Can You Prevent Cancer?
Cancer is not 100% preventable. Even the healthiest people can develop cancer, and it’s important to remember that some people are genetically predisposed to the disease.
However, there are many ways you can reduce your risk of developing cancer. Mostly, this can be done by living a healthy lifestyle and avoiding exposure to environmental factors that cause cancer-creating gene mutations.
10 Ways to Reduce Cancer Risk
You can reduce your cancer risk by:
- Eating healthy foods
- Avoiding tobacco
- Exercising and being active
- Avoiding exposure to radiation
- Drinking less alcohol
- Avoiding infections that contribute to cancer
- Getting more sleep
- Avoiding exposure to toxins
- Doing genetic testing
- Getting cancer screenings
1. Eat Healthy Foods
Weight gain and obesity have been linked to an increased risk of cancer. You can reduce your risk by maintaining a healthy diet that’s rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean, white meat.
Avoid red meat, like beef, veal, pork, and lamb. There’s a strong link between red meat and increased cancer risk, and red meat is also unhealthy for your heart. You should also try to limit your consumption of processed meat, which is commonly used in fast food restaurants. Processed meat has chemicals that improve preservation, but there’s strong evidence these chemicals contribute to cancer.
2. Avoid Tobacco
Cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products contain a variety of chemicals that cause lung cancer, mouth cancer, throat cancer, stomach cancer, and many other cancer varieties. Tobacco use is truly one of the most preventable causes of cancer and cancer deaths. Secondhand smoke, which you breathe when you’re in close proximity to someone who’s smoking, is also a cause of cancer.
Most tobacco products contain a chemical called nicotine, which is extremely addictive. For that reason, it can be very difficult to quit tobacco even when you understand the negative health effects. Consider speaking with your doctor if you want to quit tobacco; your doctor can help you get started on a treatment plan that safely and effectively wanes you off the drug.
3. Exercise and Be Active
Exercise and physical activity can reduce your cancer risk mainly by helping to prevent obesity, which is a major risk factor for cancer. Exercise also keeps your blood from accumulating too much insulin—high insulin levels have been linked with breast cancer and colon cancer.
Exercise has additional benefits, too, such as improving your immune system function and reducing anxiety and depression.
4. Avoid Radiation
Cancer can develop after prolonged exposure to radiation. The largest source of radiation is from the sun’s ultraviolet light, so it’s important to wear sunscreen, with at least an SPF of 30, when you’re going to spend long hours in the sun.
Another source of radiation exposure is from a gas called radon, which is found beneath the earth’s surface but can leak into your home through the foundation. You can determine whether or not there are high levels of radon in your home by ordering a test kit or enlisting HVAC technicians to do an air quality test.
5. Drink Less Alcohol
Research suggests that drinking three or more alcoholic beverages per day may increase the risk of stomach, pancreatic, and prostate cancer. All alcoholic drinks have been linked with cancer, including beer, wine, and liquor.
6. Avoid Infections that Contribute to Cancer
There are some types of infections that may increase your risk of developing cancer. These infections include:
- Hepatitis B and C
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- Human papillomaviruses (HPVs)
- Kaposi Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus
Speak with your health care provider about prevention or treatment methods if you’re concerned about contracting one of these viruses, or if you’re already suffering from an infection.
7. Get More Sleep
There’s some research that suggests long-term disruptions in sleep may increase your risk of cancer. While this is a heavily debated topic in cancer research, there’s no doubt that getting better sleep has a variety of health benefits that may indirectly reduce your risk of cancer: for instance, preventing obesity, improving your heart function and immune system, and reducing stress.
8. Avoid Exposure to Toxins
Cancer may be caused by prolonged exposure to harmful chemicals. Surprisingly, some of these chemicals may be found in household products. You can look up your products online to see if they contain any of these chemicals so that you may limit your exposure.
9. Do Genetic Testing
You can inherit some types of cancer from your parents, such as breast, colon, and prostate cancer. This happens when there’s mutation in a gene that’s passed from one generation to the next. Speak with your doctor if your parents or family members ever developed an inherited cancer, and consider having a genetic test done. Testing won’t directly reduce your cancer risk, but they could help you make informed lifestyle choices to mitigate risk.
10. Get Cancer Screenings
Consider getting a cancer screening if you think you’re at risk due to genetic, age-related, or environmental factors. If you are developing cancer, a screening can help you catch the disease in its early stages when it’s more treatable.
Donate to Cancer Research
There’s no one-size-fits-all cancer treatment or cure, but there are many clinical trials taking place that are testing new treatments in the hope a cure may someday be found.
You can support these clinical trials by making a donation to the Gateway for Cancer Research, or by setting up a cancer research fundraiser in your local community. Your donations are critical to funding clinical trials.
Living Better with Cancer