Lifestyle Changes Cut Your Cancer Risk

Lifestyle Changes Cut Your Cancer Risk

April is Cancer Control Month.

When it comes to cancer prevention, we all have choices. Some will increase a person’s risk factors; others will make someone less likely to face a battle with cancer.

“Seventy percent of all cancers, heart disease and diabetes can be prevented,” says Dr. Leslie Kohman, SUNY Distinguished Service professor and medical director of Upstate Cancer Center.

April is Cancer Control Month and in his official proclamation, President Barack Obama encourages “citizens, government agencies, private businesses, nonprofit organizations and other interested groups to join in activities that will increase awareness of what Americans can do to prevent cancer.”

According to the National Cancer Institute, “Cancer prevention is action taken to lower the chance of getting cancer. Anything that increases your chance of developing cancer is called a cancer risk factor; anything that decreases your chance of developing cancer is called a cancer protective factor.”

Some risk factors for cancer can be avoided, but many cannot. For example, both smoking and inheriting certain genes are risk factors for some types of cancer, but only smoking can be avoided. By changing your lifestyle and eating habits, and avoiding things known to cause cancer, you can have your own cancer prevention program.

Here in Central New York, the days are getting warmer and sunnier. Now is a great time to get outside, be active and assess your lifestyle choices. With the guidelines, consider what you can do to reduce your risk factors and increase your protective factors for cancer and other chronic diseases.

“While some cancers are unrelated to lifestyle, you will never get a drug or treatment that will be as effective (as these six preventative steps),” Kohman says.

Cancer may strike in one’s lifetime, but the person most in control of preventing it or its reoccurrence is the individual. While health care professionals and researchers work to treat or cure cancer, they need our help to prevent it. Which leads to a question we can all ask ourselves: “What am I willing do today to reduce my risk factors and increase my protective factors against cancer?” [SNT]

Marnie Blount-Gowan teaches meditation and mindfulness and is a member of the Crouse Hospital Integrated Health Alliance in Syracuse.

Six Healthy Choices

Lifestyle Changes Cut Your Cancer Risk

Stop Smoking

Cigarettes are known as “cancer sticks” for a reason. Smoking can cause cancer almost anywhere in your body: your mouth, your bone marrow and your blood. Smokeless tobacco also causes cancer. Smoking during pregnancy can cause life-threatening issues for mother and baby. Nearly nine of 10 men who die from lung cancer are smokers. About 3,000 non-smokers die yearly from lung cancer caused by secondhand smoke.

Shun the Sun

Avoid ultraviolet sun exposure and when outside, use sunscreen. Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs. Wear a hat and sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays. Protect yourself UV radiation year round. UV rays from the sun can reach you on cloudy and hazy days and reflect off of surfaces.

Indoor tanning exposes users to UVA and UVB rays that can lead to cancer. People who begin tanning younger than age 35 have a 59 percent higher risk of melanoma.

Get Stuck

Cancer vaccines are designed to boost the body’s natural ability to protect itself through the immune system. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved vaccines for the hepatitis B virus, which can cause liver cancer; and human papillomavirus types 16 and 18, which are responsible for about 70 percent of cervical cancers.

Eat and Drink Lean

Limit high-calorie foods and drinks. Hold the line on processed and red meat. Eat at least two and a half cups of vegetables and fruits a day. Choose whole grains instead of refined products. And if you drink alcohol, keep it to no more than one drink a day for women and two per day for men.

Be Lean

Avoid excessive weight gain at all ages. For those who are overweight or obese, losing even a few pounds has health benefits and is a good place to start. Being overweight or obese is linked to increased risk of many cancers including those of the breast, colon and rectum, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, pancreas, gallbladder, liver and ovaries. Excess weight is also tied to greater risk of multiple myeloma.

Move Around

Adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week (or a combination of these), preferably spread throughout the week. Children and teens should try for at least one hour of moderate to vigorous activity a day, with vigorous activity at least three days a week. Doing any physical activity above one’s usual level — including household chores, taking the stairs and parking farther from the store — can have many health benefits. Limit sedentary pursuits that involve sitting or lying down, such as watching TV or other screen entertainment.
Source: American Cancer Society (
While some cancers are unrelated to lifestyle, you will never get a drug or treatment that will be as effective (as these six preventative steps).
— Dr. Leslie Kohman, medical director of Upstate Cancer Center

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