To most people, the word “cancer” is a bad word. It is seen as the worst-case scenario and a life-changing diagnosis. In 2020, over 1.8 million people were diagnosed with cancer in the United States. Yet, according to the American Association of Cancer Research, nearly 40% of all cancer diagnoses are caused by preventable factors. Most of these are small lifestyle changes that would make a meaningful difference in one’s health.
One of the most common cancer diagnoses in the U.S. is lung cancer, yet it’s one of the easiest to prevent. Naturally, avoiding smoking, vaping, and secondhand smoke is the easiest way to reduce the risk of lung cancer. However, we all agree quitting tobacco or nicotine products is easier said than done, but even switching to smokeless options like nicotine patches or gums are a significantly smaller risk factor than smoking or vaping.
Maintaining a healthy weight is equally as important at preventing cancer. In fact, one in twenty diagnoses is caused by unhealthy weight. But, the lifestyle changes involved are relatively small. The best way to facilitate a healthy weight is by eating nutrient-rich foods, including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains like brown rice, oatmeals, and whole-grain breads. In addition, minimizing processed foods and red meat, and instead, looking to fish, chicken, or plant-based protein sources like beans and other legumes, is a great way to eat clean and stay healthy.
Exercise is also incredibly important to maintaining healthy body weight, but it doesn’t take much. Thirty minutes of exercise every day will make a meaningful difference in reducing the risk of cancer. However, it’s important to remember that making these lifestyle changes doesn’t come in leaps and bounds, but in small deliberate steps.
One of the most important ways to reduce cancer risk is by being up to date with vaccines. There are a surprising amount of cancer variations that are actually caused by common diseases. One of the large causes of cervical cancer in women is the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) an STD that is very preventable through the Gardasil vaccine for both men and women Additionally, Hepatitis B is a large risk factor for liver cancer, yet it is easily preventable with the Hepatitis B vaccine.
Finally, screening is vital to being conscious of what is happening with your body. Frequent self-examinations in both men and women are incredibly important at catching a possible diagnosis early. In addition, you should consult your doctor for other screenings like mammograms for women, and prostate exams for men over fifty.
At the end of the day, cancer isn’t as daunting as most people believe. If we are mindful of our lifestyle choices and make meaningful changes to our daily habits, it’s possible to prevent most cancer diagnoses and live a happy, healthy life.