The numbers don’t lie. Statistics show that about 1 out of every 3 Americans will develop a type of malignancy during their lifetime. Sure, the outlook is a little gloomy—but do know that there’s nothing to be overly fearful about. A lot of progress has been made when it comes to our understanding of cancer cells and as a result, there have also been many improvements made towards the diagnosis and the treatment of this disease.
You can also help ease your worries by taking necessary precautions and protecting yourself. For example, screening tests that will help detect any malignancies early on are widely available—so do take advantage of these if you’re able. There’s also becoming more aware of the disease’s symptoms, which are quite easy to remember:
C – Change in your bladder or bowel habits.
A – A sore that will not heal.
U – Unusual discharge or bleeding.
T – Thickening lump in your breast or in any other part of your body.
I – Indigestion or any difficulty when swallowing.
O – Obvious changes in a mole or a wart.
N – Nagging cough or hoarseness in your voice.
Aside from the symptoms mentioned above, most of which can also be caused by nonmalignant disorders, early detection is key to increasing your chances of prevent the disease altogether. It might seem impossible—but the stats from the Harvard School of Public Health suggest that 75% of the cancer cases in Americans could have been prevented.
Here’s what you need to keep in mind:
1. Stay away from every form of tobacco. This also includes getting yourself exposed to secondhand smoke. It is a well-known fact just how dangerous this can be. If you are always around people who smoke, you can get still get sick—so it’s best to distance yourself whenever they do bring out the cigarettes.
2. Eat a well-balanced diet. Do stay away from red meat and saturated fat, these are known to increase colon cancer and prostate cancer risk. Make sure you eat a lot of whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. A well-balanced diet doesn’t just help with cancer prevention, it also strengthens your body and its ability to fight off any potential illnesses.
3. Regular exercise. It is a known fact that regular physical activity is linked with reduced risks of colon cancer, breast cancer, and other similar reproductive cancers. Even if you don’t lose weight, it is still capable of protecting you. Start with simple runs or strolls—exercise need not be tedious in order to deliver results.
4. Be mindful of your weight. Obesity is known to further the risk of various cancer types. Your calorie intake counts so combine consuming fewer calories with increased physical activity to lose weight. Again, focus on a well-balanced diet instead of starving yourself in order to shed pounds.
5. Be careful of your alcohol consumption. If you choose to drink, make sure you limit it to one drink per day. Indulging in alcohol is known to increase risks of mouth-related cancers such as: mouth, larynx, esophagus, liver, and colon. The same goes for breast cancer in women.
6. Avoid unnecessary radiation exposure. If you don’t work in a related field, this should be easy enough to do. Make sure you only get medical imaging studies when needed and if possible, check your house for residential radon—the latter is known to increase lung cancer risk.
Do protect yourself from ultraviolet radiation coming from the sun, this is linked to melanoma and the development of other skin cancers. Fret not about electromagnetic radiation from power lines or the radiofrequency from cellphones and microwaves. These are not harmful.
7. Avoid prolonged and unprotected exposure to environmental and industrial toxins. This includes benzene, asbestos fibers, aromatic amines, and PCBs or polychlorinated biphenyls.
8. Do avoid infections that contribute to cancer. Be mindful of the human papillomavirus, HIV, and hepatitis viruses. These are often transmitted via contaminated needles or sexually. Always make sure you and your partner are checked, especially if you are sexually active.
9. Always get enough sleep. Whilst lack of sleep having a direct influence on cancer risk isn’t strong, do know that it causes weight gain in the long run. Weight, particularly obesity, does factor into a person’s increased cancer risk. For your over well-being, it is good advice to make sure you prioritize rest and sleep.
10. Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D. Typically, we get our dose of this through the sun—however, experts are now recommending about 800 to 1,000 IU per day which is only possible through taking supplements. There is enough evidence to suggest that this helps reduce the risks of colon cancer, prostate cancer, and other malignancies. That said, don’t just count on simply taking supplements—make sure you live a healthy and balanced lifestyle as well.