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Can You Reduce Your Risk for Cancer?

No one wants a cancer diagnosis. Here are 6 factors within your control that can decrease your risk.

Presented by Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center October 9, 2020

Researchers have made many advances in cancer treatment in recent years, but news of a cancer diagnosis is never something one wants to hear. While many cancer risk factors are beyond our control, such as age, genetic predisposition, and exposure to job-site carcinogens, here are six factors you can control to decrease your risk of developing cancer.

1. Tobacco Use

Research has found every kind of tobacco use associated with an elevated risk for cancer. Scientists believe cigarette smoking is responsible for about 30% of all cancer deaths in the United States. Even if you’ve smoked for years, quitting drastically lowers your likelihood of getting cancer. Check out these three tips to help you quit.

2. Certain Viruses and Infections

While not always avoidable, you can take steps to avoid some cancer-causing viruses and infections. For example, human papillomavirus (HPV) causes about 90% of cervical cancers, and it can also be responsible for penile, vaginal, anal, and oropharyngeal cancer. In 2006, the FDA approved a vaccine that protects against certain strains of HPV. Doctors recommend this vaccine for both boys and girls between 9 and 26 years of age. Taking this step can protect yourself or your child from developing future cancers.

3. UV Radiation

Established research has proven that excess exposure to the sun causes skin damage and can lead to skin cancers. Always use sunblock when enjoying the outdoors, and do not tan outdoors or in an indoor tanning bed.

4. Healthy Diet & Weight

While there is much debate on the scientifically best diet, several studies have shown lower incidences of cancer in those with diets high in fruits and non-starchy vegetables. Additionally, obese people have a higher risk of certain cancers. Eating a diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables that helps you maintain your body’s ideal weight range is the best course of action for limiting your risk of future cancers.

5. Drinking Alcohol

Drinking alcohol has been linked to an increased risk of oral, esophageal, breast, and colorectal cancer (in men). It may also increase the risk of liver cancer and female colorectal cancer. Most physicians agree that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol is acceptable, but be aware that excessive consumption increases your risk for these cancers.

6. Physical Activity

People who are physically active have a lower risk for cancer than people who live a more sedentary lifestyle. Studies find a lower incidence of colorectal cancer in those who are physically active. Some studies also show that exercise has a positive effect on incidences of breast and endometrial cancer, as well.

While taking these steps does not completely eliminate your likelihood of developing cancer, it does decrease your risk. If you or someone you care about receives a cancer diagnosis, the experts at the Baylor College of Medicine Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center combine proven treatment options, innovative research, and compassionate care to provide the best possible treatment for our patients.

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