According to The American Cancer Society, about 1.7 million new cancer cases are expected to be diagnosed in 2018. About 609,640 Americans are expected to die of cancer (about 1,670 deaths per day.)
While our environment and other factors may play a role in the development of cancer and many diseases, at least 42% of newly diagnosed cancers in the US could potentially have been avoided with simple lifestyle changes. For more information on statistics, visit The American Cancer Society’s page on Cancer Facts and Figures.
“Yeah, yeah…I’ve heard them all before,” you might say. Well, I’m telling you again.
Here are 5 things you can do to not get cancer…
Still here? Good!
STOP SMOKING! Please stop smoking! Lung cancer kills more people than cancers of the colon, breast and prostate combined. Its primary cause is smoking and exposure to second hand smoke. Although in recent years doctors have found a test that may detect some cancers early in high risk patients, most of these cancers have already spread widely and are at an advanced stage when diagnosed, making them very hard to cure.
Smokers have higher risks than non-smokers of developing cancers in other areas of the body. Like here and here…
Pay attention to symptoms like a cough that won’t go away, coughing up blood or rust-colored sputum, chest pain that is often worse with deep breathing, hoarseness, weight loss or appetite loss, shortness of breath, feeling tired or weak, recurring infections like bronchitis and pneumonia or new onset wheezing. And please see your doctor if symptoms persist.
Is it really worth feeling like an outcast, standing outside in sub-zero temperatures and howling winds (where I live, anyway) to grab a quick nicotine fix? Not to mention those facial lines……
The jury is still out on vaping, so don’t even go there. To date, doctors and the FDA have not approved e-cigarettes as a way to stop smoking. They are laden with chemicals and, yes, NICOTENE to keep you coming back for more. Check this out.
Further reading on lung cancer can be found here.
LIMIT ALCOHOL USE! Look, I enjoy a nice red wine with my bubble bath as much as the next girl, but recent studies have shown that even low to moderate alcohol consumption can increase breast cancer risk. This really bums me out because, having been through all that, I figured I was not going to give up coffee, dark chocolate or red wine. Ever.
Hmmm. Might be time to re-think that. While low to moderate alcohol use may be good for your ticker, it may increase cancer risks and risks for other diseases. The reasons aren’t entirely known just yet, but you can find more information here.
So raise your “Virgin Mary’s” and vodka-less whatevers to your good health!
EAT HEALTHY! No, you don’t have to give up everything! Try ADDING some fruits and vegetables! Fill up half of your plate with non-starchy greens like peppers, onions, lettuces, kale, cucumbers, celery…you get the picture. They’ll fill you up and your body will love the nutrients. Cruciferous veggies, in particular, are cancer fighters. Broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, arugula and kale are a few. One quarter of your plate can be lean protein. Plant or animal based. The last quarter complex carbs and a bit of healthy fat. Think 100% whole grains, brown rice, steel cut or rolled oats that you have to cook. (not the kind from a package that powder your face when you open it.) Healthy fats include things like olive oil, nuts and nut butters and avocado.
Good nutrition doesn’t have to be expensive. ChooseMyPlate.Gov is a great source of information on budget friendly eating.
Pay attention to portions. I love this Portion Control Guide from Precision Nutrition. In fact, you can find a lot of great nutrition information there!
Probably the most important change you can make to your diet is to limit sugary treats and drink plenty of pure water (about half your body weight in fluid ounces.) Avoid trans fats and cook real food, using real ingredients instead of relying on packaged food. Try the ninety-ten rule: follow a clean eating plan 90% of the time and relax those rules a bit for the other 10%.
Yes, I still have cake and ice cream at birthday parties.
What was I saying about that red wine?
GET SOME EXERCISE! Yikes! I can hear it already…you don’t have time. You can’t afford a gym membership or a personal trainer. You’re too old. You’re too young. It’s cold outside. It’s hot outside. You have arthritis. You have a hangnail. Yada- yada- yada.
Slow down! You only need about 150 minutes PER WEEK of moderate intensity aerobic training for good health. That’s like a 30 minute moderately paced walk on five days. You can do that in shorter bouts, too, if your schedule allows, as long as those bouts are at least 10 minutes long. So, if you can walk for 10 minutes, three times per day on five days, you’re good! Just keep that weekly number in mind. You can cut that time down by substituting higher intensity exercise, reducing it to just 75 minutes per week.
To lose weight you will probably have to add a bit more time, but if you’re eating the right foods and controlling your portions, that’s a great start. If you’re not exercising at all right now, go ahead and start with just 10 minutes a day for a few days. (Or even just a few minutes) Then maybe do 11 or 12 minutes. Then increase to 15, and on and on till you’re doing 150 minutes per week. No need to run a marathon right off the bat!
Don’t like to or can’t walk? Try biking, swimming or dancing. Try an arm bike. Sit in a chair and shake some maracas. Just get that heart pumping!
Strength training two to four times per week will help you build and maintain precious muscle as you grow older. And isn’t growing older the goal here? Perform a variety of exercises that work all your major muscle groups. Start slowly if you’re new to exercise and add more resistance over time.
Seriously consider using a personal trainer to get you on the right track. Many gyms offer a free session as part of your membership. That’s your time to learn some basics. Even if you don’t employ a trainer, most of us are more than happy to answer any questions and check your form so you get the most out of your training time.
If you are undergoing or have completed cancer treatments, I recommend finding a certified Cancer Exercise Specialist, who will be trained in dealing with your specific health needs. You can type in your zip code or a specialist’s name to search for one in your area.
BE A SHADY LADY (OR A NO-TAN MAN!) The leading cause of skin cancers is exposure to the sun and tanning beds. The Skin Cancer Foundation stresses the importance of avoiding sun exposure. They recommend seeking shade, especially from 10 am to 4 pm. Avoid tanning and tanning beds. Cover up with clothing hats, and UV blocking sunglasses. Use a broad spectrum sunscreen, 15 SPF or higher. Don’t skimp! Apply 1 ounce (about 2 tablespoons) 30 minutes before exposure. Keep newborns out of the sun. (DUH!) Examine your skin, head to toe, once per month and see a dermatologist once per year.
So no more drenching yourself in baby oil and laying in the sun for hours on that reflective sheet of aluminum foil. Yes, I’ve done that. Brilliant, right?
Wondering about that spot on your skin? Here are some pictures, but see your doctor as soon as possible if you notice any questionable skin changes!
There you have it…five ways to not get cancer. While there are no guarantees, and many other factors that come in to play the cancer game, these are lifestyle changes that are completely in your control and may prevent you from developing cancer.
So put on your sunscreen and a wide brimmed hat. Stop at the gym on your way to the market to stock up on healthy groceries. If you smoke, stop. If you drink, drink less. You’re on your way to a healthier life!