Cancer; the six letter word no one wants to hear, let alone think about.
With over 100 kinds of cancer, you probably know someone (or several people) who have been affected by this horrible disease.
In the U.S., nearly 1,500 people die each day from cancer and every day 3,400 people get word of a new cancer diagnosis.
These statistics are staggering and scary.
So what can we do to prevent cancer from striking us and our loved ones? Can we do anything to stop it?
Thankfully, cancer research is constantly evolving and new information is always emerging.
While tips may vary from one study to the next, there are a few certainties we know about cancer prevention. Like that fact that certain lifestyle choices affect your chances of developing cancer more than others.
These aren’t crazy hard rules that will change the way you live your life drastically, yet these small, simple lifestyle changes may make a big difference in your fight against the C word.
Stop Using Tobacco
This one seems like a no brainer, unless you’re the one with the tobacco problem.
“Smoking causes about 90% of lung cancer deaths in men and almost 80% in women.”
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the US for both men and women, accounting for 1 in 5 deaths, even though lung cancer is the most preventable form of cancer death in the world.
According to the Surgeon General’s 2014 Report:
“Women smokers are 25.7 times more likely than women who never smoked to develop lung cancer. For men smokers, it’s 25 times the risk of men who never smoked.”
Smoking specifically has been connected to cancer of the:
Chewing tobacco fares no better since it’s connected to cancer in the oral cavity and the pancreas.
Cigar smokers beware: cigars have many of the same carcinogens as cigarettes. Plus, large cigars may contain more than half an ounce of tobacco, which is as much as a whole pack of cigarettes!
You could be putting yourself at risk even if you don’t smoke, as secondhand smoke has been shown to increase your risk of developing lung cancer.
Each year, about 3,400 non-smoking adults die of lung cancer as a result of breathing secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke also causes about 42,000 deaths from heart disease in people who are not current smokers.
But just like suffering from food addictions, a tobacco addiction is very hard to break.
If you’ve tried to quit smoking and were unsuccessful in the past, check out the new science behind breaking your addiction.
Limit Your Alcohol
The International Agency for Research into Cancer (IARC) classified alcohol as a Group 1 carcinogen way back in 1988. That means alcohol is in the highest risk category of cancer-causing substances.
Alcohol increases the levels of hormones such as estrogen, testosterone, and insulin.
Hormones behave like messengers in our bodies and give our cells the green light to divide and multiply. This increases levels of hormones, specifically estrogen, which has been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer.
Then there’s the fact that our bodies convert alcohol to acetaldehyde, a toxic chemical that not only damages DNA, but stops our cells from repairing the damage.
A meta-analysis of over 200 studies concluded that alcohol “most strongly increased” the risks for cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx (upper throat), esophagus, and larynx (voice box).
Alcohol had “statistically significant increases” in risk for cancers of the stomach, colon, rectum, liver, female breast, and ovaries.
And it doesn’t take much to do so.
An ongoing study of 500,000 people in 10 European countries found that for every two units of alcohol consumed a day, your risk of bowel cancer goes up by 8%.
According to the Million Women Study, which has 1.3 million female participants across the UK, the relative risk of breast cancer increases by 7.1% for each 10 grams of alcohol you drink, which is slightly over a unit of alcohol a day.
So basically, the less alcohol you drink, the lower your risk of cancer. It doesn’t matter if you drink beer, wine, or spirits, the results are the same across the board.
Chow Down on Cruciferous Veggies
You should be eating a daily serving from my favorite family of cancer-fighting ninjas: the cruciferous veggies family.
According to one review, more than 70% of studies found links between cruciferous vegetables and cancer protection.
When men and women between the ages of 50–74 consumed an average of 3.7 cooked half-cup servings of broccoli a week, they were 50% less likely to develop colorectal cancer than those who never ate broccoli.
And the good news doesn’t stop there.
During studies, women who regularly ate one serving per day of cruciferous vegetables reduced their risk of breast cancer by 50%. While eating cruciferous veggies just once a week was associated with a 17% decrease in breast cancer risk.
And when men consumed three or more half-cup servings of cruciferous veggies a week, they were 41% less likely to develop prostate cancer.
Reach Your Ideal Weight ASAP
Dr. Clifford Hudis says,“90% of Americans know that smoking is linked to higher rates of cancer.” But less than 10% of us realize how fat is related to cancer.
According to the National Cancer Institute, as many as 84,000 cancer diagnoses each year are linked to obesity.
Being overweight has been linked to 33% of breast, colon, kidney, and digestive tract cancers.
See, fat tissues are hormonally active, which means those excess pounds secrete chemical signals that change the way normal cells function. This leads to inflammation and can cause harmful cell growth and cell division.
But the worst news is yet to come.
Studies show that when people of a normal weight are diagnosed with cancer, they typically have better chances of survival than those who are overweight.
So being obese not only puts you at risk for developing cancer, but it also hurts your chances of surviving it.
Keep an eye on your waistline, it’s a pretty good indicator of determining your cancer risks.
Women who have a waist measurement over 31.5 inches are at high risk for developing cancer, while men need to stay under the high risk waist measurement of 37 inches.
It’s one thing to lose weight so you can look better and feel great, but these statistics alone should be enough to motivate you to start eating healthier and working out more.
If you need a little nudge in the right direction, check out my post about how to lose weight fast. You may also need to figure out the reasons you’re not losing weight and add more superfoods that will turbocharge your weight loss to your meals.
Don’t forget about exercise, that has the added benefit of also being a cancer preventer.
Get Off the Couch
We all know that exercise is essential for a healthy body and a stress-free mind, but did you know that “a lack of exercise causes 10% of breast and colon cancers worldwide?”
Scientists believe exercise may protect women from gaining too much belly fat, which may trigger tumor growth in breast tissue. They also believe exercise keeps digestion regular, thus preventing cancer-causing waste from growing in the colon.
“We should maintain cigarette smoking as public health enemy number one, but we should move physical inactivity right up next to it”, John P. Thyfault, PhD, associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri’s School of Medicine says.
No need to kill yourself with advanced spin classes here. All you need is 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week, which is only like 20 minutes a day.
If you’re in good shape already, try 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week.
Aiming for at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day will not only make your cancer risks decline, but lower your odds of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease too.
A true win-win. Don’t you have a few minutes to spare to add years to your life?
Marinate Your Meat
If you’re a fan of charred or well-done grilled meats, including beef, pork, poultry, and fish, listen up.
Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are formed when meat sears at high temperatures and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) get into your meat when it’s charbroiled, and they’re both cancer-causing compounds.
“HCAs and PAHs have been found to be mutagenic – that is, they cause changes in DNA that may increase the risk of cancer.”
But don’t swear off grilled meats forever, there is a bright side.
According to a study completed at Kansas State University, marinating your meat in antioxidant-rich spices, such as rosemary, thyme, ginger, oregano, turmeric, curry, spicy chili, and paprika, for at least one hour before cooking can cut HCAs by as much as 87%.
Don’t forget that all your meat should be free of antibiotics and added hormones, which have been suspected to play a part in the creation of endocrine problems, including cancer.
Eat Like You’re on Vacation in the Mediterranean
Get this: approximately 25–35% of cancer can be attributed to diet.
The Mediterranean diet has long been considered by many to be the ultimate way to eat healthy.
It’s been credited with helping people:
- Lose weight
- Prevent type 2 diabetes
- Reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke
Even the creators of the DASH diet, which aims to lower hypertension and reduce heart disease, used the Mediterranean diet as a guideline for their successful eating plan.
Why does eating like you’re on vacation in the Mediterranean work so well?
Well, because focusing on an abundance of fresh fruits and veggies, beans, nuts, fish, healthy fats, and whole grains— while limiting processed foods and sugar— has been proven to protect you from cancer.
For example, people who eat four or more servings of fish per week are nearly one-third less likely to develop the blood cancers leukemia, myeloma, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“Women who eat at least 3 servings of fish per week are less likely to develop some types of colon polyps”, which can develop into cancer.
What’s a Mediterranean meal without garlic? The Iowa Women’s Health Study showed that women who consumed the highest amounts of garlic had a 50% lower risk of colon cancer.
And you can’t get away from the ubiquitous tomato-based meals in the Mediterranean, nor would you want to!
You should be eating tomatoes every day, that’s how healthy they are for you.
Researchers from one study noticed that people who enjoyed diets rich in tomato-based products and maintained steady amounts of lycopene developed pancreatic cancer 31% less than those who had both high and low carotenoid intakes.
Plus, one study demonstrated that eating just two selenium-packed Brazil nuts resulted in 63% fewer prostate tumors, 58% fewer colorectal cancers, 46% fewer lung malignancies, and a 39% overall decrease in death from cancer.
When’s your yacht coming to take us to the Italian coast again?
Monitor Your Fun in the Sun
Skin cancer is one of the most common types of skin cancer, and it’s the most preventable.
While getting your daily dose of the sunshine vitamin, aka vitamin D, is essential, you don’t need to stay out longer than 6–60 minutes, depending on several factors such as your skin tone and the time of year.
General rules to keep in mind when you’re planning a day in the sun:
- Always wear sunscreen! No exceptions. You may even want to consider switching your daily moisturizer to one that contains sunscreen so you’re always covered.
- Avoid the sun’s strongest rays when they happen between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Stick to shady areas during this time.
- Opt for broad-brimmed hats, sunglasses, and bright or dark colors. Hats are a must since researchers discovered that people with melanomas on their scalp or neck die at almost twice the rate of people with cancer on other areas of their body.
And for heaven’s sake, stay out of those tanning beds!
Stop Skipping Your Checkups
Don’t put off your doctors’ visits. Getting regularly screened for certain cancers during your appointments increases your odds of discovering cancer early, when it’s most successfully treated.
Your doctors can check for skin, colon, cervix, and breast cancer in one short visit.
Drink Green Tea
The National Cancer Institute says there have been over 50 studies in the last ten years associating tea with decreased cancer risks.
Scientists believe that one polyphenol, catechin epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), found in green tea may be one of the most powerful anti-cancer compounds thanks to its incredibly high number of antioxidants.
Green tea’s polyphenols may also slow down proteins that are part of tumor cell growth.
This tea has even been shown to activate our internal detoxification enzymes, which may hinder tumor growth.
Dr. Katherine Crew, assistant professor of medicine and epidemiology at Columbia University, conducted a study in men with prostate cancer and found that green tea drinkers had markedly lower prostate-specific antigen, which is linked to prostate tumor growth.
Green tea is literally the healthiest drink in the world.
Quality Sleep Matters
More than 70% of Americans are not meeting the average recommended 8 hours of sleep they need and 30% of adults suffer from some form of insomnia.
How many of you try reading on your phones or turning on the TV to help you fall asleep?
New research says this is bad news for your body.
This antioxidant fights off free radicals and cancer cells. It may also decrease the production of estrogen in our bodies.
When lights from electronics or night lights interrupt melatonin’s work session, it stops being released and extra estrogen rises and heightens the growth of cells like breast cancer.
In fact, the results from one study show that breast cancer risks were higher in women who didn’t sleep when their melatonin levels were highest.
Dr. Richard G. Stevens, Cancer Epidemiologist and professor at the University of Connecticut Health Center, calls this theory LAN or Light at Night. He believes that “increasing use of electricity to light the night can raise your risk factors of getting cancer.”
Stevens comments that, “blind women have 50 percent less breast cancer than sighted women” because they live in darkness 24 hours a day.
He adds that “women living in poor nations where there is less electric lighting are less likely to get breast cancer.”
Dr. David Spiegel, a psychiatrist and professor of Stanford University, stressed that women who work night shifts have a higher chance of getting breast cancer, and even the World Health Organization (WHO) classifies shift work as a probable cause and risk factor for cancer.
So turn off your electronics, use a dim red night-light, and get some shuteye! If you need tips on how to fall asleep fast and stay asleep longer, we’ve got you covered.
I hope you really put these lifestyle choices to practice because there’s no greater feeling than being healthy.
Fighting off cancer with a few minutes of walking, a cup of broccoli, and a night of good sleep isn’t really that hard when you think about the alternative.
How many of these lifestyle choices are you currently making? Which ones are you going to commit to now? Have any other tips? Share your thoughts with me in the comments!