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7 Ways to Prevent Cancer

How to Prevent Cancer

Although cancer survival rates are improving all the time, it is still a potentially fatal disease.

Furthermore, even curable cancers have distressing symptoms and the side effects of treatment can be unpleasant. Therefore, many people wonder how to prevent cancer, or whether this is even possible.

In this article, we take a look at some of the common causes of cancer and how to reduce your risk of developing this disease.

Can Cancer be Prevented?

Cancer is not a single disease, but a group of conditions that are grouped together due to their similar features.

These conditions are a result of changes in the DNA of cells. These changes cause cells to grow abnormally, forming tumors and spreading throughout the body.

Cells can undergo these changes for a number of reasons. Unfortunately, some of these are out of our control, such as in the case of genetics, age and hormones. However, many of the factors that cause cancer can be prevented. In fact, some experts estimate that one in four cases of cancer are preventable.

Some of the most common, preventable factors that contribute to cancer include:

  • Tobacco use
  • Alcohol
  • Diet
  • Physical inactivity
  • Radiation (from x-rays, CT scans, radon gas and ultraviolet light)
  • Other environmental toxins
  • Infections

Why Practicing Cancer Prevention Is Important

Prevention is always better than treatment, but this is especially true for cancer. Although many types of cancer can now be successfully treated, this is not always the case.

Some types of cancer do not cause any symptoms until the disease has become quite advanced. This means that these cancers often go undetected until it is too late. Once cancerous cells have spread to multiple organs of the body, there is little that doctors can do to stop it.

Even cancers that are treatable can cause great distress and anxiety to patients. Not only are the symptoms of cancer itself uncomfortable, but its treatments can cause many adverse side effects.

Therefore, it important to reduce your risk of developing cancer in any way you can. Fortunately, there are several simple lifestyle changes that may help.

Ways to Prevent Cancer

Some of the best ways to prevent cancer are as follows:

Avoid Tobacco

Most people know smoking can cause lung cancer. But did you know tobacco can cause a whole range of other cancers too? Smoking and chewing tobacco have been linked with:

  • Bladder cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Oral cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Acute myelogenous leukemia

Of course, the best way to reduce the risk of these conditions is to avoid tobacco completely. If you need help with kicking the habit, ask your pharmacist or physician for support.

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A graphic of lungs.

Eat Well

Another factor in preventing cancer is maintaining a healthy weight. Obesity has been linked with several different types of cancer, including:

  • Breast cancer
  • Endometrial cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Colorectal cancers
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Gallbladder cancer

One of the best ways to manage your weight is by eating a healthy diet. Ensure you eat an appropriate amount for the level of physical activity you do, and limit your intake of fatty foods.

You should also minimize your intake of red meat, processed meat and alcohol, as these are all associated with an increased risk of cancer.
Many experts suggest that eating a diet that is rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, beans and pulses, and whole grains may help.

The Mediterranean diet is a good example of a healthy diet that may help prevent cancer, while still being tasty and easy to follow.

Stay Active

In addition to eating well, you can maintain a healthy weight by being physically active. Physical activity has been linked to a lower risk of certain cancers, including colorectal cancers.

The usual recommendation for physical activity is at least 30 minutes, five times a week. This could be anything from swimming to playing tennis. The important thing is to find something you enjoy so you can stick to it in the long run.

Be Safe in the Sun

Ultraviolet light from the sun or tanning beds can increase you risk of developing skin cancer.

Therefore, if you need to be outdoors in the sun, cover up with long sleeves, pants and a hat. Stay in the shade as much as possible, and be sure to use plenty of sunscreen.

Do not use tanning beds and stick to safer options like a spray tan instead.

Avoid Infections

Some infections such as HPV (human papilloma virus) and hepatitis B and C can also increase your risk of cancer.

HPV is a sexually transmitted infection and can lead to cancers of the cervix, penis, anus, mouth and throat.

Hepatitis can increase the risk of developing liver cancer. It is transmitted by having unprotected sex or sharing needles with an infected person.

Therefore, it is important to always practice safe sex and never share needles with another person. You can also reduce the risk of infection by being vaccinated against HPV and hepatitis B.

Cancer Preventing Medication

If you are at a high risk of cancer due to your family history or other conditions, your doctor may prescribe cancer preventing medication. There are several different drugs that may help reduce the risk of cancer.

Some of these interfere with hormones that some types of cancer need to grow. For example, tamoxifen is a drug that may prevent breast cancer in women, and finasteride may reduce the risk of prostate cancer in men.

Other cancer preventing medications include anti-inflammatory drugs such as COX-2 inhibitors or aspirin.

Attend Regular Screenings

Fortunately, we live in an age when many cancers can be treated if they are detected early enough. This is why it is essential to attend routine screenings for:

  • Breast cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Colorectal cancer

These tests can detect cell changes and cancer before you even develop symptoms, and they may just help save your life.

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