Healthy Habits Lower Your Cancer Risk

We all are aware of the fact that life style choices impact our overall health and that many types of cancer are directly associated with unhealthy habits.

Tobacco and Cancer

  • Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States for both men and women and the most preventable form of cancer death in the world.
  • Besides lung cancer, tobacco use also increases the risk for cancers of the mouth, lips, nose and sinuses, larynx (voice box), pharynx (throat), esophagus (swallowing tube), stomach, pancreas, kidney, bladder, uterus, cervix, colon/rectum, ovary (mucinous), and acute myeloid leukemia.
  • Cigars contain many of the same cancer-causing agents found in cigarettes.
  • Smokeless tobacco products are a major source of cancer-causing nitrosamines and a known cause of human cancer. They increase the risk of developing cancer of the mouth and throat, esophagus (swallowing tube), and pancreas.
  • Each year, about 3,400 non-smoking adults die of lung cancer as a result of breathing secondhand smoke. Each year secondhand smoke also causes about 42,000 deaths from heart disease in people who are not current smokers.

(source: American Cancer Society, Cancer Facts & Figures 2014)

What you can do:

As anyone who has tried to quit smoking will tell you, tobacco cravings can wear you down. Getting help, rather than taking on the challenge of quitting alone, can support you in reaching your goal.

  • Talk with your doctor about establishing a plan for quitting tobacco.
  • gov (http://smokefree.gov/about-smokefree) is a website sponsored by the National Cancer Institute that provides online support, telephone hotlines and maps out personal plans to help quit smoking.
  • The Mayo Clinic’s website offers several suggestions to help quit smoking, including relaxation techniques and physical exercise. (http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/quit-smoking/in-depth/nicotine-craving/art-20045454)

Sun Exposure and Skin Cancers

Sunlight helps our bodies produce necessary vitamins that contribute to our overall health. However, incautious exposure can be harmful.

  • Skin cancer is the most common of all cancer types. More than 3.5 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are diagnosed each year in the United States.
  • About 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.

What you can do:

  • Seek the shade, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM.
  • Do not burn.
  • Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths.
  • Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day.
    For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside.
    Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
  • Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months.
  • See your physician every year for a professional skin exam.
  • Be aware of changes to your skin. Contact your doctor if you notice new and irregular growths or texture changes. The Skin Cancer Foundation provides information about what to look for when doing a skin self-exam. http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/early-detection/if-you-can-spot-it-you-can-stop-it

Weight and Cancer

Being overweight or obese accounts for 20% of all cancer deaths among women and 14% among men. Losing excess pounds reduces the body’s production of female hormones, which are linked to breast cancer, endometrial cancer, and ovarian cancer. Even if you’re not technically overweight, gaining just 10 pounds after the age of 30 increases your risk of developing breast, pancreatic, cervical, and other cancers. According to ACS, there is still much to learn about the link between weight and cancer risk. (http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/dietandphysicalactivity/bodyweightandcancerrisk/body-weight-and-cancer-risk-effects)

What you can do:

  • Talk with your doctor about a weight loss plan. Ask about recommendations for a nutritious diet and a maintainable exercise regimen. With the help of your doctor, set realistic goals.   Remember, weight loss is most effective and most likely to be permanent when it involves life style changes and occurs steadily over a planned period of time.
  • Work with a weight loss buddy. Losing weight with a buddy can increase your weight loss success. Choose someone who shares your goal and who you can count on to encourage you with your plan. In choosing a buddy, define what type of encouragement works best for you. “For some people, it means hearing kind and supportive words; for others, it means having someone come by and literally drag them out of the house and to the gym. As long as both buddies know what the other needs and expects, then they can be there for each other.” (http://www.webmd.com/diet/choosing-weight-loss-buddy?page=1)
  • Eat a healthy diet. A diet high in whole-grain fiber, lean proteins and colorful fruits and vegetables and low in saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars can greatly improve health in general.

To learn more, please contact the Cancer Resource Centers of Mendocino County.

2017 Cancer Awareness and Prevention Campaign

Sponsored by the Cancer Resource Centers of Mendocino County in collaboration with the Mendocino County Health and Human Services Agency (www.co.mendocino.ca.us/hhsa/)