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5 Lifestyle Changes to Avoid Cancer

5 Lifestyle Changes to Avoid Cancer

March 26, 2016 | Author: Shalini Sahni
Lifestyle Changes to Avoid Cancer - healthy-living pic - Beat Cancer Blog

A new study published in the journal Nature states that the majority of cancers (70-90%) are caused by lifestyle and environmental factors [1] and not by the “bad luck” of random mutations, as per a previous study [2]. The researchers concluded that mutations caused by extrinsic (external) factors are the leading cause of the most cancers including skin, lung, colorectal, bladder and thyroid cancers. Now this is good news, because if you want to prevent cancer, all you may have to do is to make some simple lifestyle changes that can eventually make a big difference in your life and health.  Consider these 5 lifestyle changes to avoid cancer:


Lifestyle Changes to Avoid Cancer - healthy living graphics

1. Don’t Smoke

Smoking accounts for at least 30% of all cancer deaths and 87% of lung cancer deaths [3]. The chemicals found in cigarette smoke, such as benzene, polonium-210, benzo(a)pyrene and nitrosamines, damage our DNA including important genes that protect us against cancer [4]. Furthermore, tobacco smoking increases radiation dose due to the presence of naturally occurring radioactive materials in tobacco leaves that are known to be one of the most significant causes of lung cancer [5]. Considering the facts, avoiding smoking can greatly reduce the risk of smoking-related cancers as well as cardiovascular diseases. If you don’t smoke, don’t start, and if you do smoke, the sooner you quit, the better.

2. Switch to healthier eating habit

A healthy diet rich in vegetablesfruit and fiber, is fundamental to cancer prevention. Phytochemicals, or naturally occurring plant chemicals, such carotenoids, indoles, polyphenols etc., inhibit cancer cell growth and reduce inflammation [6]. On the other hand, daily consumption of red meat and processed meat, refined sugar and refined flour may increase the risk of cancer. According to Joel Fuhrman, MD, the key to longevity, healthful weight loss, and cancer protection is to eat nutrient-dense foods, that is predominantly those foods that have a high proportion of nutrients compared with calories [7]

3. Stay active and maintain an optimal weight

Staying physically active and maintaining a healthy body weight has many benefits which help in preventing different cancers. Studies have shown that obesity is related to increased insulin and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), which can lead to cancer development. Also, in obese women, higher amounts of estrogen increase risk of cancer of the breast, endometrium and ovary [8]. Studies suggest that preventing weight gain may protect against colon, breast (postmenopausal), endometrial, kidney (renal cell) and esophageal cancers [9]. It is recommended to do at least 30-40 minutes of physical activity every day to stay fit.

4. Take care in sun

Overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or sunbeds is the main cause of non-melanoma skin cancer, the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the US [10]. Excessive UV rays can damage DNA in the skin cells which continues to build up with repeated exposure and eventually leads to skin cancer [11]. More than 5 million skin cancer cases could be prevented by protecting skin from excessive exposure of sun and avoiding indoor tanning devices [10].  Some other tips include staying in shade, covering exposed areas, and generously applying *sunscreen with SPF15. [Editor’s note: While overexposure can contribute to skin cancer, appropriate sunlight exposure actually helps the body prevent many types of cancer.  See also a related blog post on some lesser known facts about sun exposure.]

5. Abstain from alcohol

A report by the National Toxicology Program of the US Department of Health and Human Services lists alcoholic beverage consumption as a human carcinogen [12]. Research shows that alcohol increases the risk of cancers of the bowel (colorectal), breast, pharynx and larynx, esophagus, and liver [13]. When alcohol is metabolized in the body, it breaks down to acetaldehyde, a toxic chemical which can cause DNA damage leading to cancer [14]. The American Cancer Society recommends that people who drink alcohol limit their intake to no more than 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink a day for women [15]. [Editor’s note: Even one alcoholic beverage daily can increase breast cancer risk significantly.]

A lot of risk factors are associated with cancer and it may seem impossible to avoid all of them. But you get many opportunities in your life to make wise choices, and ultimately you have the power to embrace a healthier lifestyle and reduce your risk of cancer.

*Sunumbra is a “Trusted Vendor” of BeatCancer.Org

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[1] Ledford H. Cancer studies clash over mechanisms of malignancy: Debate surrounds relative importance of environmental and intrinsic factors. 16 December2015Nature Volume 528 Pages: 317