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8 ways to lower your cancer risk

News, Cancer, Cancer/Oncology

An Adventist Health oncologist explains.

Even though preventing cancer isn’t guaranteed, you can help keep lower your cancer risk away by adopting healthy habits. “Cancer happens for a lot of reasons. It’s a complicated process,” says Sam Mazj, MD, medical oncologist at Adventist Health. “But we know that making changes can make a huge difference.”

Dr. Mazj says that having a cancer-fighting lifestyle is like buckling up in the car: “You could wear your seat belt and never have an accident,” he says. “But if an accident happens, it’s tragic if you’re not wearing your seat belt. Following a healthy lifestyle is your seat belt for cancer. With it, your risk is significantly less.”

Here, he explains eight things you can do to lower your cancer risk.

Eat a healthy diet.

Include lots of fruits and vegetables. They are loaded with antioxidants, which counter the cellular damage caused by cancer. Limit how much processed meat and red meat you eat, and opt for foods with whole grains. Choose a healthy diet instead of supplements to get the nutrients your body needs.

Maintain a healthy weight.

Increased body mass is directly correlated with an increased risk of several cancers. If you are overweight, losing even a few pounds has health benefits.

Be active.

Each week, aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (brisk walking, lawn mowing), 75 minutes of vigorous activity (running, fast biking), or some combination of the two. About 30 minutes on most days is a good way to get there, but even 10 minutes a day is better than nothing.

Find healthy coping tools.

Stress weakens your immune system and can allow cancer cells to grow. Calming activities, such as meditating or writing in a journal, may help you deal with stress.

Avoid all forms of tobacco.

Some people are under the impression that smoking cigars or using hookahs is safer than smoking cigarettes, but that’s not true — all smokable products contain harmful substances. Smokeless tobacco is also linked with increased cancer risk. And while the jury is still out on whether e-cigarettes cause cancer, there may be long-term health risks tied to vaping.

Limit alcohol consumption.

Research from the National Institutes of Health shows that alcohol consumption has been linked to an increased risk of various types of cancer. If you choose to drink, aim for no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.

Stay up to date on vaccines.

The HPV vaccine protects against the types of cancers caused by the human papillomavirus. The hepatitis B vaccine protects against the liver disease that leads to liver cancer.

Get preventative cancer screens.

During the pandemic, a lot of people have been apprehensive about going out to get preventative medical care and regular screenings. But screenings can help identify cancer early, when it’s most treatable. Stay on schedule with screenings — for breast, prostate, colon and skin cancer and anything else that’s recommended — or work with your provider to get caught up.

Protect yourself from summertime cancer risks

Most risk factors for cancer are the same all year long. But summer brings some seasonal risks, Dr. Mazj says. Remember these:

+ Limit sun exposure to reduce your skin cancer risk. Apply sunscreen, wear clothing and hats to block the sun’s rays, and wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.

+ When you cook on the grill, don’t char your meat — that can add cancer-causing substances.

+ Don’t let up on healthy habits. “When summer comes, people get relaxed about diet and exercise,” Dr. Mazj says. “It’s better to stick to your program.”

Community leaders in cancer care and prevention

Adventist Health partners with UC Davis Cancer Care Network to bring you personalized care and treatment in Chico. Discover more about cancer services close to home at