This February, the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), the American Cancer Society, and thousands of cancer survivors throughout the country are celebrating National Cancer Prevention Month. While it’s true that other cancer awareness efforts from Breast Cancer Awareness to Bladder Cancer Awareness has accomplished a great deal when it comes to raising money for cancer research, National Cancer Prevention Month seeks to attack the problem from a different angle.
In addition to spreading awareness about cancer and raising money for various forms of cancer research, National Cancer Prevention Month seeks to educate the general public about the very simple lifestyle choices they can make in an effort to prevent a variety of common forms of cancer. After all, much attention has been paid to finding a cure, but few people are aware of the numerous ways in which they can protect themselves today.
Thanks to the cancer research efforts of the AICR, we now know that about one in three cancer cases in the United States are preventable through maintaining a healthy lifestyle. What’s more, these cases are not limited to stomach, mouth, or related cancers. More than 30% of common cancers such as lung, breast, and colorectal cancer also may have been prevented through the following means:
1. Develop Healthy Eating Habits
It may be hard to believe that eating right could dramatically improve your odds when it comes to cancer, but the link between certain chemicals and cancer has been thoroughly documented. What’s more, while many of these carcinogens are prevalent in processed foods, some are naturally occurring in foods you’d otherwise consider part of a healthy diet. The AICR and the World Health Organization (WHO) both recommend eating mostly fruits and vegetables, also referred to as whole foods. They also suggest limiting red meat consumption to no more than 18 ounces of lean cuts a week. Finally, they recommend limiting the amount of processed foods, particularly processed meats, that you eat on a regular basis.
2. Exercise Daily
In addition to eating healthier, the AICR and the WHO recommend regular exercise as an effective tool for cancer prevention. According to the National Cancer Institute, regular activity can help the human body regulate the levels of insulin and certain hormones, an excess of which has been linked to the development of variety of cancers. You don’t need to get a gym membership to follow this step; any kind of physical activity for 30 minutes a day should do the trick. This doesn’t have to mean 30 minutes of running on the treadmill at the gym. Any kind of activity to get your heart beating, whether it’s dancing, vacuuming, or walking the dog, can go a long way toward keeping you cancer free.
3. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Finally, maintaining a healthy weight throughout the course of your life can help keep certain cancers at bay. According to both the AICR and the WHO, obesity has been linked to 6 different types of cancer. Research shows that increased levels of insulin and estrogen associated with obesity can lead to certain types of cancer. Fat cells have also been known to affect cancer growth in patients. If you’re concerned about cancer risk factors and are already adhering to proper diet and exercise, it will be that much easier to keep your weight at an appropriate level.
Other Environmental Risk Factors
While the AICR focuses on the benefits of simply diet, exercise, and weight management, the WHO notes a variety of other risk factors that, when avoided, could dramatically improve your chances of preventing cancer.
You probably know that smoking is a leading cause of lung cancer, responsible for some 80% of lung cancer deaths. What you may not have known is that alcohol, too, can contribute to the development of certain forms of cancer, including but not exclusive to liver, breast, and colorectal cancers.
Other naturally occurring minerals and chemicals can lead to cancer. One example is asbestos, a microscopic mineral used in buildings and automobiles for its heat-resistant properties, among other industries, is the only known cause of mesothelioma cancer. Another example is radon, which is an odorless and colorless gas that can lead to lung cancer.
The WHO also asks that you do your part in the prevention of infectious diseases. The Human Pamplona Virus (HPV), an extremely common and highly communicable disease, has been known to cause cervical cancer. Hepatitis B and C have both been linked to liver cancer. Finally, some parasitic infections have been known to cause bladder cancer. The WHO recommends keeping up with vaccinations in order to prevent these and other cancers for you and those around you.
Keeping track of the various cancer-causing elements in your day-to-day life may feel overwhelming. Instead, focus your energy on improving your overall health to help prevent cancer and improve your mood and energy for life overall. Share other ways you plan to honor National Cancer Prevention Month in the comments!