Sunday, September 16, 2018

How to lower your cancer risk

Are there things you can do to lower your risk of cancer?  Cancer – such a scary word.   All of us have known people who have had cancer.  Are there things you can do to lower your cancer risk?  I was surprised this week as I was meeting with a nurse practitioner and when I asked her about diet and lowering your risk of cancer, she responded that it is all genetics.  There was nothing one could do to lower their risk of getting cancer.   She is partially correct, genetics does play a role. The American Cancer Society notes that “although our genes influence our risk of cancer, most of the difference in cancer risk between people is due to factors that are not inherited”.   The American Cancer Society is a great resource about things we can do to lower our risk of getting cancer.   In fact, the American Cancer Society states, “for most Americans who do not use tobacco, the most important cancer risk factors that can be changed are body weight, diet and physical activity.”   Most people are aware that a healthy diet can lower your cancer risk, but not everyone even considers how important physical activity is in lowering one’s risk of cancer.  And if you stay active, eat healthy and have a healthy weight you not only lower your risk of cancer but also you lower your risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

What does the American Cancer Society recommend for physical activity?
The American Cancer Society first recommends that we stay physically active but they also have more specific guidelines for children and adults.
  • Adults – each week get 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity each week.  Spreading the activity throughout the week is better than becoming the weekend warrior.
  • Children and teenagers – each day kids and teens should get 1 hour of moderate or vigorous activity.  Say yes to the after-school soccer game, the basketball game, to swimming which are all good ways for your kid to get exercise.  On weekends, be active with the kids and teens.  Bike rides, walking, hiking – so many ways for a family to stay active.
Everyone should try to sit less and move more – if you are not a very active person, add some activity to your day.  Park farther away from the front door, go for a walk at lunch, walk around the office, go for a walk in the neighborhood after dinner.  

What does the American Cancer Society recommend for a healthy diet to lower one’s risk of cancer?
  • Fruits and vegetables – they recommend 5-8 servings a day.   That may sound like a lot but everyone should aim for 5 A DAY, at least 5 servings of fruit and veggies a day.  Also, a large banana is really 2 servings of fruit so you may be getting the 5 servings a day and not realize it.  Fruits and vegetables are not only loaded with healthy vitamins and minerals, they are full of the antioxidants that help protect against disease including cancer and heart disease.  Vary the color as each color provides different antioxidants to your day.
Enjoy a fresh salad
  • Whole grains – not all carbs are “bad carbs” – you want good carbs like whole grains in your day.  Whole grains have many more vitamins and minerals than white bread, white rice and has fiber.  What are some whole grains you can add to your day?
    • Whole grains cereals – oatmeal or any General Mills cereal
    • Whole wheat bread, English muffins, whole wheat bagels
    • Choose brown rice instead of white rice
    • Other whole grains:  quinoa, buckwheat, barley, popcorn, whole rye and whole corn meal 
Quinoa salad
  • Limit processed meat and red meat – processed meat includes meat that most of us enjoy like such as sausages, hot dogs, bacon, corned beef, beef jerky, salted meat like ham and salami.  This doesn’t mean you have to eliminate these meats from your diet but cutting back on them would be a good idea.  Who doesn’t enjoy a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich?  I do.  Who doesn’t like a hot dog on a bun at a cookout?  One can enjoy some processed meat.  But that doesn’t mean you have bacon at breakfast, hot dogs for lunch and ham and biscuits for dinner. 
  • Weight – maintaining a healthy weight is always a good choice to lower one’s risk of cancer and other diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.  The textbook I use for the nutrition class I teach has some good advice as it recommends we choose an “eating plan for good health” rather than a “diet for weight loss”.  
 If you want to know more about how you can decrease your risk of getting cancer, visit the American Cancer Society’s website at    They also have some short videos on Healthy Kitchen, Healthy Life and Healthy Living Basics:  Eating Well and Physical Activity.  These are short videos that are easy to watch.  

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