We know that genetics plays a role in cancer risk, but this does not mean you have no control over whether or not you develop cancer. There are several things you can do to reduce your cancer risk. According to the WCRF/AICR Second Expert Report, there are, in fact, 10 major recommendations for cancer prevention.
1. Be lean without becoming underweight. Maintaining a healthy weight is actually the most important thing you can do to reduce cancer risk next to not smoking. Excess body fat doesn’t just add extra pounds and require the purchase of bigger clothes. Body fat acts like a hormone pump, releasing estrogen, insulin, and other hormones, which can instigate cancer growth.
2. Limit consumption of energy-dense foods and avoid sugary drinks. Most fruits, vegetables, and beans are NOT energy-dense. Being full of water and fiber, they’ll fill you up without the extra calories.
3. Don’t rely on supplements (in lieu of a healthy diet) for cancer prevention.
4. Be physically active for a MINIMUM of 30 minutes per day. The recommendation for maximum health benefits is 60 minutes of moderate exercise or 30 minutes of vigorous exercise per day. But even including brisk walking into your daily routine can go a long way. Also, limiting sedentary behavior, such as sitting on the couch to watch T.V. and playing computer games, is very important. If you have a desk job, creating a routine of getting up and moving/walking would be very helpful. Regular activity can help prevent cancer by helping keep hormone levels in check.
5. Limit alcoholic drinks to one/day for women and 2/day for men, if consumed at all. While prior research shows that consuming modest amounts of alcohol could protect against coronary heart disease, when it comes to cancer prevention, alcohol is a potent carcinogen.
6. Eat a greater variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (e.g. beans). The goal should be to fill ⅔ of your plate with vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains.
7. Avoid processed meats and limit consumption of red meats (e.g. pork, beef, lamb).
8. Limit consumption of salty foods and foods processed with sodium. Both may increase the risk of developing stomach cancer.
9. For new moms: Breastfeed exclusively for up to 6 months, then add other foods and liquids. There is evidence that breastfeeding protects mothers against breast cancer. Additionally, babies who are breastfed are less likely to become overweight and obese.
10. For cancer survivors: Be sure to follow the recommendations for cancer prevention after treatment.
Don’t Underestimate the Power of a Healthy Lifestyle
Generally, your health is what will determine what kind of and how long a life you will have. To put yourself in the best position to live long, avoid illness and injury, and have fun, dedicate yourself to making healthy choices everyday.