Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide and the number of people affected by cancer is growing with each passing year. According to Cancer.gov, by 2040, the number of new cancer cases per year is expected to rise to 29.5 million and the number of cancer-related deaths to 16.4 million. While recent advancements in medicine have improved the way we diagnose and treat cancer, there isn’t a sure-shot way to prevent the occurrence of this deadly disease. Experts say cancer can be caused by bad luck, environment or heredity, but environment plays a major role in increasing or reducing your chances of getting cancer. According to an article published in National Library of Medicinet, the root for most of the cancers lie in the environment and lifestyle and only 5-10% of all cancer cases can be attributed to genetic defects. (Also read: Can you still get cervical cancer if you don’t engage in sexual activity?)
The report says certain lifestyle factors like cigarette smoking, diet (fried foods, red meat), alcohol, sun exposure, environmental pollutants, infections, stress, obesity, and physical inactivity are the risk factors for cancer. “The evidence indicates that of all cancer-related deaths, almost 25–30% are due to tobacco, as many as 30–35% are linked to diet, about 15–20% are due to infections, and the remaining percentage are due to other factors like radiation, stress, physical activity, environmental pollutants etc,” the report says.
Dr Sandeep Nayak, Senior Director, Surgical Oncology, Fortis Cancer Institute in Bengaluru in an interview with HT Digital shares ways to lower your chances of developing cancer by way of certain lifestyle modifications.
“Cancer is a disease that has affected humanity for centuries, and while advancements in medicine have greatly improved our ability to diagnose and treat it, preventing cancer from occurring in the first place is still the most effective way to combat the disease. While there is no sure-fire way to prevent cancer, there are certain lifestyle alterations that can greatly reduce your risk,” says Dr Nayak.
Here are five ways to lower your chances of developing cancer:
1. Maintain a healthy diet
Maintaining a healthy diet is crucial in reducing the risk of cancer. Eating a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables and low in processed foods and red meats, can help protect against cancer. Fruits and vegetables contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can help protect against cancer, while processed foods and red meats have been linked to an increased risk. In particular, a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts has been shown to have cancer-fighting properties.
2. Exercise regularly
Regular physical activity is essential in reducing the risk of cancer. Exercise has been shown to lower the risk of several types of cancer, including breast and colon cancer. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day, such as brisk walking, cycling, or swimming. Studies have shown that regular physical activity not only reduces the risk of cancer, but also improves overall health and well-being.
3. Avoid tobacco use
The use of tobacco is the leading cause of preventable deaths worldwide and is responsible for nearly half of all cancer deaths. Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do to lower your risk of cancer. In addition to oral and lung cancer, smoking has been linked to an increased risk of several other types of cancer, including bladder, pancreas, and throat cancer.
4. Limit alcohol consumption
Excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to an increased risk of several types of cancer, including breast, colon, and liver cancer. It’s best to limit your alcohol intake to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. In addition to cancer, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to several other health problems, including liver disease and heart disease.
5. Protect yourself from the sun
Protection from the sun is essential in preventing skin cancer. To protect yourself, use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, wear protective clothing, and avoid prolonged sun exposure during the middle of the day when the sun’s rays are strongest. Additionally, it is important to be aware of any changes in your skin and to have any suspicious moles or spots checked by a dermatologist.
“Remember that no one can guarantee you will never get cancer, and no single action can prevent it, but by making these changes, you can create a healthier environment for your body to function. Additionally, it is important to see a doctor regularly, and to be aware of any signs or symptoms that might be related to cancer. It is never too early or too late to start making these changes and take control of your health,” concludes Dr Nayak.