According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), approximately one-third of common cancer cases in the U.S. could be prevented by eating healthy, being active and staying lean. That’s an estimated 374,000 cases of cancer that could be prevented. Considering that cancer is now the leading cause of death world-wide, cancer prevention is a worthy goal.
What we eat is among one of the most powerful protectors of good health. Fortunately, you don’t have to live off sprouts and kale to positively impact your health. Eating a diet rich in vegetables, whole grains and beans, as opposed to one high in red meat, processed food and sugar, is important. This is not to say a burger and malt can’t be enjoyed, but they should be enjoyed as an exception rather than the norm.
Daily physical exercise is also important for your over-all health and helps reduce the risk of cancer. This doesn’t mean everyone needs to train for and regularly run marathons. Rather, try to add meaningful, achievable forms of exercise into your routine, like a brisk walk on your lunch break or a bike ride with your kids.
A plant-based diet and regular exercise aids in maintaining a healthy weight, another factor in cancer prevention. Stored fat does more than make our pants too tight. Fat cells produce chemicals that increase both cell growth and cell reproduction. The more times a cell divides, the more chances there are for cancer to develop. Maintaining a healthy weight keeps these chemicals, and negative cell division, in check.
Commercial tobacco use is another major factor, causing up to 40 percent of all diagnosed cancers. If you are a tobacco user, the most powerful anti-cancer step you can take is to reduce or stop use. Sawtooth Mountain Clinic can connect patients with “Call It Quits,” a tobacco-cessation help line. You can also self-refer and call “Quit Plan” at 800-354-PLAN. Both routes will get callers to the same place: a free and confidential help line where they can get coaching, support and even no-cost nicotine replacement.
There are other things you can do to help reduce your risk of getting cancer. Limit your intake of alcohol and sugary beverages. Keep sodium consumption in check by avoiding processed foods whenever possible. Get an annual physical and follow through with doctor recommended screenings and tests. Also, women who breastfeed not only help reduce their own risk of cancer, but that of their children.
The threat of cancer can feel like a predator, lying in wait for the ambush. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees or magic potions that will prevent it 100 percent. But being mindful of over-all health and curbing tobacco use should help keep the threat at a safe distance.
More information and creative ways of stay healthy can be found at: aicr.org/reduce-your-cancer-risk.
By Amy Schmidt