It’s estimated that as many as 50%-75% of cancer deaths in the United States are caused by human behavior. If you think about that, it means our lifestyle choices can significantly impact a diagnosis of cancer. What can we do about cancer prevention?
Although not all cancers can be prevented, there are some measures we can take to greatly reduce our risk of getting a diagnosis of cancer.
The Top 5 things you can do to prevent cancer:
- Avoid all tobacco. This includes cigarettes, cigars and smokeless tobacco. Tobacco accounts for at least 30% of all cancer deaths. It not only causes lung cancer, but also causes head and neck cancer, bladder and pancreatic cancer. If you smoke, quit. There are many helpful resources to assist in quitting.
- Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrients and phytochemicals (plant chemicals) that fight cancer. Eat at least 2 ½ cups of fruits and vegetables per day. The more the better. Avoid processed meats like bacon, hot dogs and salami; these have nitrates which have been linked to cancer. Limit red meat consumption to 2 servings or less per week.
- Limit alcohol intake. Alcohol increases the risk of mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, breast and colon cancer. Women should limit intake to 1 drink per day and men to 2 drinks per day. A drink = 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of liquor.
- Be physically active and maintain a healthy weight. Obesity and physical inactivity cause about 25%-30% of the major cancers in the United States including breast, colon, uterine, pancreas, gallbladder, kidney and esophagus.
- Move at least 30 minutes a day
- Maintain a BMI (Body mass index) of 18.5-24.9.
- Wear sunscreen and protect your skin. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer diagnosed. Most skin cancers can be prevented by protecting your skin from excessive sun exposure.
- Wear sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15
- Avoid strong mid-day sun
- Clothing – tight weave, long-sleeves, and wide brim hat
- Sunglasses: 99-100% UV
- Avoid tanning beds and sun lamps
Not only do these measures prevent cancer, but they also prevent numerous other health problems like emphysema, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and premature aging. So think about those daily choices you make with food, activity and that nightcap. They all make a difference, so choose wisely.
Take the next step:
- Learn more on giving up tobacco from the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center.
- Review the American Cancer society guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention.
- Read what the Skin Cancer Foundation says about prevention.
- Find out more from the Comprehensive Cancer Center about nutrition and cancer prevention (PDF)
- Still have questions? Call the nurses at the University of Michigan Cancer AnswerLine™. They can help patients or their loved ones find a clinical trial or provide insights into the newest and latest cancer treatments. Feel free to call at 1-800-865-1125 or send an e-mail.
The Cancer AnswerLine™ nurses are experienced in oncology care, including helping patients and their families who have questions about cancer. These registered oncology nurses are available by calling 800-865-1125 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Your call is always free and confidential.
The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s 1,000 doctors, nurses, care givers and researchers are united by one thought: to deliver the highest quality, compassionate care while working to conquer cancer through innovation and collaboration. The center is among the top-ranked national cancer programs, and #1 in Michigan according to U.S. News & World Report. Our multidisciplinary clinics offer one-stop access to teams of specialists for personalized treatment plans, part of the ideal patient care experience. Patients also benefit through access to promising new cancer therapies.