Small Lifestyle Changes Can Make a Big Difference in Cancer Prevention

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death and disease in the world, but many cases can be prevented by making some simple lifestyle changes. Experts say that avoiding smoking, limiting alcohol, eating healthy, exercising regularly, and getting screened can reduce the risk of developing cancer by up to 40 percent.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), smoking is the most important risk factor for cancer, accounting for about 22 percent of cancer deaths worldwide. Smoking causes lung cancer, as well as cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, kidney, bladder, cervix, and blood.

The best way to prevent smoking-related cancers is to quit smoking or never start. Quitting smoking can lower the risk of cancer even after many years of smoking. There are many resources and programs available to help smokers quit, such as nicotine patches, gums, lozenges, inhalers, sprays, medications, counseling, and support groups.

Alcohol Increases the Risk of Several Types of Cancer

Alcohol is another major risk factor for cancer, especially when combined with smoking. Alcohol can cause cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, colon, rectum, and breast. The more alcohol a person drinks, the higher the risk of cancer.

The WHO recommends that people who drink alcohol should limit their intake to no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. A drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of liquor. People who do not drink alcohol should not start for any reason.

Healthy Diet and Weight Can Protect Against Cancer

Diet and weight are also important factors in cancer prevention. A healthy diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds can provide antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber that can protect against cancer. A healthy diet can also help maintain a healthy weight, which can lower the risk of cancers of the breast, colon, rectum, uterus, kidney, and pancreas.

The WHO advises people to avoid or limit foods that are high in fat, sugar, salt, and processed meats, as they can increase the risk of cancer. The WHO also recommends that people eat at least 400 grams of fruits and vegetables per day, and limit their intake of red meat to less than 500 grams per week.

Physical Activity Can Reduce the Risk of Cancer and Other Diseases

Physical activity is another key component of cancer prevention, as it can help control weight, boost the immune system, and lower the levels of hormones and inflammation that can promote cancer growth. Physical activity can also reduce the risk of other chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

The WHO suggests that adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week, or a combination of both. Moderate-intensity physical activity includes brisk walking, cycling, or gardening, while vigorous-intensity physical activity includes running, swimming, or playing sports. Physical activity should be done in bouts of at least 10 minutes, and should be spread throughout the week.

Screening Can Detect Cancer Early and Improve Survival

Screening is the process of testing people for signs of cancer before they have any symptoms. Screening can help detect cancer early, when it is easier to treat and cure. Screening can also prevent some cancers by finding and removing precancerous lesions, such as polyps in the colon.

The WHO recommends that people follow the screening guidelines for their age and risk group, and consult their health care provider about the benefits and harms of screening. Some of the common screening tests include mammography for breast cancer, Pap smear for cervical cancer, colonoscopy for colorectal cancer, and low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) for lung cancer.

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