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Everything You Should Know About Reducing Your Cancer Risks

  • Category: Cancer Care
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Southwest General Medical Group
Everything You Should Know About Reducing Your Cancer Risks

Approximately one in three American adults will develop some form of cancer at some point in their lifetime. With such high statistics for cancer development, it is important to note that early detection can provide more treatment options and increase survival rates for many types of cancer.

From making lifestyle changes to getting regular screenings, here is a brief overview of everything you should know when it comes to reducing your risk of developing cancer:

Know Your Risk

Though it's possible for anyone to develop cancer, certain factors may increase your risk. Some of the most common influences include:

  • Age: Although the disease can occur at any age, advancing age is the most important factor when it comes to cancer development. The median age for cancer diagnosis is 66.
  • Family history: Five to 10 percent of all cancer cases are linked to having a close family member, like a sibling or parent, who has had the disease.
  • Genetics: All cancers are a result of a mutation, or fault, in a gene. While most cancers develop as a result of genetic changes over the course of a lifetime, other faulty genes can be passed down from a parent.
  • Obesity: People who have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher can be at a higher risk of developing various types of cancer, including breast, colorectal, esophageal and kidney cancers.
  • Tobacco: Tobacco use—whether smoking, using snuff, or chewing tobacco—is the leading cause of cancer and death from cancer in the United States.

Lifestyle Changes

Lowering your risk of developing various cancers starts with making healthy lifestyle choices such as a nutritious diet and regular exercise. While making healthier choices cannot completely eliminate your risk of developing cancer, following the healthy lifestyle habits below can help to reduce your risk:

Get Plenty of Exercise

People around the world are spending more time than ever before doing activities that don't require much movement—from video games to scrolling through your phone, much of our free time is spent sitting and lying down. Even many of today’s jobs require sitting for long periods of time, which can have adverse effects on your health. An inactive lifestyle means you're more likely to:

  • Burn fewer calories and gain weight
  • Lose muscle strength
  • Have poor blood circulation
  • Experience inflammation throughout your body
  • Develop a hormonal imbalance

Some of the most common cancers associated with being overweight or obese are post-menopausal breast cancer, stomach cancer, liver cancer and colorectal cancer. Regular physical activity helps to decrease your risk of developing chronic health conditions and diseases such as certain types of cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, it is recommended that adults, aged 18 and older, get 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week doing activities like walking as well as at least two days of strength training.

Foods that Fight Cancer

According to the American Institute of Cancer Research, many minerals, vitamins and chemicals found in plants have an anti-cancerous effect. A diet with the following foods may help reduce the risk of developing cancer as well as contribute to a healthier lifestyle while living with or after cancer:

  • Citrus fruits
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Nuts like almonds, cashews and peanuts that are high in protein
  • Lean protein like fish, eggs, poultry and low-fat beef and pork
  • Starchy carbohydrates like bread, pasta, rice and potatoes with their skin
  • Melons
  • Blackberries, raspberries and strawberries
  • Pomegranates and papayas
  • Onions
  • Mushrooms
  • Chili peppers
  • Squash
  • Green beans

Avoid or Quit Using Tobacco

According to the National Cancer Institute, tobacco use, of any kind, is one of the leading causes of various types of cancer and cancer-related deaths in the United States. People who use tobacco products are at an increased risk of developing cancer of the following body parts:

  • Lung
  • Larynx (voice-box)
  • Mouth
  • Esophagus
  • Throat
  • Bladder
  • Kidney
  • Liver
  • Stomach
  • Pancreas
  • Colon/Rectum
  • Cervix
  • Blood

Many believe it will take a lengthy amount of time to see some health improvement after quitting tobacco use; however, the timeline for seeing a difference is almost instant. As soon as a person stops using tobacco, the body begins to reverse negative health effects. Although you cannot completely eliminate the damage done to the body from years of tobacco use, the risk of developing cancer continues to decrease over time.

Learn more about how tobacco impacts your health and the importance of quitting.

Know The Symptoms

Knowing the general signs and symptoms of cancer is a key component when it comes to early diagnosis. Although having any of these symptoms may not be a definitive sign of cancer, it is important to discuss them with your doctor to figure out what is happening in your body. These symptoms include:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Persistent fever
  • Feeling tired all the time (fatigue)
  • Pain
  • Skin abnormalities
  • Sores or white patches that don’t go away
  • Unusual bleeding or discharge
  • Change in bowel or bladder habits
  • Frequent lung or respiratory infections

Get Regular Health Screenings

While making the appropriate lifestyle changes is essential to reducing preventable risks of developing cancer, it does not erase the need for regular doctor appointments for routine testing. The types of testing you may need are determined by your age, gender and any known health risks. Maintaining open communication with your primary care physician is imperative when it comes to getting the proper testing done at the proper time.

Well-Woman Visits

For women, well-woman visits with your gynecologist are important when it comes to prevention. These visits generally include a review of your health history, a pelvic exam and a Pap test. Screenings and tests may vary depending on age and family history of health conditions and diseases; however some common cancer screenings include:

By having an open dialogue with your doctor, you can help him/her to determine if you have any increased risk factors for cancer as well as spot any early signs and symptoms.

Screenings for Men

For men, regular physicals often include screenings for a variety of health issues as well as a general assessment of your health for future medical risks. These screenings are also very important when it comes to prevention and identifying any signs and symptoms of disease. While the need for screenings may vary based on age and family history, some common cancer screenings for men include:

  • Colorectal
  • Lung
  • Prostate

According to the National Cancer Institute, it is recommended that men have regular prostate and colorectal cancer screenings starting at aged 50 and possibly sooner if you have a parent or sibling who has had these types of cancer. Having regular wellness visits with your primary care physician, as well as staying up to date on your recommended blood work and testing, will help you to understand your risks for developing cancer and any lifestyle changes you may need to make to reduce your chances of developing disease.

At Southwest General Medical Group, Inc., our primary and specialty care physicians are committed to working closely so that you can fully understand your risks of developing cancer. To learn more about our services or schedule an appointment, visit our website or give us a call at 440-816-8000.