8 lifestyle tips to prevent cancer

In recent years, AI software that helps radiologists detect problems or diagnose cancer using mammography has been moving into clinical use. (Dreamstime/TNS)

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Credit: TNS

In recent years, AI software that helps radiologists detect problems or diagnose cancer using mammography has been moving into clinical use. (Dreamstime/TNS)

While heredity and genetics play into cancer, the American Cancer Society estimates about 42% of cancer cases and 45% of cancer deaths in the United States are preventable.

New cancer diagnoses in the U.S. for 2024 is predicted to top 2 million for the first time, according to the American Cancer Society’s annual report released Wednesday. That estimate includes 63,170 Georgians who will be diagnosed with cancer this year, up from last year’s estimate of 61,170 new cancer cases in the state.

There’s no sure way to prevent cancer, but people can help lower their risk with a healthy lifestyle which includes eating right, staying active, and not smoking.

Here’s a look at key risk factors and ways of lowering the risk of getting and dying of cancer.

Don’t smoke

Smoking cigarettes has been linked to many types of cancer, including cancer of the lung, mouth, throat, voice box, pancreas, bladder, cervix and kidney. Even being around secondhand smoke might increase the risk of lung cancer.

But it’s not only smoking that’s harmful. Chewing tobacco has been linked to cancer of the mouth, throat and pancreas.

“Tobacco-related cancer continue to exact a major toll in Georgia- effective public policies to reduce cigarette smoking are urgently needed,” said Dr. Suresh Ramalingam, executive director of Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University,

Colorado voters approved a measure that allows the state to keep excess tobacco taxes. (Dreamstime/TNS)

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Maintain a healthy body weight

Being overweight or obese is linked with an increase of many types of cancer, including cancer of the colon, kidneys, liver and stomach. Doctors use a “body mass index” to calculate a person’s healthy weight and the American Cancer Society offers one online to make the calculation.

The links between body weight and cancer are complex and are not yet fully understood. Excess body fat might increase cancer risk by several ways including affecting inflammation in the body and levels of certain hormones, such as insulin and estrogen, which can fuel cell growth.

Research on how losing weight might lower the risk of developing cancer is limited but there is growing evidence that weight loss might reduce the risk of some types of cancer, such as breast cancer after menopause and endometrial cancer in women.

Mediterranean diet recipes can be pricey, but it’s not impossible to keep costs down.

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Eat a healthy diet

Eating well is an important part of improving your health and reducing your cancer risk. Take a good hard look at what you typically eat each day, and try to build a healthy diet plan for yourself and your family.

A healthy eating pattern includes…

Foods high in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients

A colorful variety of vegetables – dark green, red, and orange

Fiber-rich beans and peas

A colorful variety of fruits

Whole grains (in bread, pasta, etc.) and brown rice

A healthy eating pattern limits or does not include…

Red meats like beef, pork, and lamb

Processed meats like bacon, sausage, luncheon meats, and hot dogs

Sugar-sweetened beverages, including soft drinks, sports drinks, and fruit drinks

Highly processed foods and refined grain products

Drink alcohol only in moderation, if at all.

Alcohol increases the risk of various types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, colon, lung, kidney and liver. Drinking more increases the risk.

People who choose to drink alcohol should limit their intake to no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines one drink as 12 ounces of beer at 5% alcohol by volume; 5 ounces of wine at 12% alcohol; or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor at 40% alcohol. The recommended limit is lower for women because of their smaller body size and slower breakdown of alcohol.

091816BEER2 Beer background image for AJC Food Magazine -- Fall 2016

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Get Active

Doing any amount of physical activity benefits health. But for the most benefit, adults should strive for 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or 75-150 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week (or a combination of these). Getting to or exceeding the upper limit of 300 minutes is ideal.

Protect yourself from the sun

Skin cancer is one of the most common kinds of cancer and one of the most preventable. Wear sun-protective clothing such as a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses with UV protection, when possible. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, even on cloudy days.

Don’t use tanning beds or sunlamps. Ultraviolet light from tanning beds can cause skin cancer and premature skin aging.


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Credit: MonikaP/Pixabay

Get vaccinated

Protecting against certain viral infections can help protect against cancer. Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus that can lead to cervical cancer and other genital cancers as well as squamous cell cancers of the head and neck. The HPV vaccine, which can protect against this virus and the cancers it can cause, is recommended for girls and boys between the ages of 11 and 12.

Dr. Suresh Ramalingam, executive director of Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, said "I am encouraged that we are making progress against cancer, and that millions of lives have been saved over the past three decades. That being said, much work remains."

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Get regular medical care and screenings

Getting screened for some cancers including breast, colon, and lung cancer raises the chances of finding cancer early. That’s when treatment is most likely to succeed.

Ramalingam of Winship Cancer noted lung, breast, colon, and prostate cancer account for just over 50% of all new cancers in Georgia. “These cancers can be detected early through screening and it is important for Georgians to undergo regular screening for relevant cancers,” he said in an email.

Three important recommended screenings:

Colon cancer screening can be a colonoscopy or a stool-based test:

Starting at age 45 for men and women at average risk. People are generally considered to be at an average risk if they don’t have a family history of the cancer.)

Before 45 for people at a higher risk, which includes those with a family history of colon cancer or certain types of polyps.

Even earlier for some people. If you have a family history your doctor may recommend a colonoscopy starting at age 40, or 10 years before the age that the immediate family member was diagnosed with cancer. For example, if a parent was diagnosed with colon cancer at 42, the child should be screened as early as 32.

Breast cancer screening:

Women between 40 and 44 who are at an average risk should have the option to start screening with a mammogram every year.

Women 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.

Women 55 and older can switch to a mammogram every other year, or they can choose to continue annual mammograms. Screening should continue as long as a woman is in good health and is expected to live at least 10 more years.

Age 30 for women at high risk. They should get a a breast MRI and mammogram every year.


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Prostate cancer screening:

Age 50 for men who are at average risk of prostate cancer and are expected to live at least 10 more years

Age 45 for men at high risk of developing prostate cancer. This includes African American men and men who have a first-degree relative (father or brother) diagnosed with prostate cancer at an early age (younger than age 65).

Age 40 for men at even higher risk. This includes those with more than one first-degree relative who had prostate cancer at an early age.