Medically Reviewed by Donny Huynh, MD
Want to avoid cancer?
“Nothing can guarantee a person will never acquire cancer. But 30 to 50 percent of all cancer cases are avoidable,” says McLeod Oncologist Dr. Donny Huynh. “There are many steps a person can take to lower their risk. Some involve things we should do, such as exercising 150 minutes a week or eating a diet rich in wholes grains, fruits and beans. If everyone underwent a colonoscopy according to screening guidelines, 60 percent of colorectal cancer deaths in the U.S. could be prevented. Breastfeeding a new baby can also benefit the mother by lowering the levels of some cancer-related hormones in the woman’s body. A longer list involves things we should avoid.”
The chart below reflects those factors that represent the greatest cancer risks:
Tobacco represents the greatest avoidable cancer risk, causing 30 percent of all U.S. deaths from cancer. Smoking’s connection to lung cancer is well documented. But tobacco – even smokeless — also constitutes a causal factor in throat, mouth, kidney, bladder, pancreas, stomach, and cervical cancer.
Obesity — and its relationship to Diet and Physical Inactivity — maintains a link to colon, breast, kidney, endometrial and esophageal cancers. Strong evidence connects “fast foods” and “The Western Diet” to 12 types of cancer. Research indicates that beef, pork and lamb are causes of colorectal cancer. Processed meats — such as hot dogs, bacon or sausage — pose an even greater risk. Sugar-sweetened drinks of any type (including sweet tea) trigger weight gain and are linked to a dozen cancers. In any meal, at least two-thirds of your plate should be vegetables, whole grains, fruit and beans.
Alcohol, in moderate amounts, can offer some protection against heart disease. However, alcohol constitutes a strong carcinogen linked to half a dozen cancers, including mouth, larynx, liver, colon, and breast cancer. Alcohol combined with tobacco substantially accelerates the risk of cancer. If you must drink, experts recommend that men limit themselves to two drinks a day and women to one drink a day.
Other items to avoid include infections (such as HPV or Hepatitis B and C), excessive sun exposure and hazardous chemicals.
Have a question? Ask a Cancer Specialist.
Sources include: McLeod Health, American Association for Cancer Research, World Health Organization, American Institute for Cancer Research.