Cancer is becoming increasingly common, causing us to wonder if our lifestyle and daily habits may have a role to play in this. Cancer is largely a lifestyle disease. There are genetic causes for cancer as well, but these account for only 5 – 10% of cancers. This means that although we cannot completely prevent cancer, we can minimize our risk of cancer by changing our lifestyle. Healthy habits can decrease the risk of disease overall. Here are 7 bad habits that may increase your risk of cancer.
Using any type of tobacco puts you on a collision course with cancer. Smoking has been linked to various types of cancer — including cancer of the lung, mouth, throat, larynx, pancreas, bladder, cervix and kidney. Chewing tobacco has been linked to cancer of the oral cavity and pancreas. Even if you don’t use tobacco, exposure to secondhand smoke might increase your risk of lung cancer.
Avoiding tobacco — or deciding to stop using it — is an important part of cancer prevention. If you need help quitting tobacco, ask your doctor about stop-smoking products and other strategies for quitting.
Although making healthy selections at the grocery store and at mealtime can’t guarantee cancer prevention, it might reduce your risk. Base your diet on fruits, vegetables and other foods from plant sources — such as whole grains and beans. Eat lighter and leaner by choosing fewer high-calorie foods, including refined sugars and fat from animal sources.
Maintain a healthy weight and be physically active
Maintaining a healthy weight might lower the risk of various types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, prostate, lung, colon and kidney.
Physical activity counts, too. In addition to helping you control your weight, physical activity on its own might lower the risk of breast cancer and colon cancer.
Adults who participate in any amount of physical activity gain some health benefits. But for substantial health benefits, strive to get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity. You can also do a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. As a general goal, include at least 30 minutes of physical activity in your daily routine — and if you can do more, even better.
Alcohol increases your risk of several types of cancers including cancers of the mouth, throat, voice box, esophagus, liver, colon, rectum and breasts. While for some types of cancer, higher quantities of alcohol consumption are linked to higher risk of cancer, with some other types of cancer (like breast cancer), even smaller amounts of alcohol can lead to increased risk.
Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol greatly increases the risk of cancer. While there are many suspected carcinogens, alcohol is one of the known human carcinogens. In addition, alcohol is known to cause liver disease, high blood pressure, and anxiety and depression. Eliminate alcohol consumption if possible, or drink in moderation.
Cancer prevention includes protection from certain viral infections. Talk to your doctor about vaccination against:
Hepatitis B. Hepatitis B can increase the risk of developing liver cancer. The hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for certain adults at high risk — such as adults who are sexually active but not in a mutually monogamous relationship, people with sexually transmitted infections, people who use intravenous drugs, men who have sex with men, and health care or public safety workers who might be exposed to infected blood or body fluids.
Human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that can lead to cervical and other genital cancers as well as squamous cell cancers of the head and neck. The HPV vaccine is recommended for girls and boys ages 11 and 12. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved the use of vaccine Gardasil 9 for males and females ages 9 to 45.
Protect yourself from the sun
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer; more than 3 million people a year are diagnosed with at least one cancerous lesion. Cases of melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, will top 75,000 in the United States in 2016. The biggest cause of skin cancer is exposure to too much UV light, whether from the sun or tanning beds. So stay away from the suntan parlors, and head for the shade between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun is at its most intense. Put on a shirt, hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen to lower your exposure to harmful radiation if you’re heading outdoors for more than a few minutes. A few extra steps now could save you a cancer diagnosis in the future.
Skin cancer is one of the most common kinds of cancer — and one of the most preventable. Try these tips:
Avoid midday sun. Stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest.
Stay in the shade. When you’re outdoors, stay in the shade as much as possible. Sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat help, too.
Cover exposed areas. Wear tightly woven, loose fitting clothing that covers as much of your skin as possible. Opt for bright or dark colors, which reflect more ultraviolet radiation than do pastels or bleached cotton.
Don’t skimp on sunscreen. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, even on cloudy days. Apply sunscreen generously, and reapply every two hours — or more often if you’re swimming or perspiring.
Avoid tanning beds and sunlamps. These are just as damaging as natural sunlight.
Get regular medical care
Regular self-exams and screenings for various types of cancers — such as cancer of the skin, colon, cervix and breast — can increase your chances of discovering cancer early, when treatment is most likely to be successful. Ask your doctor about the best cancer screening schedule for you.