Cancer is one of the scariest illnesses in the world. Fortunately, it’s also one of the easiest to avoid. If you’re concerned about your risk of getting cancer, a few easy lifestyle changes can have a huge impact.
One of the building blocks of lowering your cancer risk is eating right. The Center for Disease Control has said that a diet with lots of fruits and vegetables can lower the risk of cancer, so be sure to get at least five servings a day. Want to get even healthier? Try the Mediterranean diet. It’s full of foods that have been shown to decrease the risk of cancer. This diet substitutes healthy fats like olive oil for butter, herbs, and spices for salt, and limits red meat consumption to a few times a month. Instead, whole grain and plant-based foods make up most of the menu. The recipes are tasty, too!
The second building block of cancer avoidance is exercising regularly. Studies have shown that regular exercise doesn’t just lower your risk for cancer. It also lowers your risk of depression, type 2 diabetes, strokes and heart disease. You don’t have to hit the gym for hours on end, either— walking just 2 hours a week can cut the risk of breast cancer by 18 percent. Regular exercise can also help you burn fat. This is important because the next cancer avoidance tip is to…
Maintain a Healthy Weight
It’s an unpleasant fact—if you’re overweight, you’re at a higher risk for cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, obesity accounts for 14 percent of cancer deaths in men and 20 percent of cancer deaths in women! Exercising regularly can help you maintain a healthy weight. So can eating proper portions of healthy food, like the foods found in the Mediterranean diet. Losing weight isn’t easy, but the rewards include a decreased risk of endometrial cancer, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer, so it’s well worth the effort.
Avoid Sweets and Processed Foods
Everyone knows processed food is not as good as whole foods. However, not many people know that too much junk food and processed sugar can lead to a buildup of fat on your liver. Even if this doesn’t lead to liver cancer, it can still lead to cirrhosis—even if you don’t drink. You don’t have to give up sweets entirely, but “clean eating” can really lower your risk of getting cancer. Save sweets and junk food for special occasions, like birthdays and holidays.
Stress can hurt you. It taxes your body and drains your immune system, which needs to be operating at peak performance to detect and destroy cancer cells. Learn how to reduce the stress in your life by practicing relaxation techniques. While meditation is the first thing most people might consider, massages can also reduce stress. You can also reduce stress by learning to let go of situations beyond your control. While there will always be times where you should be upset or angry, learn to recognize when being stressed won’t help and do your best to accept the situation.
Get Regular Checkups and Vaccinations
Regular check-ups are key in the fight against cancer. Many forms of cancer are not only treatable but curable when they’re caught early enough. Increase your chance of detecting the early warning signs of cancer by learning how to examine yourself. Then do it on a regular basis. If you find something that might be a sign, be sure to let your doctor know immediately.
Doctors can also give you vaccinations. This is an especially important cancer avoidance measure if you are a woman. HPV is a virus responsible for an incredible 70 percent of cervical cancer cases, which means getting vaccinated against it is one of the best moves you can make. Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C have also been linked to cancer, so getting vaccinated against them is a good idea as well.
Protect Yourself From the Sun
While most people love being out in the sun, you need to shield yourself from its ultraviolet rays. Sunscreen is the first line of defense, but it can’t completely protect you by itself. Sunglasses with ultraviolet protection and a hat with a broad rim will further protect you. The best way to protect yourself from the sun, though, is to limit your exposure during its peak intensity hours of 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. If you have to be out during that time, take regular breaks in the shade.Related: 11 Signs of Melanoma Skin Cancer
Everyone should know that the evidence linking tobacco use to cancer is incontrovertible. However, it bears repeating—using tobacco dramatically increases the risk of getting cancer. Tobacco use has not only been linked to lung cancer, but also to pancreatic cancer, rectal cancer, and esophagus cancer, among several others. Avoiding tobacco entirely is your best bet, but if you are smoking, the sooner you quit the better your odds that you won’t get cancer.Related: 7 Signs of Lung Cancer