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A recent report published by the American Association for Cancer Research reveals that more than half of all cancer deaths in the US are potentially preventable. On the part of the government and healthcare providers, there are three general ways they can help bring down death rates from cancer. According to Dr Ernest Hawk, head of the cancer prevention division at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, the three-pronged approach includes education, cancer screening, and public health policies. However, the report also emphasizes that strategies to prevent cancer are mostly based on adopting healthier lifestyles.
This means that most malignancies may be associated with non-hereditary factors, which include environmental as well as lifestyle factors. Research shows that:
- Up to one-third of cancer diagnoses are linked to the use of tobacco. It is also responsible for almost 30% of cancer deaths in the US.
- About 20% of cancers are linked to overweight or obesity.
- Insufficient physical activity is linked to 5% of cancers.
- Poor dietary habits are linked to 5% of cancers.
- Chronic infection with certain cancer-causing pathogens is responsible for up to one in five cancer diagnoses worldwide.
- Majority of skin cancers are due to overexposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun or tanning devices. UV light is also linked to about 2% of all cancers.
The report states that lifestyle changes could reduce by half the projected 585,000 deaths related to cancer in 2014. Hawk stressed that although people’s behaviors may contribute to their developing cancer, the report does not mean to put the blame on them. After all, lifestyle changes would only account for half of the people who may be saved from cancer.
Important Lifestyle Habits to Adopt
Doctors and scientists encourage people to take charge of their health by adopting four important habits that research has shown to be most effective. These include:
- Eating healthy.
- Being active.
- Not smoking.
- Getting screened for cancer.
Aside from these, other steps to prevent cancer include:
- Protecting the skin from overexposure to the sun.
- Practicing safe sex and avoiding risky behaviors.
- Getting immunized against cancer-causing agents such as hepatitis and HPV.
- Knowing your family’s medical history and getting screened regularly for cancer.
Losing merely 5-10% of excess weight has a big impact on one’s health. Important lifestyle habits to observe in keeping a healthy weight include:
- Eating moderately by controlling food portions.
- Avoiding sugary foods and drinks.
- Aiming to exercise at least 30 minutes a day.
- Combining cardio exercises with muscle strengthening exercises.
- Reducing TV time, because TV viewing is an important predictor of obesity.
- Getting enough sleep (about 7 hours/day).
- Keeping a journal to log food intake and exercise habits.
Although these lifestyle habits are often related to other chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke, research shows that they are also associated with various common cancers. To further reduce your risk of the common preventable cancers, read more about the added preventive measures recommended by experts.