We are all at risk of cancer and as women, female specific cancers are scary, so knowing there are tips to help reduce your cancer risk is somewhat reassuring. One in every four deaths is attributed to cancer. There are figures which show that one-third of cancer deaths are related to lifestyle, and this being the case, whilst there is no guarantee, if there are tips to help reduce your cancer risk, shouldn’t we being taking notice of them?
Despite smoking still being one of the major causes of cancer deaths, people still do it. It seems clear, then, that the most obvious of tips to help reduce your cancer risk is to give up smoking. Did you know there are 69 carcinogens in tobacco smoke, along with thousands of other chemicals? Certainly don’t start smoking. It’s addictive, it’s not clever, it makes you smell and it’s dammed expensive.
Skin cancer is one of the most common forms and has two types – non-melanoma and the more serious concern, melanoma – and the most common cause is exposure to the sun (not much chance of that in the UK these days!). There are various ways to reduce your risk of getting cancer: avoid tanning beds; avoid prolonged exposure to intense sunlight; always wear a high SPF sun cream – minimum of 30 when outdoors in the summer; cover up with a cool, long sleeved shirt; wear a hat and sunglasses; and choose an SPF moisturizer. Remember, too, that if you’re at the beach or pool, reapply your sun screen regularly.
One of the tips to help reduce your cancer risk is applicable to one of our major lifestyle choices. Being overweight puts us at all sorts of health risks and impacts on our quality of life. Critically, your chance of surviving cancer is reduced if you are overweight and also there is a greater propensity for cancer recurrence. Remember, too, that exercise is essential to a healthy body and the American Cancer Society recommends 20 minutes of exercise a day.
It seems obvious, therefore, that if your weight is a key factor in the issue, then so is your diet. It is so difficult to know you are eating a healthy diet because you hear so much contradictory advice about what is good for you and what isn’t. Grocery shopping is more like a battle with a conscience. There are some general food tips to reduce your cancer probability:
• Plant based foods are a vital part of your diet, especially highly colored ones. The antioxidants help fight free radicals and keep your immune system strong.
• Raw, natural foods should be on your menu regularly.
• Saturated fats should be no more than 10% of your daily calorie intake.
• Eliminate trans fats as much as possible.
• Cholesterol intake should be no more than 300 milligrams per day.
• Limit red meat intake and eat fish regularly.
Knowing what to eat is about protecting your body and keeping it healthy. I’ve already mentioned the fact that food these days is a minefield, but rather than try and weigh up all the conflicting information there is about what is good for you and what isn’t, become label savvy. This will help you with making choices. Learn the words food producers use to “fool” you and know how to recognise preservatives and additives. For example, it would be so easy to add salt to the list of ingredients but instead, you might find it as sodium. The same goes for refined sugars, which will appear as their industrial names. All processed foods contain chemicals, but some are more harmful than others and are also used in varying quantities. It’s an easy choice to make to avoid processed foods.
Reducing your risk of cancer is not just about what you put into your body, but also what you put on it. Unless described as 100% natural, personal care and beauty products contain chemicals and, as with food, they aren’t always good chemicals. If you buy European products you can guarantee a reduction in the potentially toxic chemicals used because the EU has banned over 1,000 chemicals and ingredients deemed to be unsafe. In comparison, the US FDA has only banned 11. It’s scary to know that you can be rubbing chemicals into your skin and hair that can cause harm – even toothpaste can contain cancer-causing carcinogens. And, again, as with food, it is about understanding the label. Labels on personal care products are so complicated and full of impossibly convoluted words, but you can learn to recognize the ingredients to be avoided. The FDA highlights the following as being potential cancer causes: chemicals ending in “eth,” such as ceteareth; types of polyethylene, including polyethylene glycol and polyoxyethylene; and words prefixed by "peg."
There are chemicals all around us. One of the ones that causes a great deal of concern is bisephenol A (BPA), which is used in plastics, including those used by the food industry. You can minimize your exposure to BPA by avoiding plastic containers with a #7 stamped on them among the manufacturing marks; avoid processed food made for the microwave – if you must eat them, tip the food into a proper microwaveable container, preferably not plastic; and reduce your consumption of canned foods, as cans are often lined with BPA plastics. And it isn’t just about foods. If you work in a building that contains asbestos, be aware of it. Asbestos is perfectly safe until it becomes impaired, then the dust can cause Mesothelioma – a specific asbestos-related cancer. You might also want to consider using low volatile compound chemical paints and even changing your vinyl shower curtain to one made from natural fiber.
Most of the ways to reduce your risk of getting cancer are practical and easy to follow. Most of them we already know and simply forget them as we go about our daily lives. Remember, too, that if you suspect anything at all that might be cancer-related, see your doctor as soon as possible. Early detection gives a much greater chance of recovery. Do you have any other important prevention tips?
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