Although many cancer diagnoses are associated with unavoidable genetic, ethnic, and gender-oriented risk factors, research has linked a wide range of lifestyle choices to the prevention of cancer. These lifestyle choices stem from the seeds of positive thinking, which takes root in the soil of knowledge. As the branches of prevention reach ever-upward, more and more people will live cancer-free.
Many individuals employ alternative, or unconventional preventative techniques to reduce cancer risk. Unconventional healing techniques include Thai Chi, Yoga, meditation, the visual arts, music, and laughter. Research suggests that these important preventative disciplines can be just as valuable as conventional prevention approaches, such as diet and vitamin supplements.
At Know Cancer, we believe that modern medicine, alongside a variety of unconventional therapies, is the key to unlocking the cure for cancer. We are not attached to any one process, substance, or discipline. Different approaches complement different people. Here in the Prevention Section, we will illuminate the medically celbrated methods of prevention, as well as some of the less conventional approaches.
“Different strokes for different folks.” -Sly Stone
Here are some of the more common methods used to prevent cancer:
Putting the right foods into your body on a daily basis is at the core of healthy living. A diet full of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can greatly improve many bodily functions; as well strengthen your immune system. The following dietary strategies may help you prevent cancer:
- Consuming broccoli, cabbage, and soybeans may minimize your risk of developing stomach and colon cancer.
- Low fat diets may reduce your chances of developing prostate, colon, uterus and rectal cancer.
- Consuming alcohol in moderation will greatly decrease your oral, esophageal and liver cancer risk.
There are thousands of different diets that can help support your immune system and prevent cancer. Consult a doctor or nutritionist to better understand your body’s nutritional needs. Also, visit the Know Cancer Community, Cancer Blog and Resource Directory to learn more about recipes, foods, vitamins, and other dietary changes that may help you prevent cancer.
EXERCISE AND MAINTAINING HEALTHY WEIGHT
Regular exercise, along with diet, is at the core of weight control. Maintaining a healthy weight will drastically reduce your cancer risk of developing prostate, colon, uterus, ovarian, rectum, and breast cancer. Exercise increases oxygen flow to the cells throughout your body, enriching them with vital nutrients.
If you don’t exercise regularly, activities like walking, yard work, or housecleaning can help you maintain a healthy weight. If you do exercise regularly, keep it up. Challenge yourself by adding new activities and increasing the duration of your exercise routine. Your doctors, personal trainers, or physical therapists can help you design an exercise plan that best suits you.
AVOID THE USE OF TOBACCO
One of the most important decisions you can make to live a healthy, cancer-free life is to stop using tobacco. The use of tobacco is the single greatest cancer risk factor. It increases your chances of developing cancers of the esophagus, larynx, lung, mouth, stomach, kidney, bladder, cervix, and even Leukemia.
In the US alone, cigarette smoking accounts for roughly 90% of all lung cancer cases, which is also the leading cause of cancer death. In most cigarettes there are more than 60 different cancer-causing carcinogens that cause a dangerous film to develop around the lining of your lungs. Non-smokers who frequently inhale secondhand smoke are also at risk. Each year, thousands of people die of lung cancer from secondhand smoke.
Pipes, cigars, and chewing tobacco are not any safer than cigarettes. Even though pipe and cigar smoke is typically not inhaled, it can still lead to the onset of respiratory, gastrointestinal, oral, and other cancers. Chewing tobacco can cause cancer of the mouth, gums, or cheeks.
SUN AND UV RAY PROTECTION
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Thankfully, it is also one of the more preventable. While exposure to the sun is certainly the most common way to acquire skin cancer, repeated encounters with X-rays, radiation exposure, and regular contact with certain chemicals also play a role in the onset of skin cancer. If detected early, skin cancer is very treatable. Nevertheless, “preventing” skin cancer is better than “treating” it.
Avoid the sun between 10am and 4pm. If you cannot avoid the sun during these harmful hours, be sure to cover your exposed body parts with light-colored, tightly woven fabrics; wear a hat or something to cover your head and ears; and always use sunscreen with an SPF rating of 15 or more. Sunlamps and tanning beds also expose your skin to harmful ultraviolet radiation.
REGULAR CHECK-UPS AND SCREENINGS
Regular visits to your primary care physician are vital to early detection. Although regular check-ups will not “prevent” cancer, they will improve your chances of successful treatment in the event of cancer development. During a physical exam, your primary care physician will be able to answer any questions that you may have about cancer prevention and detection. If they are unable to answer your questions, they will refer you to other specialists and/or organizations that can satisfy your needs and desires.
Screening is a very powerful cancer-detecting tool. Tests such as MRI, CT, PET, ultrasound, and even traditional X-ray scans can tell a lot about what may or may not be going on in your body. All parts of the human body should be monitored regularly, but it is especially imperative that men frequently self-examine their prostate and testes. Women should have a breast and cervix screening once a year.
Viral immunizations can decrease your cancer risk. By protecting yourself from viruses, you are also protecting yourself from a variety of cancers that are associated with viral infection. The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), for example, significantly increases the risk of developing cervical cancer in women and penile cancer in men. The FDA recently approved a preventative vaccine for this sexually transmitted virus. Hepatitis B is another virus that is known to cause cancer. Whether you are a baby or an adult, it is recommended to get a vaccination for Hepatitis B. Discuss with your doctor the different immunizations and how they may decrease your cancer risk.
AVOID RISKY BEHAVIOR
If you share needles or bodily fluids with others, you are exposing yourself to a variety of biological hazards. Viruses such as HPV, HIV, and Hepatitis are all either sexually transmitted or acquired through the sharing of contaminated needles. Each of these viruses greatly increases your chances of developing cancer. It is estimated that 50% of all men and women combined will acquire some form of HPV during their lives. To reduce your risk of contracting a cancer-causing virus, practice safe sex by using condoms and limiting our number of sexual partners. It is also imperative to avoid sharing needles and to seek treatment for any drug addictions.