More than 1.6 million people are diagnosed with cancer each year in the United States. Close to 600,000 die yearly from the disease. Although factors like environment and genetics can play a role in cancer, there are also a lot of factors that are within our control. Experts suggest these are the things you should never do if you want to reduce your cancer risk as much as possible.
Don’t sweat the small things
If you let your stress levels get too high, you risk lowering your body’s ability to fight off certain infections or diseases, such as cancer. Your immune system needs to be at its strongest in order to compete with cancer cells. Make sure to practice mindfulness if you’re stressed at work, and remember not to sweat the small things.
Don’t forget to eat your veggies
Certain vegetables have great cancer-fighting abilities. Cruciferous veggies, such as kale or broccoli, contain cancer-preventing properties. But broccoli contains a significant amount of sulforaphane. This compound boosts the body’s production of Phase 2 enzymes, which are responsible for neutralizing the processes of disease. Next time you’re hit with hunger pangs, try incorporating some broccoli into your next meal.
Don’t have that second brownie
Sweet treats are essential, but they need to be consumed in moderation. Too much sugar can cause fats to build up throughout your body and increase the cancer potential for certain organs. (If too much fat builds up around your liver, it can lead to liver cancer.) Plus, cancer cells need sugar to grow. It’s always okay to enjoy a brownie, but only take one, and try not to make it a daily occurrence.
Don’t forget to pay attention to your body’s changes
Self-examinations are imperative. For women, giving yourself a monthly breast exam will help you quickly detect any concerning changes. But keeping track of moles on your body and watching for any change in color or size can also help you nip cancer in the bud if it does try to move in. Always check for any unfamiliar lumps or swollen lymph nodes, too.
Don’t forego vaccinations
Certain vaccinations are out there to help prevent diseases that can lead to cancer. For example, Gardasil is a popular vaccination recommended for adolescents that prevents againt human papillomavirus, or HPV. HPV is responsible for most cervical cancers but can lead to other cancers, too. Plus, hepatitis B and C can also lead to liver cancer, so ask your doctor about those vaccines.
Don’t splurge on fast food
Fast food might be a quick and easy meal option, but it could also be an easy way to increase your cancer risk. Researchers recently found that foods high in sodium, such as fast food, can lead to an increased risk of stomach cancer. Studies have shown that too much salt can damage the stomach lining, leading to cancer-developing lesions. You’re much better off packing your own lunch than stopping at McDonald’s on your break.
Don’t let your weight get out of control
Adding a few pound as you age is normal. But don’t completely let yourself go. Studies have shown that obesity is linked to many different cancers. According to the American Cancer Society, obesity is linked to at least 8% of all cancers and about 7% of cancer deaths. Breast, colon, and pancreatic cancers are among the most common cancers related to obesity.
Don’t forget to apply sunscreen
When you’re out in the sun, it only takes minutes for skin-damaging radiation to affect the body. The use of sunscreen with a SPF of at least 30 is recommended to block most harmful rays. The darker you get, the less likely you are to burn, but don’t be fooled; your skin is still receiving harmful doses of radiation every time you lounge in the sun without sunscreen.
Don’t skip your morning walk
Exercise has a slew of benefits, and preventing cancer is no exception. When you get up and take a walk, you’re burning calories to reduce your risk of obesity. You’re also clearing your mind; walking has been shown to reduce stress. Exercise downplays these cancer-causing factors, giving it a two-birds-with-one-stone advantage in reducing your cancer risk. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week, so taking a daily, 30-minute walk can have excellent effects on your health.
Don’t ever smoke
This may seem like a no brainer, but some people think that as long as they’re not chain smoking (smoking continuously), they’re fine. However, even smoking one cigarette per day can tremendously increase your risk of getting lung cancer. Cigarettes are responsible for 87% of lung cancers, and people who smoke are 15 to 30 times’ more likely to get lung cancer.
Don’t drink too much
Alcohol in moderation can have excellent benefits, but too much alcohol can increase your cancer risk. Over time, too much alcohol can play a role in developing mouth and breast cancers. Heavy drinking can harm your white blood cells. White blood cells are supposed to attack the “bad things” in your body, such as bacteria and cancer cells, so too much drinking can inhibit your body from being able to fight off those cancer cells.
Don’t eat too much processed meat
Processed meats have raised health concerns over the years. In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified processed meats as a carcinogen. Meats like bacon, hot dogs, and deli meats are highly treated to preserve them. Salting, curing, or fermenting the meats can cause them to become carcinogenic. Experts found that eating at least 50 grams of processed meats per day (equivalent to one hot dog) increased one’s risk of certain cancers by 18%.
Don’t forget to treat yourself
… Not necessarily with food, but do things that bring you joy. When your life revolves around work and taking care of your family, it’s easy to forget about yourself. Set aside some time to do something you love; learn an instrument or take a cooking class. It will improve your mood and also reduce stress, both of which can help your immune system. Your body will be less likely to develop cancer if you’re taking care of your mind.
Don’t spend all of your time indoors
Make sure to get outside and get exposure to your environment. The outdoors is not only relaxing but can also help prevent cancer. Being outside promotes physical activity and mental wellness. Plus, exposure to the sun (with the proper SPF protection) increases your body’s vitamin D levels, which has shown to decrease your likelihood of getting colorectal cancer.
Don’t drink unfiltered water
You should never drink unfiltered water for any reason, but even giving your tap water an extra filter could reduce your cancer risk. Sometimes, trace carcinogens leak into tap water and wind up in your body. Also, recent studies have shown that bottled water is no safer than tap water. Save yourself some money — and help the environment — by attaching a filter to your sink and sticking with tap water.