9 Ways to Lower Your Cancer Risk

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the U.S.

Some cancers cannot be prevented, and scientists continue to study why some people develop them and some don’t. But health experts at leading medical institutions agree that lifestyle choices play a huge part in lowering your risk.

At the Harvard School of Public Health, scientists estimate that up to 75 percent of deaths from cancer in America are preventable if we just pay more attention to our health, get regular screenings and make critical lifestyle improvements – the following being the most important.

  1. Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet that is high fruits and vegetables and low in animal products and refined carbohydrates. Also, limit alcohol consumption, which can increase your risk for many cancers. Talk to your primary care doctor about whether you need a vitamin D supplement – studies show that consuming 8,000 to 10,000 IU daily can reduce the risk of some cancers.
  2. Get regular exercise and stay active. Regular vigorous exercise can help lower your risk for many different forms of cancer.
  3. Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of certain types of cancer, including cancers of the breast, colon, rectum endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas and gallbladder. Eating a healthy diet and getting exercise can help you maintain your weight.
  4. Limit your exposure to the sun. Indoor tanning, sunburns and unprotected exposure to UVA and UVB rays all increase your risk of skin cancer.
  5. Limit alcohol consumption. It may surprise to learn that the main ingredient in alcoholic drinks, ethanol, is a carcinogen. About 75,000 cancer cases in the U.S. are estimated to be linked to alcohol each year.
  6. Quit tobacco in all forms and avoid secondhand smoke exposure. Smoking is directly linked to lung cancer, the number one cause of cancer death in the U.S. But it also raises the risk of mouth and throat, esophagus, stomach, colon, rectum, liver, pancreas, larynx, trachea, bronchus, kidney, urinary bladder and cervix cancers. Your primary care doctor can help you quit.
  7. Get vaccinated against cancer-contributing infections, such as hepatitis viruses and the human papillomavirus or HPV.
  8. Avoid exposure to radiation. Get X-rays and medical imaging studies only when absolutely necessary and have your home tested for residential radon.
  9. Get regular checkups and screenings with your primary care doctor, and perform self-exams which can increase the chances of early diagnosis.

Also, while many cancer symptoms aren’t captured in the list, keep an eye on C.A.U.T.I.O.N. symptoms, developed by the American Cancer Society. They include:

C - Change in bowel or bladder habits

A - A sore that doesn’t heal

U - Unusual bleeding or discharge

T - Thickening or lump in the breast or elsewhere

I -  Indigestion or difficulty in swallowing

O - Obvious change in a wart or mole

N - Nagging cough or hoarseness

If you experience any of the above or other concerning lingering symptoms, seek advice from your primary care doctor.

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