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Trim Your Cancer Risk

With Healthy Eating, Regular Exercise

Sometimes the best medicine to reduce the risk of cancer isn’t medicine at all. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 30 to 40 percent of all cancers can be prevented by lifestyle and dietary measures alone.

Eating too much food is one of the main risk factors for cancer according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In a recent cancer prevention study, overweight or obesity accounted for 14 percent of all cancer deaths in men and 20 percent in women. Links were found between obesity and higher death rates for the following cancers: esophagus, colon and rectum, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, kidney, stomach, prostate, breast, uterus, cervix and ovary.

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), being a healthy weight is one of the most important ways to protect yourself against 12 types of cancer. To find your Body/Mass/Index (BMI), which helps to track a healthy weight, visit CDC.org, which has an adult BMI calculator that allows you to type in your height and weight and does the math for you.

What Foods to Avoid

Diets that can cause cancer are those diets that lead to obesity. Certain foods, which are low in nutrients, yet high in sugars and refined flour products, low in fiber, contain red meat, or are high in certain fats, can not only lead to heart disease and diabetes, but can also lead to cancers.

  • Cutting down on foods that are high in fat and sugar means you are less likely to gain weight. Being a healthy weight can reduce your risk of cancer.
  • Limiting sugar-sweetened drinks helps to prevent weight gain, which reduces your cancer risk.
  • Limiting your intake of red meat and processed meat to three portions or less a week (12-18 oz cooked weight) can protect against colorectal cancer.

Building a Cancer-Prevention Diet

Eating lots of fruits and vegetables in their most natural form will lower cancer risk. Your aim should be to build your diet around a variety of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, nuts, beans, whole grains and healthy fats.

Plant-based foods are rich in nutrients known as antioxidants that boost your immune system and help protect against cancer cells. These include: vegetables containing carotenoids, such as carrots, Brussels sprouts and squash; non-starchy vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach and beans; foods high in vitamin C such as oranges, berries, peas, bell peppers and dark greens; and foods high in lycopene, such as tomatoes, guava and watermelon.

Fiber, also called roughage, is found in fruit, vegetables and whole grains and keeps your digestive system healthy. It also helps cancer-causing compounds move through your digestive tract before they can create harm.

Eating a diet high in fat increases your risk for many types of cancer, however, healthy fats may protect against cancer. Aim to replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats like those from fish, olive oil, nuts and avocados. Omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon, tuna and flax seeds can fight inflammation and support brain and heart health.

Cut down on sugar and refined carbs. Instead of sugary soft drinks, sweetened cereals, white bread, pasta and processed foods like pizza opt for unrefined whole grains like whole wheat or multigrain bread, brown rice, barley, quinoa, bran cereal, oatmeal and non-starchy vegetables.

Limit red meat and processed meats such as bacon, sausages, hot dogs, pepperoni and salami. The safest strategy is to limit the amount of processed meat you consume and vary your diet by seeking out other sources of protein such as fish, chicken, eggs, nuts, and soy, rather than relying just on red meat.

Benefits of Moving More

According to AICR, being moderately active for at least 150 minutes or vigorously active for at least 75 minutes a week helps protect against three types of cancer. Doing 45–60 minutes of moderate activity a day increases the benefit even more.

If you haven’t been as active as you should be, start with easy ways to incorporate moving more into your daily routine: if you have stairs in your home, go up and down them a few extra times a day; park farther away from your destination; walk around your yard or around your neighborhood until you feel you can tolerate greater levels of vigorous activities.

Timely Screening Vital to Early Detection

Getting screening tests when age and situation appropriate can identify breast, cervical, colon and lung cancers before there are symptoms and when they can be more easily and successfully treated.

While we recognize that every person is unique, at CalvertHealth, our oncology team generally recommends following the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines for cancer screening. To learn more, go to: CalvertHealthMedicine.org/CancerScreeningGuidelines. Vaccines also reduce some cancer risks.

But, overwhelmingly, making healthy eating and exercise choices are the most effective ways to reduce your risk of cancer.
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