1 EAT MORE PLANTS
A healthy diet with an emphasis on plant foods is critical for cancer prevention. Studies have shown that eating a variety of fresh produce and whole grains is associated with a decreased risk of developing some types of cancer likely related to their vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. Fruits, vegetables and fiber-containing plant-based products have earned a Food and Drug Administration-approved health claim for their association with reducing the risk of cancer.
2 GET YOUR SLEEP
Lack of sleep or sleep disturbance can cause shifts in hormones and stress the entire system. Skimping on shut-eye has been linked to hormonal problems leading to weight gain, and now a 2014 study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine has shown a positive association between sleep disturbance from moderate to severe sleep apnea and cancer incidence. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified the “shift leading to a disruption of circadian rhythm as probably carcinogenic to humans.” When the circadian rhythm is disrupted in rotating-shift workers or people who work at night, hormonal shifts in melatonin have been studied in relation to incidence of certain types of cancers. Adults should aim for seven to nine hours per night and address sleep apnea with your doctor if this is an issue.
3 MAINTAIN A HEALTHY BODY WEIGHT
A 2003 study in the New England Journal of Medicine estimates that being overweight or obese may contribute to up to 20 percent of all cancer-related deaths. Being overweight or obese (a BMI of 25 or greater) is strongly associated with specific types of cancer, including breast (postmenopausal), colon and rectum, kidney, esophagus, pancreas and gallbladder. It’s also likely associated with cancer of the liver, cervix, ovary, prostate, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and multiple myeloma. The reason for the association may be related to negative effects on the immune system and inflammation, including hormones that stimulate cell growth.
4 MANAGE YOUR STRESS
Aside from lifestyle factors like nutrition and physical activity, studies in mindfulness and stress-reduction are gaining attention for prevention of chronic diseases, including cancer. A 2010 study published in the Journal of Alternative Complementary Medicine found that participants in an eight-week mindfulness-based stress-reduction program saw increased immune markers and decreased inflammatory markers in blood tests. The National Cancer Institute advises that while there is currently no direct proven link between stress and cancer incidence, there may be increased health risks with chronic stress. For example, people under stress may develop certain behaviors — such as smoking, overeating or using alcohol — that could increase risk for cancer
6 LIMIT OR AVOID ALCOHOL
Research shows that limiting alcohol intake is an important part of cancer prevention. Current AICR recommendations state that people who drink alcohol should limit it to no more than two drinks per day for men and no more than one drink per day for women. Drinking alcohol is associated with an increased risk for head and neck cancers, as well as liver, colorectal, breast and pancreatic cancers. One reason that alcohol increases risk for developing cancer is acetaldehyde, which is a byproduct created when we metabolize alcohol
7 INCREASE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
By getting moving, you can reduce the risk for cancer including breast, colon, endometrium, prostate and pancreatic. Recommendations for a physically active lifestyle include both increasing daily activity as well as limiting sedentary time. Adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate activity like brisk walking or yard work or 75 minutes of vigorous activity like jogging or running each week. Limiting both screen time (TV, computer and phone) and sitting is important as well, and, at a minimum, doing any activity above your usual level is a positive change.
8 INCLUDE WHOLE GRAINS AND LEGUMES DAILY
Like fresh fruits and vegetables, minimally processed grains like wild rice, barley and quinoa contain cancer-preventing vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber and are also lower in caloric content than most other heavily processed products that may have added sugar or oils. A 2009 study published in Circulation, the American Heart Association’s journal, shows a high intake of red and processed meats, refined grains, French fries, sweets and desserts was linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and total mortality
9 EAT YOUR FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
Fresh produce contains potential anticancer benefits, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. The current recommendations from the AICR for cancer prevention are to eat at least two-and-a-half cups of fruits and vegetables every day
To increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, aim to fill half your plate with these choices at each meal.
10 QUIT SMOKING
Quitting smoking is perhaps the single most important modifiable factor that will decrease your risk of cancer. The current American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention estimates that one third of cancer deaths could be prevented by stopping exposure to tobacco products. Keep in mind that using tobacco and alcohol simultaneously increases risk for mouth, larynx and esophageal cancers, so if you use tobacco products — particularly when drinking alcohol — seek the help you need to quit for good and make a critical choice to reduce your cancer risk.