A healthy lifestyle can cut your cancer risk

With February as National Cancer Prevention month (and tomorrow as World Cancer Day), it’s the perfect time to consider what you can do in your life right now to reduce your risk of getting cancer.

Recent research  found that living a healthy lifestyle reduces your cancer risk. Harvard researchers followed groups of people considered low-risk – those who exercise regularly, don’t smoke, drink little to no alcohol and maintained a healthy weight/Body Mass Index (BMI) – and high-risk (anyone who didn’t meet the four criteria listed under “low-risk”).

That study indicates that half of all cancer deaths and 40 to 60 percent of all cancer diagnoses could potentially be prevented with a healthy lifestyle. Eighty percent of lung cancer cases were attributable to lifestyle, as well as more than a fifth of all colon cancer, pancreatic cancer and kidney cancer cases, reports the Washington Post.

Most people already know what they should be doing to be healthy; these are the same things that lead to reduced incidences of cancer:

  • Maintain a healthy weight, including a healthy BMI, through nutritious food choices with an emphasis on plant-based food.
  • Move your body through aerobic exercise each week of at least 75 vigorous-intensity minutes or 150 moderate-intensity minutes. Sitting for hours at a time can increase your cancer risk. If you have a sedentary job, stand up and walk around for a few minutes every hour.
  • Don’t smoke. If you smoke, quit.
  • Drink less: No more than one drink per day for women or two for men

It’s also important to consult your doctor and schedule cancer screenings recommended for your age and risk level. Typically, the American Cancer Society  recommends breast cancer screening starting at 40, colon/rectal cancer screening starting at 50 and cervical cancer screening starting at age 21. Talk to your doctor about prostate cancer screening options in your 40s and 50s and ask your doctor about lung cancer screening if you have smoked.

All of the screening recommendations are based on a person without any increased risk for those diseases. Additional risk factors, including personal or family history, may mean screening at a different time. As always, consult your physician.

 

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