• Siya

Lifestyle Choices and Cancer

Cancer being unpreventable is a wide misconception and is wildly incorrect. Our simple lifestyle changes can often significantly impact the prevention of any future illnesses or diseases, including cancer.

Only 5–10% of all cancer cases can be attributed to genetic defects, whereas the remaining 90–95% have their roots in the environment and lifestyle. The lifestyle factors include cigarette smoking, diet (fried foods, red meat), alcohol, sun exposure, environmental pollutants, infections, stress, obesity, and physical inactivity. The evidence indicates that of all cancer-related deaths, almost 25–30% are due to tobacco, as many as 30–35% are linked to diet, about 15–20% are due to infections, and the remaining percentage is due to other factors like radiation, stress, physical activity, environmental pollutants etc.

Here are a few lifestyle changes that are attributed to reducing the risk of cancer:

Don’t use tobacco.

Smoking has been linked to various types of cancer — including cancer of the lung, mouth, throat, larynx, pancreas, bladder, cervix and kidney. Chewing tobacco has been linked to cancer of the oral cavity and pancreas. Even if you don't use tobacco, exposure to secondhand smoke might increase your risk of lung cancer.

Avoiding tobacco — or deciding to stop using it — is an important part of cancer prevention.

Eat a healthy diet

  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Base your diet on fruits, vegetables and other foods from plant sources — such as whole grains and beans.

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Eat lighter and leaner by choosing fewer high-calorie foods, including refined sugars and fat from animal sources.

  • If you choose to drink alcohol, do so only in moderation. The risk of various types of cancer — including cancer of the breast, colon, lung, kidney and liver — increases with the amount of alcohol you drink and the length of time you've been drinking regularly.

  • Limit processed meats. A report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the cancer agency of the World Health Organization, concluded that eating large amounts of processed meat can slightly increase the risk of certain types of cancer.

Maintain a healthy weight and be physically active

Maintaining a healthy weight might lower the risk of various types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, prostate, lung, colon and kidney.

Physical activity counts, too. In addition to helping you control your weight, physical activity on its own might lower the risk of breast cancer and colon cancer.

But for substantial health benefits, strive to get 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity and 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic exercise. You can also do a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. Include 30 minutes of physical activity in your daily routine as a general goal.

Here are some fitness tips:

  • Develop a fitness routine that is safe for you.

  • Include aerobic activity. This gets your heart pumping.

  • Include strength exercise, too.

  • Find ways to walk when you would usually be sitting.

  • Break up your sitting time by standing up every hour.

  • Engage in short bursts of exercise throughout your day.

  • Incorporate physical activity into family events, time with friends, and trips.

Protect yourself from the sun

Skin cancer is one of the most common kinds of cancer — and one of the most preventable.

  • Avoid midday sun. Stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun's rays are strongest.

  • Stay in the shade. When you're outdoors, stay in the shade as much as possible. Sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat help, too.

  • Cover exposed areas. Wear tightly woven, loose-fitting clothing covering as much of your skin as possible. Opt for bright or dark colours, reflecting more ultraviolet radiation than pastels or bleached cotton.

  • Don't skimp on sunscreen. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, even on cloudy days. Apply sunscreen generously, and reapply every two hours — or more often if you're swimming or sweating.

  • Avoid tanning beds and sunlamps. These are just as damaging as natural sunlight.

Get regular medical care.

Regular self-exams and screenings for various types of cancers — such as cancer of the skin, colon, cervix and breast — can increase your chances of discovering cancer early, when treatment is most likely to succeed.

Manage stress

Reducing your stress level can help you maintain your physical and mental health. Here are a few tips for managing stress:

  • Use relaxation techniques, such as guided imagery, meditation, and yoga.

  • Find short periods to meditate or reflect throughout the day. This can include taking a moment to be mindful while washing your hands, brushing your teeth, or waiting at a stoplight.

  • It can be helpful to set aside 20 minutes or more per day for stress management practices.

Get enough sleep

  • Try for 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. This improves your health, coping ability, mood, weight control, memory and attention, etc.

  • Set a bedtime and stick to it. Keep weekday and weekend bedtimes similar.

  • Try to have your bedroom as dark as possible.

  • Keep the bedroom temperature cool.

  • Avoid screen time before bed. This includes time spent on TV, smartphones, and backlit tablets.

  • Avoid stimulants like caffeine, alcohol, and sugar.

Avoid environmental toxins

Limit your exposure to environmental toxins that can increase a person’s risk of cancer and other illnesses, such as tobacco smoke, asbestos, styrene (found in Styrofoam), formaldehyde, and tetrachloroethylene (perchloroethylene; “dry-cleaning fluid”), to name a few.



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