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Don’t lose hope. Try 5 ways to reduce cancer risk

Don’t lose hope. Try 5 ways to reduce cancer risk

This year in the United States, nearly 2 million new cases of cancer will be diagnosed. While there’s no foolproof way to prevent cancer, you can take steps to lower your risk. There are many ways to reduce cancer risk.

There are hundreds of researchers in the U.S. alone looking for methods of preventing cancer, including potential vaccines. While they continue to seek out solutions, there are things you can do (or avoid) in your everyday life that can help prevent cancer.

Ready to lower your risk and protect against cancer? The East Jefferson General Hospital team shares some insight below.

What to know about cancer risk factors

There are hundreds of different types of cancer, and each type of cancer has its own unique set of risk factors. That said, there are some factors that can increase your risk of most types of cancer.

Common cancer risk factors include:

  • Being exposed to certain chemicals
  • Being exposed to radiation, including the ultraviolet rays from the sun
  • Being of advanced age
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Being physically inactive
  • Drinking alcohol excessively
  • Eating an unhealthy diet
  • Having a personal or family history of cancer
  • Smoking or using tobacco

While some of those risk factors, including your age and your family medical history, are things you cannot change, many of them are within your control. You can take steps to reduce or even eliminate those controllable risk factors.

5 ways to reduce your cancer risk

Understanding your individual risk factors for cancer can help identify which areas of your health need improvement. In many cases, basic lifestyle changes can help you reduce your risk and improve your health overall.

1. Fuel your body in a healthy way. Eat a diet filled that features vegetables and fruit, lean protein sources such as chicken, fish or tofu, whole grains, and healthy fats, such as avocado or olive oil. Limit your intake of saturated fat, added sugar and sodium. Because colon cancer and some other types of cancer are associated with processed and red meat consumption, you may want to limit those in your diet, too.

2. Move your body more than you sit. Aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week, such as briskly walking, jogging, swimming or dancing. Beyond fitting in exercise sessions, incorporate more movement into your everyday routines, standing up and moving around more often.

3. Maintain a healthy weight. Talk with a medical provider about what a healthy weight looks like for you. If you’re carrying excess weight, take steps to lose some. The two tips above will help you do that. Just losing a few pounds can help improve your health significantly in many cases.

4. Try to stop smoking. Smoking will increase your risk for cancer of all kinds and many other health conditions. It also damages your blood vessels and impacts your heart’s ability to function. Talk with your medical provider about smoking cessation tools, or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW to access other resources. Think vaping is healthier? Think again. E-cigarettes often contain carcinogens, too.

5. Drink wisely. Limit yourself to a moderate amount of alcohol on occasion. That’s no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. Fewer is even better.

Beyond these tweaks you can make to your lifestyle, you can also protect your health by seeing your primary care provider. Regular checkups provide an opportunity for your provider to get a good look at your health and to suggest age-appropriate screenings.

Cancer screenings, such as mammograms, Pap tests and colonoscopies, play a key role in detecting cancer early, when it’s most treatable. Talk with your provider about which screenings you should get and how often, based on your cancer risk.

Overdue for a checkup? Schedule an appointment with an East Jefferson General Hospital primary care provider today!