Do you smoke?
Is being physically active low on your priority list…or not on it at all?
Are you overweight?
Do your dinners often involve a drive-through?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above, you have an increased risk of developing cancer at some point in your life.
What is cancer prevention?
Cancer prevention is action taken to lower the chance of getting cancer.
According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 1.6 million people in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer this year. Many things in our genes, our lifestyle, and our environment can increase or decrease our risk of getting cancer.
“Most childhood cancers are due to inherited genetics,” said Mark D. Romer, MD, oncologist with Dayton Physicians Network. “Conversely, 50 percent of adult cancers are preventable, simply by having regular health screenings and living an overall healthier lifestyle.”
The big four
There are four risk factors that if present, are indicative of an increased risk for developing cancer: tobacco use, inactivity, poor diet, and being overweight.
“People make the connection between obesity and an increased risk of diabetes, but they don’t make the connection between obesity and cancer. It very much exists,” said Dr. Romer.
>>> RELATED: Smoking and Cancer
Lifestyle choices may reduce your risk
By making smarter, healthier lifestyle choices, you can significantly reduce your risk for developing cancer. Dr. Romer recommends the following:
- Avoid tobacco of any kind. This includes cigarettes, cigars and smokeless tobacco.
- Get moving. “Three-and-a-half hours of activity per week is considered reasonable,” said Dr. Romer. “It’s a just a matter of dedicating time to getting your heart rate up.”
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Obtain nutrients from a healthy diet. “Many doctors talk about the benefits of a Mediterranean diet, which is rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and less red meat,” explained Dr. Romer. “There is no data to support that taking vitamins and minerals reduces your risk for cancer. If you need more vitamin C, eat an apple instead of popping a vitamin C pill.”
- Moderate your alcohol use
- Protect against sexually transmitted disease
- Avoid excessive sun exposure
Routine medical care
Women should be vigilant about their annual exams.
- Mammogram – Women age 40 and older should have a breast cancer screening every year and continue for as long as they are in good health, or up to age 70 if there are no risk factors. Regular monthly self-exams and yearly physician exams also are important.
- Pap smear – This cervical cancer screening should begin for women at age 21
Men have specific health concerns to watch for, as well.
- CT – For early lung cancer detection, a computed tomography (CT) scan of the chest is recommended every two years for men after age 55 who smoke 30 packs a year or more.
- PSA blood test – “We advise men to discuss with their primary care physician as to whether or not this test is beneficial/necessary,” said Dr. Romer.
>>> RELATED: 6 reasons a prostate cancer screening is important
Both men and women should consider:
- Colonoscopy – Beginning at age 50, men and women at average risk for colorectal cancer should have an annual colonoscopy.
- Gardasil – Both men and women between ages 9-26 can get the vaccine. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a very common infection. In fact, most people – about nine-in-ten – will get an HPV infection at some point in their lives. The Gardasil HPV vaccine is safe and effective for preventing HPV.
“Of course, there are times when, despite having no family history and living a healthy lifestyle, someone ends up getting cancer,” said Dr. Romer. “But there’s something to be said for erring on the side of optimism and doing everything you can on your end to decrease your risk.”More Perspectives