9 Ways to Reduce Your Cancer Risk

Cancer is the second most common cause of death in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2017, more than 1.6 million new cancer cases will be diagnosed and about 1,600 people will die of cancer each day. Despite these scary statistics, there are some things that every person can do to limit the preventable causes of cancer and increase the likelihood of early detection and successful treatment when it strikes.

Change Your Lifestyle
-Stop smoking or never start. Smokers are 25 times more likely to develop lung cancer. Cancers of the head and neck, esophagus, kidney and bladder are also associated with tobacco use.

-Limit alcohol consumption. This means no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. Even one drink per day can increase the risk of breast cancer by 7 percent.

-Eat healthy. Limit red meat and eat at least 2 ½ cups of fruits and vegetables daily. Choose unprocessed foods and whole grains when possible.

-Stay fit. One out of every 10 Americans is obese. An increased body mass index (BMI) has been associated with cancers of the digestive tract and hormone-related tumors in women.

-Wear sunscreen. Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer. Avoid excess sun exposure and tanning beds, and always use sunscreen rated SPF 30 or higher.

-Avoid cancer-causing viruses such as HIV and HPV. Use protection and consider getting the HPV vaccine.

Be Aware of Your Risks
Be vigilant. Pay attention to changes in moles with regard to asymmetry, border irregularity, color, diameter and texture. Bring these and symptoms like abnormal bleeding, skin yellowing or unexpected weight loss to your doctor’s attention.

Know your family history. While very few cancers are hereditary, it’s worth doing your research. Consider genetic counseling if your family has a history of cancer, if you’re at risk for hereditary syndromes, or if you developed breast cancer at an early age or as a male.

Know the Health Screening Recommendations
-Women should have mammograms starting in their 40s.
-Smokers and recent former smokers may consider low-dose spiral CTs for lung cancer.
-Colon screening should begin at age 50.
-Age-appropriate PSA screening should be considered according to a person’s risk for prostate cancer.
-Pap smears should be done every three years in women in their 20s as well as either every five years with the HPV test and Pap test or every three years with the Pap test alone in women ages 30-65.

The above information may seem like a lot to digest, but don’t worry. Your primary care doctor can ensure that you receive all necessary screenings and are aware of needed precautionary measures – provided you visit them regularly.


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Written by Dr. Sarah George

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