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Categories > Cancer > Cancer prevention and screenings

7 ways to ward off cancer

Your lifestyle—how you live, what you eat and how active you are—plays a large role in whether you may develop cancer. Each year, more than 565,000 Americans die from cancer, and one-third of these deaths are linked to poor diet, physical inactivity and overweight. In addition, tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death in the United States. You can reduce your cancer risk by following these guidelines:

  1. Don’t smoke. Cigarette smoking causes 87 percent of all lung cancer deaths as well as most cancers of the larynx, mouth, pharynx, esophagus and bladder. Tobacco smoke contains thousands of chemicals, including 60 already known to cause cancer. Kicking the habit decreases your risk, and the sooner you quit, the better.
  2. Lose excess weight. Being overweight increases your cancer risk, especially breast cancer in postmenopausal women. The American Cancer Society advises aiming for a body mass index between 18.5 and 24.9.
  3. Get moving. People who work out regularly—at moderate to vigorous intensity—have a lower risk for colon and breast cancer than lazy folk. Exercise reduces cancer risk by keeping weight in check and influencing hormone levels and the immune system. Aim for at least 30 minutes (60 minutes is preferable) of moderate activity each day.
  4. Pump up your produce. Anti-oxidants such as vitamins C and E, carotenoids and other phytochemicals abundant in fruits and vegetables protect body tissues from the natural oxidation damage that occurs with metabolism. You should eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables each day. Vividly colored produce tends to have high levels of cancer-fighting nutrients.
  5. Reduce your meat. Cutting back on red meats like beef, pork and lamb and processed meats like bologna, hot dogs and luncheon meats may reduce the risk for prostate and colon cancer.
  6. Limit alcohol. Drinking alcoholic beverages increases the risk for many cancers, including those of the liver, breast, mouth, esophagus and larynx. If you drink, limit your cocktails to no more than two a day for men or one a day for women. Even a few drinks a week, however, is linked with breast cancer in women, especially women who don’t consume enough folate.
  7. Protect your skin. A suntan is a sign of skin damage, the type of damage that leads to skin cancer. Use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 every day, wear protective clothing and avoid tanning booths or beds.