A study conducted by researchers at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center suggests that approximately 30 percent of cancers may be preventable through lifestyle changes. Your daily choices can play a significant role in whether you get cancer.
Although it’s common knowledge that smoking causes cancer and you can lower your risk by avoiding smoking or second-hand smoke, there’s evidence that there are other things you can do to protect yourself. Recent studies have shown that there are some simple habits you can adopt to lower your risk of cancer:
- When you exercise 225 minutes a week (45 minutes a day, five days a week) you can reduce your risk of breast cancer by 30 percent. And, exercise lowers your body mass index, which can prevent other types of cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
- Getting blistering sunburns before age 20 can increase your risk of melanoma by 80 percent. When you use sunscreen, avoid tanning beds, and stay out of the sun when it’s strongest (between 10 and 2), you can lower your risk of skin cancer.
In addition, you can lower your risk of obesity-related cancers - such as endometrial, ovarian and breast cancers - by maintaining a healthy weight. And, smoking doesn’t just cause lung and throat cancer, it can cause kidney, bladder, pancreas, colon and other cancers as well. You protect yourself from more than lung cancer when you decide not to smoke. When you know your risk and take steps to lower it, you can significantly reduce your chance of getting cancer.
Introducing Cancer Healthy
Most everyone is familiar with heart healthy habits - maintaining a healthy weight, managing stress, eating right, quitting smoking and exercising - to lower the risk of heart disease. El Camino Health’s cancer care team wants you to consider what you can do to be cancer healthy. We encourage you to become an active participant in your health to prevent cancer, and we’re here to help.
It’s challenging to make sense of all the conflicting health guidelines and cancer-prevention advice, so part of our role is to help people determine what’s most important to them, based on their individual risk factors. One person may benefit from genetic counseling, while another may benefit from an alternate screening based on their condition. Cancer Healthy encompasses all the steps we can take to prevent or discover the disease early.
In addition, El Camino Health is continually looking for new ways to detect cancer by participating in research — whether it’s seeking a better method to detect breast cancer in women with dense breasts or looking for new ways to perform biopsies. Also, we collaborate with organizations that share our dedication to cancer early detection, such as Bay Area Cancer Connections and American Cancer Society.
Take an Active Role in Your Health
Early detection and screening are important aspects of Cancer Healthy, but taking an active role in your health is equally important. That means being aware of your risk and taking steps to lower it.
If you don’t know your family health history, find out. Make a point to ask about it at your next family gathering, such as Mother’s Day. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services offers an easy-to-use online tool for learning more about your family health history. At My Family Health Portrait, you can save and update your family history, and print it and share with family members or health providers.
We’re committed to keeping you informed about how you can protect against cancer. You can attend one of our nutrition or stress-management classes, take part in laughter yoga, or visit us at a health fair to learn about ways to lower your risk.
You can make a difference in your health, by living Cancer Healthy.
Learn more about the full range of preventive, treatment and recovery services available at the El Camino Health Cancer Center.
This article first appeared in the April 2016 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.