February is National Cancer Prevention Month

February 08, 2018

-Steven Damore, Radiation Oncologist, Christie Clinic

Even small changes in lifestyle can reduce your cancer risk and what better time to act than now – National Cancer Prevention Month. American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR) data shows that one in three Americans will develop cancer during their lifetime and nearly half a million people die every year from cancer in the U.S. alone.

Experts believe that one-third of these deaths from cancer can be prevented by making lifestyle changes and following cancer screening recommendations. Talk to your primary care provider and schedule your screenings. Don’t wait – take steps today to reduce your risk of cancer and spread the word to raise awareness among family and friends.

8 Cancer Prevention Recommendations*

1.Be as lean as possible without being underweight.Next to not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight is the most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of cancer. Aim to be at the lower end of the healthy Body Mass Index (BMI) range.

2.Be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day and limit sedentary behavior. Physical activity in any form helps to lower cancer risk. Aim to build more activity, like brisk walking, into your daily routine. Emerging research is showing that extended periods of inactivity – sitting at a computer, watchingTV, etc. – increase many indicators for cancer risk. Break up your day by getting up and walking around a few minutes every hour.

3.Avoid sugary drinks. Choosing healthy foods and drinks instead of those that are high in refined carbohydrates and often in added sugar and fat can help you avoid becoming overweight or obese, which leads to increased cancer risk. Water, unsweetened tea and coffee are good alternatives. Natural fruit juice counts as one of a recommended 5 or more daily portions of vegetables and fruits, but it does contain a lot of sugar. Limit yourself to one glass a day.

4.Eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes such as beans.

Basing your diet around plant foods (like vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans), which contain fiber and other nutrients, can reduce your risk of cancer. AICR recommends that when preparing a meal, aim to fill at least two-thirds of your plate with vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans.

5.Limit consumption of red meats (such as beef, pork and lamb) and avoid processed meats. The evidence that red meat (beef, pork and lamb) is a cause of colorectal cancer is convincing. Studies show, however, that we can consume modest amounts -- up to 18 ounces (cooked) per week -- without a measurable increase in colorectal cancer risk. When it comes to processed meat (ham, bacon, salami, hot dogs, sausages), cancer risk begins to increase with even very low consumption.

6.If consumed at all, limit alcoholic drinks to 2 for men and 1 for women a day.

Previous research has shown that modest amounts of alcohol may have a protective effect against coronary heart disease. But for cancer prevention, the evidence is clear and convincing: alcohol in any form is a potent carcinogen. The best advice for those concerned about cancer is not to drink.

7.Limit consumption of salty foods and foods processed with salt (sodium). Both salt and salt-preserved foods probably increase the chance of developing stomach cancer. Studies have shown that high salt intake can damage the lining of the stomach in ways that can lead to cancer.

8.Don't rely on supplements to protect against cancer. The AICR/WCRF expert panel judged that in general, the best source of nourishment is food and drink, not dietary supplements. The panel doesn’t discourage the use of multivitamins or specific supplements for those sub-sections of the population who stand to benefit from them. They caution against expecting any dietary supplement to lower cancer risk as well as a healthy diet can. It’s always best to discuss any dietary supplement with your doctor or a registered dietitian.

Follow cancer screening recommendations and talk to your primary care provider about any changes in your health

*WCRF/AICR Second Expert Report