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As much as 70% of all cancers are preventable through diet and lifestyle . Cancer is the leading cause of death in the U.S. for people between the ages of 45 and 74, taking more than 550,000 lives a year. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 20% of all cancer cases are related to obesity . Highlight HEALTH is taking this opportunity to provide information about choosing healthy lifestyle alternatives to reduce your risks for developing cancer.
Cancer prevention basics
Up to two-thirds of cancers may be prevented through healthy lifestyle changes. A healthy diet and regular exercise are two important prevention tools. Research has shown that eating more fruits and vegetables greatly lowers your risk of developing several cancers, including lung, mouth, esophagus, stomach and colon . According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), regular physical activity reduces the risk of breast, colon and possibly other cancers, and also reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It has been suggested that adoption of an active lifestyle could reduce all-cause cancer rates by as much as 46% .
Today, more cancers can be successfully treated if they are detected early. Regular screenings can help detect many cancers in the earliest stages, when they can be treated successfully.
Reduce your risks
Take action to reduce your risks of developing cancer. Highlight HEALTH recommends the following:
- Get active! Make exercise a lifelong habit and maintain a healthy weight.
- Eat lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
- Limit your intake of high-fat foods, particularly from animal sources.
- Stay tobacco free.
- Protect yourself from the sun.
- Limit or avoid alcohol consumption.
- Follow recommended screening guidelines.
- Know your family’s history of cancer.
People who make exercise part of their everyday routine gain the most health advantages. Researchers have found that about 30 minutes of exercise three to four times per week may help decrease your risk of several types of cancer .”¨
Eat healthy every day
Eating healthy is easier than you may think — aim for one or two servings of fruits and vegetables at every meal and snack. A serving equals to one medium-size fruit, one-half cup cooked or one-cup leafy vegetables. Here are some suggestions to fit more fruits and vegetables in your diet:
- Grate vegetables like carrots and zucchini into spaghetti sauce, meatloaf and casseroles.
- Keep bite-sized baby vegetables like carrots around as snacks.
- Make fruit smoothies with soy or non-fat milk, fresh fruit and ice.
- Top whole grain cereal or oatmeal with berries or bananas.
- Order a meatless pizza with all the veggies.
- Load up your sandwiches with veggies.
In 2003, cancer deaths in the United States decreased by 369 deaths compared to 2002, the first drop seen since 1930. Although inherited genes do influence the risk of cancer, heredity alone explains only a fraction of all cancer cases. The most important changeable determinants of cancer risk are not using tobacco, dietary choices and physical acitivty.
- World Cancer Research Fund Panel. Food, Nutrition and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective. Washington (DC): American Institute for Cancer Research; 1997.
- Calle et al. Overweight, obesity, and mortality from cancer in a prospectively studied cohort of U.S. adults. N Engl J Med. 2003 Apr 24;348(17):1625-38.
- Cummings and Bingham. Diet and the prevention of cancer. BMJ. 1998 Dec 12;317(7173):1636-40.
- Shephard and Futcher. Physical activity and cancer: how may protection be maximized? Crit Rev Oncog. 1997;8(2-3):219-72.
- Friedenreich and Orenstein. Physical activity and cancer prevention: etiologic evidence and biological mechanisms. J Nutr. 2002 Nov;132(11 Suppl):3456S-3464S.