Prevention: 10 Ways to Lower Your Cancer Risk

January 20, 2007

Prevention is the best cure for cancer. Start reducing your risk today with these simple ideas. cancer rarely discriminates. It affects young and old, men and women, rich and poor. In the world’s most developed nations, and in the least, several types of cancer rank among the major causes of death. The good news is, we’re learning more and more about what causes cancer and how to prevent it. Here are 10 steps you can take now to increase your chances of living a life that’s cancer-free.


Lung cancer kills more people every year than any other form of cancer. If you smoke, quitting today can be the most important lifestyle change you can make to reduce this and other smoking-related health risks.

Quitting isn’t easy, but your doctor can recommend a number of options including medications and behavior modifications that can increase your chances of quitting for good.


Most of us can relate to growing up with frequent nagging from our parents to “eat your greens.” Though we gave little thought to the possibility that our parents knew something we didn’t, it turns out the nagging really was for our own good. Vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts may not win any popularity contests, but each contains an abundance of essential vitamins and minerals known to fight cancer. They are important ingredients of a cancer-fighting diet. Anti-oxidants help the body resist the chemical reactions that damage healthy cells and may eventually lead to cancer. Berries, kidney beans and green tea all contain high levels of anti-oxidants, as do red wine, dark chocolate and pecans all of which should be enjoyed in moderation.


Exercising for 30 minutes five times a week greatly decreases your risk of developing many types of cancer, including lung, breast, prostate, and colon cancers. These workouts don’t have to be extreme “Olympic” efforts; low-impact activities like yoga, walking and aerobics are among the best cancer fighters. Exercise also “slims” your chance of becoming fat many forms of cancer have a clear link to obesity.


The evidence is overwhelming and indisputable earlier detection is the best way to survive cancer. Earlier detection not only makes the battle against cancer much more winnable, it also makes the treatment and recovery processes shorter and less traumatic. To give yourself the best possible odds, have regular medical check-ups and ask your doctor which types of cancer screenings are right for you at your age. (For example, experts recommend annual mammograms for women beginning at age 40). While physical symptoms of cancer may not appear in the early stages, screening tests are available for most cancer threats. 


Too much alcohol can be particularly dangerous to the liver. Alcohol (especially combined with smoking) is a leading cause of mouth and throat cancer, and studies suggest links to other forms of cancer, too. Though doctors recommend drinking moderate amounts of alcohol for people at risk of heart disease, it’s usually best to limit alcohol intake to two drinks a day.


Practicing safer sex not only helps guard against sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs), it’s also key to reducing the risk of cervical cancer, one of the leading causes of death among women in Thailand and around the world. It’s believed that nearly 70% of all cervical cancer cases are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Being infected with HPV boosts your risk of being stricken with anal, vulvar, cervical or vaginal cancer. A new vaccine to prevent HPV have recently been approved. Be sure to read the article on page 10 for more details.


The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays are a primary cause of skin cancer. Most skin cancers are easily prevented by two things: using a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher when outdoors, and reducing exposure to the sun, especially from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when UV rays are strongest. 


Studies have shown that melatonin, a hormone produced inside the brain during sleep, has cancer-fighting properties. Melatonin works its natural cancer-preventing “magic” best when you stick to a consistent, healthy sleep cycle in a dark room. 


Many types of cancer have a genetic component in simple terms, cancer can run in families. Knowing whether certain types of cancer run in your family is the first step towards taking important preventive measures to reduce your individual risk. Be sure to provide your doctor with a thorough family history so he or she can assess and monitor your individual situation.


Carcinogens like pesticides, cleaning fluids and gasoline contain harmful chemicals that have been linked to cancer. Though it’s not easy to control the environment around you, doctors suggest keeping your home and work space free from such chemicals and limiting the amount of contact you have with any carcinogenic substances. You should also avoid products that are treated with PBDE, a flame-retarding substance used to protect fabrics, furniture and electronic goods.
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