In 2019, approximately 1.8 million people were diagnosed with cancer and roughly 600,000 died from it, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Research has shown that more than 40 percent of all cancers diagnosed and nearly half of all deaths from cancer in the United States can be attributed to preventable causes – things like smoking, excess body weight, physical inactivity, and excessive exposure to the sun.
This February keep top of mind the simple but important steps you can take to help reduce your risk of certain cancers including things like quitting smoking (or never starting in the first place), maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, protecting your skin from the sun, and getting vaccinated against viruses (like HPV) that cause certain cancers.
Here are some more details:
- Don’t smoke. Researchers have proven over and over again that any tobacco use is detrimental to health. It puts users at risk of not only lung cancer, but also cancers of the larynx, mouth, esophagus, throat, bladder, kidney, liver, stomach, pancreas, colon and cervix, as well as acute myeloid leukemia. If you’re a smoker, talk to your doctor about options to quit. And if you don’t smoke, make sure your loved ones are aware of the risk to help them quit or discourage starting the bad habit.
- Eat healthy. Making healthy diet choices goes a long way towards preventing cancer. Avoiding sugary drinks, limiting consumption of energy dense foods (those with a high ratio of calories to volume), eating more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes, limiting red meat (beef, pork, and lamb), salty food and alcohol consumption and avoiding processed meats are all smart choices to keep your body functioning at its best.
- Beware of carcinogens. A carcinogen is any substance that may cause cancer. Things like diesel exhaust, asphalt fumes, gasoline and even wood dust are considered carcinogens. Each carcinogen varies greatly in its ability to cause cancer. Sunlight, for example, is a great source of Vitamin D; however, prolonged exposure without protection can be extremely harmful. Now a lot of these are encountered on a daily basis and it’s illogical to expect to avoid them. Instead, stay informed of the most prevalent carcinogens in your everyday life and make sure your exposure is balanced.
- Get vaccinated. While there are not many cancers that currently have a vaccine available, there are two that have great success rates. One of the vaccines is for the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is one of the greatest risks for developing cervical cancer. With the vaccine, HPV infections and cervical precancers have dropped significantly. The other vaccine which can help prevent cancer is the hepatitis B vaccination, which protects from the long-lasting infection that is known to cause liver cancer. Both vaccines have been proven safe and highly effective.
Remember, 40% of cancer cases in the United States are preventable. Actions you take now can make a big difference for cancer prevention. If you have questions or concerns about your health, please schedule an appointment with SOMOS Care.