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10 simple lifestyle changes to prevent cancer

Written by Pavitra Sampath |Updated : June 11, 2014 3:08 PM IST

10 tips cancer prevention

There's a common misconception that cancer is an unavoidable disease. The general tendency among most people is to blame fate or bad luck for the disease. The fact is that cancer like most other diseases are caused by a variety of choices we make throughout our lives. Smoking, drinking, eating junk food, exposure to radiation, a sedentary lifestyle and many more factors play a part in causing cancer. Here are some changes you can make to your lifestyle to avoid the dreaded disease:

1. Avoid smoking or exposure to smoke

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The most important lifestyle choice you can make to cut down your cancer risk by half is to quit smoking. Smoking is responsible for not only lung cancer, but many other types as well. One of the best ways to prevent cancer is to quit smoking or never start. As soon as you quit, your body reaps the benefits.

Not exposing yourself to second hand smoke is also another way to prevent cancer. Second-hand smoke is the smoke exhaled from a smoker or a lit cigarette, pipe or cigar. This smoke is known to contain more than 60 carcinogens (cancer causing agents). They interrupt normal cell formation which leads to the process of cancer development.

2. Practice sun safety

Skin cancer is one of the most preventable diseases. By simply using a good sunscreen throughout the day is enough to reduce your risk of skin cancer drastically. A few things you can do to protect yourself from undue sun damage is to avoid exposure to UV rays as much as possible, by avoiding the mid-day sun and wearing protective clothing when outdoors.

3. Include fruits and veggies into your diet

A well balanced diet also helps in reducing your risk of developing cancer. Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants, which help repair damaged cells. Green, orange and yellow fruits and vegetables contain the highest amount of antioxidants and are a great way to prevent cancer. Certain studies have also show that fruits, like blueberries and grapes, may also contain anti-cancer properties.

4. Limit red meat consumption

A number of studies have shown that a diet high in animal fat increases the risk for several types of cancer, particularly colon cancer. Red meat has a higher fat content when compared to poultry or fish. A diet rich in fat also causes obesity which can also lead to a number of cancers. Substituting your red meat meal with one that is made of fish or poultry is a simple change that can help reduce your chances of getting cancer.

5. Think before you drink

Drinking does not only affect your liver adversely, it can leave you with a much stronger side effect - cancer. Studies suggest that men who consume two alcoholic drinks per day and women who have one alcoholic drink per day significantly increase their risk factors for certain type of cancers. Cut down on the number of drinks in a week and see your body respond positively.

6. Exercise for cancer prevention

Exercising helps by keeping you fit and reducing your risk of suffering from various types of cancer. It is suggested that a person must exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, for at least 5 days a week. Apart from burning away those extra calories, it also boosts a person's morale by releasing endorphins, the feel good hormone.

7. Know about your family history

A number of cancers are hereditary in nature (passed on within a family), knowing your family history can help prevent and diagnose cancer in the early stages of the disease. Cancers like breast, colon, ovarian, and possibly other types can be hereditary. If you know that certain types of cancer runs in your family, talk to your physician who will be able to determine a proper screening plan and assess your risk factor. Genetic testing and counselling are also options that are available.

8. Know your risk factors at your work place

There are certain chemicals that are carcinogenic in nature. Constant exposure to these chemicals can increase your risk of developing cancer. Fumes, dust, chemicals like diesel exhaust, arsenic, beryllium, vinyl chloride, nickel chromates, coal products, mustard gas, and chloromethyl ethers are all carcinogens and can be found in some work environments. If you are exposed to any of these chemicals be sure to talk to your doctor about how you can stay safe.

9. Practice safe sex

Unsafe sex can result in the infection of the human papilloma virus (HPV), that is known to cause cervical cancer. HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection that is spread through sexual contact. The FDA has now approved of a vaccine that can protect women from four strains of HPV virus that cause cervical cancer. HIV/AIDS are also associated with a common condition called Kaposi's sarcoma a type of cancer.

10. Get annual health check ups

Screening for cancer and getting an annual health check-up helps in not only catching the disease early but also may help in preventing various other lifestyle diseases. Screening tests like a colonoscopy and Pap smear can detect abnormal cellular changes before they turn cancerous, but they are only effective if done regularly. There are other tests that can detect cancer like the Prostate cancer screening test done through a digital rectal exam, or a PSA test that helps in detecting prostate cancer early. Mammograms are also a great diagnostic tool to detect breast cancer at an early stage.

Remember, cancer like many other diseases are preventable. All you have to do is to make the right choices.

Read more about causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

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