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Easy Ways to "Cancer-Proof" Your Life

Cancer is one the most fatal diseases we face and although it's much more treatable today it's still the second leading cause of death in the U.S., but it doesn't have to be. Cancer isn't inevitable and with healthy lifestyle choices, many people can avoid cancer. "Most cancers are preventable, and more than 70% of cancers are linked to diet and lifestyle in the environment," Dr. William Li, physician, scientist, president and medical director of the Angiogenesis Foundation, and author of Eat To Beat Disease: The New Science of How Your Body Can Heal Itself tells us.

Dr. Li says, "Cancer prevention is in the hands of every healthy person, and does not rely upon the healthcare system. Regular physical activity, adequate, high quality sleep, stress reduction, and especially, eating a diet composed of healthy foods that contain cancer fighting bio active substances are all key to cancer prevention." Annual screenings also make a difference. Dr. Li explains, "Even though there are a growing number of cancer treatments that can be effective when cancer is caught and treated early, unfortunately, most cancers are still diagnosed at an advanced stage where treatments are less likely to succeed."

Dr. Li adds, "All cancers are treatable. However, advanced cancers are very difficult to control, and often patients are very sick at that late stage of disease, and find it difficult to tolerate cancer treatments. For this reason, cancer screenings to detect the disease early are essential for improving the odds of survival." There are several unmodifiable risk factors for cancer such as age, family history, hormones and immunosuppression. But there are many ways to greatly reduce the chance of getting cancer.

1: Get the HPV Vaccine

If you watch TV, it's likely you've seen a commercial about the HPV vaccine and here's why. Dr. Natasha Bhuyan, a family physician based in Phoenix, AZ states, "It's incredible that there is a vaccine that can literally prevent cancer. The HPV vaccine can prevent several different types of cancers caused by HPV, including cervical cancer, throat cancer, anal cancer, vaginal cancer, and penile cancer. As an added benefit, the vaccine can also prevent genital warts. HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection. A few strains of HPV can cause cancer, while other strains can cause genital warts."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state, "HPV infections and cervical precancers (abnormal cells on the cervix that can lead to cancer) have dropped since 2006, when HPV vaccines were first used in the United States.

  • Among teen girls, infections with HPV types that cause most HPV cancers and genital warts have dropped 88 percent.

  • Among young adult women, infections with HPV types that cause most HPV cancers and genital warts have dropped 81 percent.

  • Among vaccinated women, the percentage of cervical precancers caused by the HPV types most often linked to cervical cancer has dropped by 40 percent.

The CDC adds, "Everyone through age 26 years should get HPV vaccine if they were not fully vaccinated already.

–HPV vaccination is not recommended for everyone older than age 26 years.

–Some adults aged 27 through 45 years who were not already vaccinated might choose to get HPV vaccine after speaking with their doctor about their risk for new HPV infections and possible benefits of vaccination for them.

HPV vaccination of adults provides less benefit, because more people in this age range were exposed to HPV already."

2: Wear Sunscreen

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, but also it's highly preventable.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, "1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70. More than 2 people die of skin cancer in the U.S. every hour. Having 5 or more sunburns doubles your risk for melanoma and when detected early, the 5-year survival rate for melanoma is 99 percent.

Dr. Bhuyan reminds us, "Skin cancer is one of the most preventable forms of cancer, often caused by exposure to UV radiation from the sun. Skin protection with sunscreen, hats, and appropriate clothing are great ways to prevent skin cancer. Avoiding tanning beds is also critical."

There's many preventive measures to take and the CDC says, "UV rays are strongest from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daylight saving time (9 a.m. to 3 p.m. standard time).

–Stay in the shade.

–Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs.

–Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade your face, head, ears, and neck.

–Wear sunglasses that wrap around and block both UVA and UVB rays.

–Use a broad spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher."

3: Quit Smoking

Smoking is one of the deadliest habits and according to the World Health Organization, "Tobacco smoke has more than 7000 chemicals, at least 250 are known to be harmful and at least 69 are known to cause cancer. Worldwide, tobacco use is the single greatest avoidable risk factor for cancer mortality and kills more than 8 million people each year, from cancer and other diseases. Nearly 80% of the 1.1 billion smokers in the world live in low- and middle-income countries."

The American Cancer Society's estimates for lung cancer in the United States for 2022 are:

"About 236,740 new cases of lung cancer (117,910 in men and 118,830 in women)

About 130,180 deaths from lung cancer (68,820 in men and 61,360 in women)."

Not smoking can greatly reduce the risk of lung cancer. The ACS states, "Overall, the chance that a man will develop lung cancer in his lifetime is about 1 in 15; for a woman, the risk is about 1 in 17. These numbers include both people who smoke and those who don't smoke.

For people who smoke the risk is much higher, while for those who don't, the risk is lower."

Dr. Bhuyan says, "Avoid smoking and tobacco products. 90% of lung cancers are caused by smoking. Several other types of cancers have been linked to tobacco, including colorectal, breast, throat, bladder, and esophageal cancers. If you are currently a smoker, even quitting today reduces your risk of cancer for the future."

4: Get the Hepatitis B Vaccine

Dr. Bhuyan explains, "The original vaccine that prevented cancer was the Hepatitis B vaccine. A chronic hepatitis B virus can cause liver cancer, and the overall risk is reduced with the Hep B vaccine. "

According to the Hepatitis B Foundation, "The hepatitis B vaccine was named the first "anti-cancer" vaccine by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration because it prevents chronic hepatitis B infections, thereby preventing liver cancer caused by the hepatitis B virus." In addition, " At least 80% of people diagnosed with liver cancer also have cirrhosis. Although chronic hepatitis B infections can lead to liver cancer without cirrhosis, in general preventing cirrhosis can reduce the risk of liver cancer. The most important way to prevent cirrhosis is to prevent chronic infections of hepatitis B and C in the first place."

5: Stay Physically Active

Dr. Bhuyan emphasizes the importance of eating healthy and staying active. "A higher BMI coupled with a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy eating is linked to various types of cancers, including breast and colorectal. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables as well as exercising can help cut your risk of cancer."

Maintaining a healthy weight cuts the risk of cancer and the CDC says, "For adults, a person with a BMI from 25.0 to 29.9 is considered overweight. A person with a BMI that is 30.0 or higher has obesity." The CDC also states, "Overweight and obesity can cause changes in the body that help lead to cancer. These changes can include long-lasting inflammation and higher than normal levels of insulin, insulin-like growth factor, and sex hormones. The risk of cancer increases with the more excess weight a person gains and the longer a person is overweight."

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