One of the first steps in preventing cancer is discussing screening with your health care practitioner: which tests are right for you, and how often should you have them?
Outside the doctor’s office, there are many other ways you can reduce your risk.
Key risk factors
- Dietary factors are responsible for as much as 9 percent of all cancers.
- Smoking causes about one-fifth of all cancer cases worldwide.
- Alcohol consumption can increase risk of some cancers, particularly in combination with smoking.
- Family history can play a role in our risk of getting some types of cancer.
- Obesity increases the risk of cancers of the colon, pancreas, breast and liver. Obesity may also prompt the development of more aggressive types of cancer.
- Stress itself cannot be said to cause cancer, but chronic stress creates an environment within the body that supports cancer progression and may increase cancer risk.
- A sedentary lifestyle is a risk factor for cancer development in the colon, breast and endometrium.
- Exposure to UV rays is the direct cause of most skin cancers.
- Lack of sleep may increase the risk of some cancers.
Actions to take
1. Curb your consumption of red, salted and processed meats, as these increase cancer risk. Pile your plate with veggies and animal-free protein sources instead. Dine on antioxidants like turmeric, dark berries and leafy greens.
2. Skip the broiler, deep fryer and barbecue: cooking animal protein at high temperatures creates mutagenic (cancer-causing) compounds. Try baking meat, poultry and fish, or break out the slow cooker.
3. Steam rather than boil veggies to preserve their cancer-fighting properties.
4. Use alcohol responsibly; engage in some social activities that don’t involve drinking. Keep it to under one drink a day for women and fewer than two drinks a day for men. Talk to your health care practitioner if you need added support.
5. Quit smoking today! Check out online resources like smokershelpline.ca.
6. Learn about your own cancer risk based on family patterns—talk to your health care practitioner to find out if additional tests or early screening are right for you.
7. Breastfeed your children, if possible, to reduce your risk of breast, ovarian and endometrial cancers.
8. Reduce saturated and trans fat intake, found in animal products, fried foods and baked goods. These fats are associated with obesity and are independent risk factors for cancer.
9. Eat a high-fiber diet to assist in reaching a healthy BMI (between 18.5 and 24.9). Fiber-rich diets may prevent colorectal cancer while improving survival in breast cancer.
10. Develop stress management strategies that work for you. Consider journaling, music or other creative activities.
11. Aim for 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous exercise, completed in intervals of as little as 10 minutes at a time. Exercise with a friend to keep you motivated, and try to include some outdoor activity.
12. Apply mineral-based sunscreen and take supplemental vitamin D.
13. Get eight hours of sound sleep nightly.