Carolyn Vachani, MSN, RN, AOCN
The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: December 26, 2012
The New Year is a time to reflect on the past year and look toward the upcoming year. This often inspires people to commit to working towards a healthier lifestyle. The following common resolutions not only make for a healthier lifestyle, they can also reduce cancer risk.
1. Quit all tobacco use. This includes cigarettes, cigars, pipes, dip or chewing tobacco, and marijuana. Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable cancer deaths. The number of deaths due to lung cancer this year is approaching 160,000, if no one in the U.S. smoked, this number would be about 12,000! Tobacco use can cause cancer in the mouth, larynx (voice box), throat, bladder, kidney, esophagus, and pancreas. It has also been linked to colon and breast cancer. Ready to get started?
2. Eat better! Evidence suggests that one third of all cancer deaths are due to dietary factors. By decreasing the amount of fatty foods and increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat, you can lower your risk of developing cancer. Visit the CDC's fruit & veggi es- more matters website for more information.
3. Protect yourself from sun and UV light (produced by tanning booths) exposure. Use a lotion with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher everyday and wear a hat when outdoors. You can even get a sunburn in the winter. Tanning booths expose people to the same harmful rays as the sunlight, so you should avoid using them. Learn more about sun safety on OncoLink.
4. Increase your physical activity and lose weight. Diet, exercise and healthy weight make up a "health triangle"; each has it's own effect on health, but together they are the second most important step, after not smoking, to preventing cancer and living healthier. A lack of physical activity has consistently been related to an increased risk of cancers of the breast, colon, prostate and endometrium. Being overweight and having a diet high in fat is clearly related to the development of breast cancer (in post menopausal women), cancers of the colon, endometrium (uterus), esophagus and kidney. It is estimated that 25 to 30% of the cases of these cancers is related to excess weight.
5. Decrease your alcohol consumption. Excess alcohol consumption has been linked to cancer of the mouth, larynx (voice box), esophagus, and liver. It is particularly harmful for smokers, as the two cancer causing agents work together to produce more cancers. You may have read about the benefits of red wine, which has been found to have some properties (not related to the alcohol) that may be beneficial. The anticancer properties come from polyphenols, antioxidants found in the skin and seed of grapes, though these benefits only apply when red wine is drank in moderation.
6. Get a routine physical by your healthcare provider. Many people only see their healthcare provider when they are sick. A healthy visit can provide recommendations for healthier living and information about which cancer screening tests are right for you.