for development of certain cancers. Knowledge of your genetic risk can guide personalized screening and preventive measures.