Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States; about 1 in 6 people will develop some type of cancer due to genetics, the environment and certain lifestyle factors. Although treatments have improved with the rise of technology, there are many ways in which Americans can engage in cancer-fighting behavior! We’ve put together a list of healthy behaviors and myths to inform you on ways to reduce your risk of cancer.
Top 4 Tips for Reducing Cancer Risk:
1) Eat a healthy, balanced diet full of lots of color.
Eating a more plant-based diet, like the Mediterranean diet, with lots of fruits and vegetables of all colors has been shown to lower cancer disease risk. This diet includes:
- whole grains
- non-starchy high-fiber vegetables and fruits
- low-fat dairy products
- lean meats including fish
- healthy fats from nuts, seeds and vegetable oils (like olive or avocado oils)
- beans and legumes, and
- spices and herbs
Choosing a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables ensures we eat a variety of cancer-fighting compounds that is associated with each one!
Myth: Certain supplements can help protect you from cancer.
Studies show that the best cancer-fighting powers come from real foods! These nutrients work better in our bodies and may offer more protection from cancer than the nutrients found in supplements. In addition, there are no studies to support that herbal supplements are effective in treating cancers (including superfood powders that are currently popular!).
2) Moderate your intake of red meat, fast foods and added sugars.
Some studies show a direct link between high red meat intake and developing certain cancers, like colon cancer. The nitrates and saturated fats found in processed meats (like sausage, bacon and hot dogs) have been found to increase the risk of gastrointestinal cancers like stomach and colorectal cancer. Remember to consume these in moderation and in small portions. It can help to focus on choosing lean meats like chicken, turkey, salmon, tuna and plant proteins like chickpeas, hummus and lentils.
Myth: Eating sugars will give you cancer or make cancer worse.
Studies show that cancer cells consume more sugar than normal cells do, but no studies show that sugar makes cancer worse or avoiding it will make it go away. However, a diet high in sugars may get in the way of having a more well-balanced diet. Limit your intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and choose more water, 100% juices, and naturally flavored seltzers to decrease your risk of diabetes and obesity, which increases the risk of certain cancers.
3) Avoid or limit smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol.
Alcohol use has been found to increase the risk for a wide variety of cancers, including gastrointestinal tract, liver, and breast cancers. It is recommended that women limit alcohol to no more than one drink a day, and men to no more than two per day. This includes all types of alcohol such as beer, wine and liquors. However, red wine contains a compound called resveratrol which studies show may decrease cancer development – the drinks per day for each sex still stands!
Myth: E-cigarettes and vapes are a safer alternative to nicotine-containing products.
Although e-cigarettes are considered a safer alternative, we are still learning what their effects are on our health. The vapors produced by these products may contain some cancer-causing chemicals and does not eliminate the risk. Stopping smoking is still the best way to reduce your overall risk of cancer.
4) Get your body moving!
Studies have shown that practicing regular moderate-level activities can lower your risk of certain cancers. Physical activity can include working, exercising, doing chores, and any other activities you may enjoy like walking, swimming, biking, or jogging. The recommendation to aim for is 30 minutes 5 times a week, or a total of 150 minutes per week of movement for health-producing benefits.
Myth: Sedentary behavior does not increase the risk of cancer.
One review showed that those who engaged in more sedentary behavior such as sitting, reclining or lying down for long periods of time increased their risk of cancers by 20-35%! We suggest reminding yourself to move around periodically, especially if you sit at a desk all day or sit for long periods of time in the evenings.
If you are concerned of your cancer risk or would like to work on any of the above activities, a registered dietitian at Avance Care can help! We can help you work on small, achievable goals to improve your health and overall well-being, including reducing your risk of cancer.
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