You probably don’t hear the words “good news” and “cancer” in the same sentence very often. Luckily for you, it’s true. While there is no way to completely prevent cancer from occurring, several of the leading cancers that cause death are actually preventable and even more are easily treated when detected early. Find out how you can avoid hearing one of life’s scariest phrases: “It’s cancer.”
01. Colorectal Cancer is Preventable
The best thing you can do to prevent colorectal cancer is to get screened. Screenings consist of that one word no one likes to hear: colonoscopy. While the term is scary, the benefits greatly outweigh the costs. Colorectal cancer affects men and women equally. It develops slowly, and discovering polyps early on can prevent them from turning into cancer altogether. A colonoscopy screening also helps discover the cancer in it’s early stages when it is extremely curable.
Colorectal cancer is often found in people over the age of 50. Screenings should begin at this age or earlier if you have other risk factors, like a family history. Your risk of developing colorectal cancer decreases when you have a healthy body weight and consume a diet high in veggies, fruit and whole grains. Getting regular exercise has also been shown to reduce your risk.
02. Prevent Lung Cancer
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in men and women in the U.S. The easiest and most effective way to prevent lung cancer is to quit smoking. Even if you have smoked for years, quitting greatly reduces the risk of developing this cancer. If you are a long-term, heavy smoker or former smoker aged 50 or older, a Lung Cancer Screening may be for you. If you’re not a smoker, but live or work around them, talk to them about quitting or ask them to smoke elsewhere. Thanks to Iowa laws about smoking, it’s easy to find smoke-free entertainment options in your area.
If you work with chemicals or other carcinogens that can be inhaled, it’s important to follow all safety precautions provided by your employer to avoid exposure. Wear masks and other protective gear properly and ask your doctor what you can do to protect yourself from cancer and other respiratory diseases.
Diet and exercise also factor into your lung cancer risk. Make sure to eat foods like fruits and veggies, as well as getting regular exercise.
03. Stop Skin Cancer
The most common, and preventable, cancer is skin cancer. Around 90% of all skin cancers are caused by ultraviolet, or UV, rays from the sun. Avoiding UV rays is the best way to prevent skin cancer. Sunburns, tanning beds and extended time spent in the sun are all factors that increase your chances of getting this cancer. In the past 30 years, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined. Some tips to avoiding skin cancer include:
- Avoid the midday sun by planning your outdoor activities before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m.
- Don’t believe tanning bed owners who say you need UV rays for vitamin D. You can easily achieve the vitamin D you need by eating a healthy diet.
- Protect your eyes, face and body from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat, UV-protective sunglasses and bright or dark colored clothing that covers most of your skin.
- Use sunscreen. Specifically, a sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher, and use it everyday. It’s important to wear sunscreen year round in any weather as 70-80% of the suns rays make it through the clouds and snow, ice, sand and water can all amplify the effect of UV rays.
- Examine your skin head-to-toe once a month to check for any changes.
- Get routine physicals and ask your doctor to examine you for any signs of skin cancer.
04. Get Checked for Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer is very preventable. It’s easy to identify in the early stages as it shows pre-cancer signs unlike other cancers. Pap tests, or Pap smears, and Human Papillomavirus tests can be used to find precancerous signs. All women over the age of 20 should get routine physical exams and Pap tests.
The first step to preventing cervical cancer is to practice safe sex. Human Papillomavirus, or HPV, is the main cause of cervical cancer. HPV occurs in the genitals of men and women and is passed through skin-to-skin contact. HPV commonly occurs in women under the age of 30. Surprisingly, you can have HPV for years and exhibit no symptoms.
Second, get vaccinated. The vaccinations Gardasil and Cervarix help prevent several types of HPV and should be administered before sexual activity begins. Gardasil is most often recommended as it prevents genital warts, cervical cancer and pre-cancer. Both males and females can get the HPV vaccine.
Lastly, stop smoking. Smoking has been shown to increase your risk for cervical cancer. Learn more about cervical cancer and other gynecological cancers for which you should be on the look-out.
05. Beat-Up Breast Cancer
There are several ways to reduce your risk of developing breast cancer including:
- Achieve and stay at a healthy weight. Excess weight causes the body to produce more estrogen and insulin, which can cause cancer cell growth. Use this BMI calculator to get an estimate of what a healthy weight range is for your height.
- Exercise on a regular basis. Exercise balances hormones and boosts your immune system.
- Make healthy choices when you eat. Focus on fruits and veggies and choose smaller portions when you eat unhealthy foods.
- Monthly self-exams are also a must.
Early detection is key. Schedule routine mammograms and yearly physicals to increase your breast cancer prevention.
06. Prostate Cancer Prevention
Around 1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. The biggest factor in prostate cancer prevention is early detection. Men over the age of 40 should be routinely screened for changes in the prostate. Men should also get to, and stay at, a healthy weight to reduce their risk of cancer. Studies have shown that diets with plenty of veggies and fish can also reduce the risk of prostate cancer. It’s important to choose food low in fat, which helps maintain weight and helps your heart. Physical activity is important in prostate cancer prevention, as well.
07. Don’t Get “Testie” with Testicular Cancer
Testicular cancer is most common in men between the ages of 15 and 35. While the cause of testicular cancer is still not certain, there are many things you can do to detect problems early on, when treatment is most effective. Testicular cancer is easily treated and cured, especially if it’s detected early. Men should get routine physical exams including a testicle examination. Guys can also perform self-exams, which are recommended on a monthly basis. A self exam consists of examining each testicle individually, rolling it gently between your fingers and looking for anything unusual such as hard lumps or changes in the size, shape or consistency. While there are things like blood vessels and other parts of the testicles that may feel like lumps to a first-timer, it’s important to address any concerns with your doctor.
08. Shutdown Oral Cancers
Oral cancers include cancers of the oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers. Smoking and alcohol are the main factors that cause oral cancers. Quitting smoking is the best way to prevent these cancers, and quitting all tobacco products is even better. Limiting your alcohol consumption will also reduce your risk. Applying lip balm with an SPF of at least 15, wearing wide-brimmed hats and limiting the amount of time you spend in the midday sun can prevent cancer of the lips. Make sure your dentures fit properly to avoid irritations that could lead to larger problems in your mouth. Get routine dental check-ups as a prevention method to check for any abnormalities. Avoid HPV because it is possible to contract it in the mouth and throat. Practicing safe sex and getting the HPV vaccination can help to prevent oral cancers.
Remember, one-third of all cancer deaths are related to poor diet, physical inactivity and being overweight. Keep these things in mind and start striving toward a healthier you.