Cancer of all varieties is one of the world’s most prolific killers. Cancer is also a disease that touches most of us at some stage in our lifetimes, with almost everyone either fighting a variant of cancer themselves, or having a friend or family member who does so.
While research continues across the world developing better therapies and treatments for cancer, the global population still waits for the elusive and definitive cure to be discovered. Advancements in identifying genes and the growing use of family history as an ‘early warning system,’ means that several people are being identified as being at greater risk of developing cancer. This then influences diagnosis, which happens earlier and then greatly improves the prognosis both for survival and for a full recovery.
Many people, especially those who have experienced cancer at close quarters, go through their lives worrying about whether they will one day be diagnosed with the disease. Most of us now accept that smoking cigarettes is a huge contributory factor in the development of various cancers, and as such, this forms the bedrock of many anti-smoking campaigns that take place around the world.
It is away from smoking, however, that advice can become cloudy and muddled. One study says we should drink a glass of red wine every day to reduce our risk of heart disease, while another tells us that even a minimal amount of alcohol can magnify our personal cancer risk. One leading University tells us coffee can help our brain development, yet their rival will tell us that it will cause us to develop cancer.
While such studies and reviews are often overplayed in the media, they do go some way to demonstrating the problems we face when it comes to lowering our own cancer risk. Of course, they all suffer from the fact that they are looking to answer one question clearly – “Can drinking coffee/alcohol cause cancer/improve brain function/help cardiac health?” – and do not take the form of comprehensive ‘pros and cons’ reviews, which would be much more helpful, albeit potentially confusing!
Now, you can stop the head scratching and the worrying about whether what you are doing is likely to kill you. Check out our ten-point plan for minimizing your cancer risk, which you can start living today.
Please note that these lifestyle guidelines should not be followed over and above any initiatives you may have been suggested by a medical professional, or be used as an excuse to miss regular checkup appointments, for example.
Oh, and we left out “don’t smoke,” too, because you (hopefully) already know that.
How else can you minimize your cancer risk?
1. Keep In Shape
Strong evidence has been uncovered in many studies that suggest those who are overweight stand a far greater chance of developing cancer. After smoking, this is probably the single biggest factor that you are able to have total control over, too.
The reason keeping in shape can help you to reduce your cancer risk is a double-attack. First, eating a healthy diet will see your body consuming less toxins that are likely to damage your body. Secondly, exercising will enable your metabolism to maintain a healthy rate, which in turn fuels your vital organs and leaves your body running like a well-oiled machine.
Avoid the naïve view that many take, that a brutal fitness regime allows you to eat whatever you want, or that a perfect diet means you do not need to exercise. Remember, that whatever you look like on the outside might give no indication to the condition of your internal organs.
Keep yourself as slim and lean as possible, without becoming underweight, and your cancer risk will drop massively.
2. Do Your 30 Minutes a Day
Going to the gym twice a week for two hours at a time and then enjoying a sedentary life at all other times is not the way to go. 30 minutes a day is the minimum amount of exercise you should be putting in, even if you have an otherwise active lifestyle or are on your feet all day at work.
This is even more critical for those of us who have an office job and are sat in front of a screen for hours after hours each day. Sitting still for as little as 20 minutes can massively increase our risk of developing some cancers, not to mention having a sudden heart attack or stroke!
Print off this guide if you need to, and show it to your boss the next time they ask why you keep getting up and walking a lap of the office. The irony is that even such a small level of activity, a short walk every 20 minutes, can make a massive difference, yet few of us do it.
3. Eat Foods With Low Calorie Density
The great thing about this advice is that you do not have to give up eating indulgent foods altogether, so long as you are clever about when and how you eat them. In general, however, it would be wise to avoid processed foods and those with a high level of sugar or saturated fat, as they raise your cancer risk on their own, let alone the impact they have on your weight.
Eating smaller portions and taking smaller bites of your food can help you to bring down your calorie density yourself, and as you will feel fuller quicker, you will find you eat less, too.
4. Go Green, Eat Plants
While we aren’t saying you need to go full-on vegetarian, there is no denying the positive influence that eating a predominantly plant based diet will have when it comes to reducing your cancer risk.
Plants are packed full of water, vitamins, fiber, and detoxifying nutrients, and as an added bonus, they are low scoring in terms of calorie density and make you feel full very quickly! If you can make at least 50% of each meal a combination of fruit, vegetables, beans, and grains, you will be on the right track for an almost perfect preventing cancer diet.
5. Easy on the Steak
Although red meats such as beef and lamb are popular, tasty sources of protein and other important nutrients, you should look to have them, at most, once a week. Too much can hugely raise your risk of cancers of the stomach and bowel. Add processed meats such as refined hams and ready meals to the list, too, cutting them out completely if possible.
How you cook your red meat can impact on the risk factor, too. The best way is to cook for longer, over a low heat, rather than eat meats rare or cooked quickly in the frying pan.
6. Cut Down (or Out) Alcohol
We have to say that the best way to minimize your risk here is to abstain from alcoholic beverages completely. However, at the same time we do understand that some people enjoy using alcohol as a way to relax at the end of the day.
We are not going to preach about it to you, and we will only say this. If you wish to drink, stick to the widely accepted guidelines around how much you should consume daily. Like exercise, you cannot save up your consumption to the end of the week!
7. Lose the Salt
If you are used to putting shake upon shake of salt on your meals, then this might well be the hardest of the ten to do. We would recommend you take some time to check out the salt content already in your foods, however, which is often eye-wateringly high.
Not only does excessive salt consumption raise the risk of stomach cancer, it can affect your blood pressure, and damage the liver and kidney functions.
8. Don’t Rely on Supplements
As the world becomes more and more health conscious, more of us take at least a multi-vitamin to ensure we get our hit of daily essentials than ever before, while some take a whole manner of supplements in order to boost our bodies.
While these can help with your body function and general health, they should not be treated as a one-stop shop or as an alternative to proper nutrition and hydration in terms of cancer prevention. Only take supplements as directed and after discussing with a medical professional, some of these ‘health boosters’ can aggravate underlying conditions and even increase cancer risk in some cases.
9. Moms – Breastfeed!
While Moms around the world feel self-conscious when it comes to breastfeeding their children, the scientific evidence of the benefits to both Mom and child is forever mounting.
More recent studies have shown that breastfeeding lowers the presence of cancer causing hormones in the body, meaning Moms can enjoy the added benefits as much as their baby!
10. It’s Never Too Late
If you have been previously diagnosed with cancer, have since received the all-clear or are still battling the condition, it is never too late to take the advice here on board and make positive changes in your life.
In fact, most of this advice will be given to cancer patients when the time comes to put together a plan to prevent a relapse, as well as give them the best possible quality of life as they look to get back to ‘normal’ as quickly as possible.
Cancer will touch all of us at some stage of our lives. Whether we are in the estimated 50% who will be treated for cancer during our lifetime, or the other 50% that will serve purely as strength and support for cancer patients close to us, living our lives in the healthiest ways possible will massively reduce our risk of being diagnosed. In the event that we are treated for cancer, our bodies will be set up in the best possible way for fighting the disease with full vigor.
Do not let cancer or the fear of cancer take over your life. Make positive changes, live a healthy lifestyle, and set the best example for everyone you connect with.