-This post was written by Stephanie Price.
Cancer formation can come from the foods we eat, the air we breathe or the medicine we take. While there is no magical pill that can prevent you from getting cancer, Deborah Armstrong, associate professor of oncology at the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, shares nine ways that you can reduce your risk.
1. Cut out tobacco. This is a no-brainer. The risk of developing lung cancer is 23-fold higher in men and 13-fold higher in women who smoke, compared with those who don’t. Tobacco can contribute to lip, oral, pancreas, voice box, cervix, bladder and even kidney cancer. The good news is that if lifelong smokers stop smoking today, their chance of getting cancer drops drastically—almost as much as a person who has never smoked.
2. Moderate your sun exposure. If you have a light, natural skin color or skin that frequently burns, freckles or reddens, you have less melanin. Melanin protects your skin against sun damage. The burns that people get in their teens and twenties are the burns that will most likely turn into melanoma. If you see more than 50 moles on your body, you need to see a dermatologist every year. A few tips are to seek shade during the mid-day hours (between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.);always wear clothing on exposed skin; put on sunglasses; and make sure to use sunscreen that has an SPF of 15 or higher (with as much UVB and UVA protection as possible).
3. Reduce your alcohol use. Regular, heavy alcohol use can lead to liver damage. Alcohol dissolves the carcinogens and helps them get into the cells faster to start inducing DNA damage. You should not drink alcohol every day, but if you are going to, you should only have one drink with a meal.
4. Get more sleep. People who get fewer than six hours of sleep a night were shown to have a 50 percent increased chance of precancerous lesions in their colons. Getting between seven to eight hours of sleep at night is ideal.
5. Be HPV-aware. The human papilloma virus causes most anal, genital, vaginal and penile cancers. The best part is that now we have ways to prevent it. There are two vaccinations that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration for boys, as well as girls.
6. Update your family’s cancer history. Make sure your doctor is aware of any history of cancer in your family. If you have been seeing the same doctor for 20 years, and some of your family members have gotten cancer since then, make sure you let your caregiver know about these cases. This will help reveal the need for certain cancer screenings.
7. Test your home for radon. If you don’t recall the last time you had this done, it’s time to have your house tested. Radon is a radioactive gas that can be released from some types of building materials or from the soil. Radon damage is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. You can go to your local hardware store and pick up a test kit today.
8. Take the Helicobacter pylori test. This is a bacterium found in the stomach and the upper part of the intestine, which is a major cause of gastric cancer. Ask your doctor if you should be tested for the bacteria so that you can start preventing your chances of getting it now.
9. Know the diet for reducing your risk of cancer. Your fat intake should be about 30 percent of your calories or less. Fat tissue increases estrogen levels, and estrogen is associated with a number of cancer risks. Avoid eating large quantities of pickles and smoked foods. To prevent colon cancer, you should get between 20 to 30 grams of fiber a day, which means you should eat five servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables.
More on Cancer and Nutrition:
Watch nutritionist Lynda McIntyre give her tips for cancer survivors on staying healthy
Dr. Bill Nelson discusses the links between certain foods and cancer
Blog series on nutrition for breast cancer patients and survivors