Cancer is a global health concern and its rapid rise has been linked to various dietary and lifestyle factors. From cigarette smoking, lack of exercise and excessive alcohol consumption to diets low in plant foods and repeated sunburn, several cancers may arise when one or more of these risk factors are present.
Many of these factors are referred to as modifiable risk factors meaning that it can be changed or removed. However, there are also non-modifiable risk factors which contribute to cancer and cannot be changed. It is therefore important to make as many dietary and lifestyle changes to minimize cancer risk even when non-modifiable risk factors for cancer are present.
Always consult with a medical professional about specific cancer preventative measures, especially when the risk for certain cancers over others has been identified. Regular screening can diagnose cancer or precancerous cells early and appropriate treatment can be started quickly. This greatl improves the prognosis when cancer is present or even prevent it in some instances.
It is well known that tobacco smoking is linked to many different types of cancer, apart from lung cancer. It is not surprising that cigarettes are sometimes referred to as ‘cancer sticks’. Tobacco smoke is laden with thousands of chemicals and about 70 of these are known to cause cancer. Therefore tobacco smoking has to be stopped completely for cancer prevention as well as preventing many other serious diseases.
Second hand tobacco smoke (passive smoking) is equally dangerous and contact with tobacco smoke should be avoided. The link between tobacco smoking and cancer has been conclusively identified. In fact, tobacco smoking is such a major cancer risk that health authorities across the globe are forcing tobacco product manufacturers to include cancer warnings on the packaging. There is no minimum safe quantity for tobacco smoking. It has to be stopped completely.
Various studies have shown that the benefits of exercising are not limited to weight loss and heart health. It can also help in cancer prevention. There are several theories why exercise is beneficial in preventing certain cancers. These effects may be direct and indirect and not all are fully understood. However, there is sufficient proof to justify regular exercise.
Exercise helps with maintaining a healthy immune system compared to being sedentary. Immune defenses play a vital role in destroying abnormal cells that may be cancerous in the early stages. Exercise also helps with weight loss and obesity has been linked to cancer. At least 150 minutes of exercise in a week is advised.
Read more on obesity and cancer risk.
Get Tested Regularly
Regular screening is another important way to prevent cancer. If abnormal cells which are potentially cancerous (precancerous) are detected then treatment can be started immediately. This may prevent cancer from eventually arising out of these abnormal cells. The need for regular screening depends on several risk factors such as family and personal history, age and lifestyle.
Prostate examination and blood tests, mammography (breasts), pap smear (cervix) and colonoscopy (colon and rectum) are some of the investigations that should be conducted regularly. Various other tests and scans may also be necessary for screening depending on the location and type of cancer. People at high risk should be screened at regular intervals as advised by a doctor.
Eat More Plant Foods
The benefit of fresh fruit and raw vegetables is not limited to only colorectal cancer. Unprocessed plant foods may contain various phytonutrients that can have a host of health benefits and medical science has not identified all of these benefits yet. While all plant foods are beneficial, some have been shown to be more beneficial than others when it comes to cancer prevention.
Cruciferous vegetables like brocolli, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, radish, turnip and watercress have been identified as potential cancer-fighting plants. The natural chemicals (phytonutrients) within these vegetables may protect cells against damage which could otherwise lead to genetic mutations. These mutations may give rise to cancer cells.
Read more on how to prevent colon cancer.
Avoid Alcohol and Fast Foods
The health benefits of red wine has been established in recent years but quantity makes a difference. A small quantity may be beneficial but heavy drinking has the opposite effect. Not only does excessive alcohol consumption contribute to liver cancer but the effect of alcohol on the body and particularly the immune system may increase the risk of other types of cancer as well.
Processed foods like hot dogs, bacon and other cured meats may contain chemicals that can increase cancer risk. This risk increases among people who consume large amounts of these processed meats. However, even unprocessed red meat like steak should be consumed in small quantities. A diet high in red meats can increase the risk of cancer.
Protect Against The Sun
Skin cancers like melanoma have become among the more common cancers these days. While there are several risk factors that can contribute to skin cancers, excessive sun exposure and severe sunburn rank among the most important. Although lighter-skinned individuals are at a greater risk, darker skins are not immune to the devastating effect of sun exposure.
This can be easily counteracted with suitable sunscreen and protective clothing. Apply suncreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. It should be applied before going outdoors. Do not sunbathe excessively, especially without suitable sun protection. A wide brim hat, sunglasses and light-colored clothing for sun exposed areas may also be helpful in protecting against skin cancer.
Take A Vaccine
Certain vaccines can protect against specific infections which may lead to cancer. The HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccine is effective in preventing certain cancers, namely those of the female reproductive system like cervical and vaginal cancer. However, this is only helpful for preventing cancers caused by HPV infection. Sometimes these cancers can arise for other reasons.
The hepatitis B vaccine may also be helpful in preventing cancer. The vaccine protects the body against the hepatitis B virus which can cause extensive damage to the liver. One of the possible complications of hepatitis B viral infection is liver cancer. This can occur even in people who do not consume alcohol or use large amounts of medication.