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Prevention is defined as reducing the cancer mortality rate by reducing the incidence of cancer. Reducing cancer can be achieved through making healthy lifestyle choices such as eating a diet low-in fat and high in fruits and vegetables, exercising regularly, and little or no alcohol consumption.
Six steps in preventing cancer
- Do not use tobacco. Studies indicate that cigarette smoking is the cause of 90% of the lung cancer cases in the United States.
- Eating a variety of healthy foods. Eat a low-fat diet rich in fruit and vegetables by eating five servings. Eating foods from plant sources such as grains and beans several times a day provide an excellent source of fiber and other beneficial substances. Broccoli, cabbage, and brussel sprouts may reduce your risk of colon and stomach cancer. Limit fat intake by choosing fewer high-fat foods. High fat diets are linked to prostate, colon, rectum, and uterus cancer. Limit alcohol consumption by moderately drinking or not drinking at all. Cancer risk increases with the amount of alcohol you drink along with the length of time you have been drinking. Even by drinking moderately your cancer risk increases. Research has shown that drinking could put you at a higher risk for breast cancer. If you are going to drink, men should not drink more than two alcoholic drinks a day. A woman should not drink more than one or fewer drinks a day. If an individual drinks and smokes the risk level may be greater for cancer when used together. Your risk of larynx, mouth, and esophagus cancer increases.
- Maintain a healthy weight & Stay active. Being a healthy weight and regular exercise plays a large role in preventing cancer. More and more studies are showing a link between obesity and cancer, particularly breast, colon, prostate, uterus, ovarian, and rectum cancers. The U.S. Surgeon General and the American Cancer Society recommend that in order to help maintain a healthy lifestyle an individual needs 30 minutes of moderate exercise 4 or more days a week. Exercise is not only good for the body but excellent for the mind. Speak with your physician and he/she can refer you to a physical therapist that can set up an exercise program tailored to fit your needs.
- Protect yourself from the sun. Skin cancer is the most common forms of cancer and it is preventable and treatable if caught early. Sun exposure is the number one cause of skin cancer. Skin cancer normally occurs on parts of the body that are usually exposed to the sun such as the arms, face, and ears.
Here are tips for staying safe in the sun:
- Avoid peak hours. The sun’s rays (UV-Ultraviolet) are most powerful during the hours between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
- Stay in the shade, minimize sun exposure.
- Covered exposed areas. Wear a hat that has a broad-brim that covers your head and ears. Wear light colored clothing, which is loose fitting which protects your body from the sun. Make sure to wear fabrics that cover your arms and legs.
- Use sunscreen. Use sunscreen that has a SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of at least 15 and that is waterproof.
- Apply sunscreen every two hours.
- Avoid reflective surfaces.
- Do not use tanning beds or sun lamps.
- Take advantage of screenings. Participating in regular screenings and self-examinations can lead to detecting cancer in its early stages and increasing chance for survival. Screenings should include: skin, mouth, colon, and rectum. Women should add cervix and breast while men should include their testes and prostate.The American Cancer Society offers tips on self-examination. Your local hospital will provide screenings and will list the dates and times in the local paper.
- Other possible cancer fighting strategies. New research is currently being done on certain natural or synthetic agents used to fight cancer, below is a list.
- Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators (SERMs) – These may help reduce the risk of breast cancer in high risk women. Drugs include Tamoxifen and Raloxifene.
- Calcium- a possible link between this and the reduction of risk for colon cancer. Moderation is advised because large amounts increase risk of prostate cancer.
- Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) – Aspirin and ibuprofen are being examined alone and with other drugs in combination in protecting against colon cancer.
- Retinoid- A chemical similar to vitamin A may protect against cervix, bladder, mouth, and lung cancer.
Another way to prevent cancer is being aware of your environmental exposures. Be aware of risk factors in your home such as radon gas and where you work such as radiation or chemical areas.