In the United States, it’s estimated that 50% to 75% of cancer deaths are caused by unhealthy behaviors.
If you think about that, it means our lifestyle choices can strongly affect a future cancer diagnosis. That means there’s a lot we can do to prevent cancer.
Although not all cancers can be effectively prevented, there are some actions we can take to greatly reduce our risk of certain types, particularly lung and skin cancers, two of the most common cancers.
Avoid all tobacco. This includes cigarettes, cigars and smokeless tobacco. Tobacco accounts for at least 30% of cancer deaths.
Tobacco causes not only lung cancer but also head and neck, bladder and pancreatic cancers. If you smoke, quit. There are many resources can help with quitting.
Eat lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients and plant chemicals that fight cancer. Eat at least 2.5 cups of fruits and vegetables every day.
The more the better. Avoid processed meat, such as bacon, hot dogs and salami. These have nitrates that are linked to cancer. Limit red meat in your diet to two servings or fewer every week.
Limit alcohol drinking. Alcohol increases the risk of mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, breast and colon cancers.
Women should drink no more than one drink per day, and men, two drinks. A drink equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of liquor.
Take exercise and maintain a healthy weight. Obesity and sedentary behaviors cause about 25% to 30% of the major cancers in the United States, including breast, colon, uterine, pancreas, gallbladder, kidney and esophagus cancers.
To meet activity guidelines, experts suggest exercising at least 30 minutes every day and maintaining a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9.
Wear sunscreen and protect your skin. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer diagnosed. Protecting your skin from excessive sun exposure can prevent most skin cancers.
· Wear sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15.
· Avoid strong mid-day sun.
· Don protective clothing — tight-weave fabric, long sleeves and a wide-brim hat.
· Wear sunglasses that block 100 percent of UV rays.
· Avoid tanning beds and sun lamps.
These actions help not only prevent cancer but also numerous other health problems, such as emphysema, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and premature aging.
Think about the daily choices you make with food, activity and that nightcap: They all make a difference.