Many factors come into play when determining your odds of getting cancer. You may have a strong family history of a particular type of cancer or your lifestyle habits may put you at greater risk. And sometimes people with no known risk factors get cancer. But the best way to ward off the disease is by sticking to healthy habits. Here are five moves you can make to lower your risk:
- Quit smoking. Whether you puff on cigarettes, cigars or pipes, tobacco products significantly increase your risk of developing lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer deaths in men and women. Tobacco also raises your risk for throat, mouth, bladder, kidney, pancreas, stomach and cervical cancers, among others. Ask your healthcare provider about medications and other methods to help you kick the habit. Not a smoker? Try to avoid secondhand smoke.
- Eat a healthful diet. Stick to a plant-based diet loaded with fruits and vegetables and limit red meat (less than 18 ounces a week) and alcohol (no more than two drinks a day for men; one a day for women). Avoid processed meats such as bacon, sausage and luncheon meat, which a recent American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) report links to colorectal cancer when eaten regularly.
- Exercise. Be active for at least 30 minutes a day, working your way up to an hour or more. Exercising and eating a healthy diet can keep you from gaining weight. Obesity is a major risk factor for breast, colon and reproductive cancers.
- Wear sunscreen. Sun exposure is the most common cause of skin cancer. In addition to wearing a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, try to avoid the sun’s rays when they’re strongest (from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), cover exposed parts of your body with clothing made from tightly woven fabrics and avoid tanning salons.
- Breastfeed. The AICR report recommends that women breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of a baby’s life. It lowers baby’s risk of adult obesity—and obesity-related cancers. For mom, breastfeeding delays menstruation, and fewer menstrual cycles tend to lower breast cancer risks.