Reduce cancer risk with these five healthy habits

Cancer Primary Care Wellness
Shoulder with sunscreen

When stories of close friends, loved ones or even celebrities diagnosed with cancer start to add up, we may look for solutions in our own lives to increase our odds of staying healthy.

Overall, men and women have a 40 percent chance of a cancer diagnosis in their lifetimes, according to the American Cancer Society.

"Some risk factors are out of our hands, like our age, gender, race and genetic background," says Dr. Magi Khalil, a medical oncologist with Riverside Peninsula Cancer Institute. "But, thankfully we do have the power to control many aspects of our lives by taking practical steps to improve our overall health. That, in turn, lowers our cancer risk."

Here are five ways you can consider for reducing your cancer risk.

Don't smoke

Smoking and secondhand smoke is linked to about 90 percent of lung cancer deaths. Smoking also can cause 11 other types of cancer.

Eat a healthy diet

Whole foods, as opposed to processed foods, are best for cancer prevention. As a rule of thumb, vegetables and fruit should make up half of your plate. At least half of the grains you eat each day should be whole grains.

Researchers have found a link between colon cancer and large amounts of red meat, particularly processed meat, such as ham, sausage, bacon and hot dogs. Get more of your protein from plant protein over animal protein to lower the risk of cancer.

Foods with antioxidants are also important because they neutralize chemicals in the body that damage cells.

Exercise more

Exercise lowers cancer risk by controlling weight, reducing certain hormones and improving the immune system. Each week, aim for either 

  • 150 minutes ( two hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity activity
  • 75 minutes (one hour and 15 minutes) of vigorous-intensity activity

You'll want to choose aerobic activities — something that increases your heart rate and breathing — like walking, dancing, swimming or running.

Maintain a healthy weight

Researchers have linked obesity to 13 types of cancer, including breast cancer. Too much "belly fat" or visceral fat, which is stored in the abdomen and surrounds the vital organs, is one factor they believe increases the odds of cancer.

Use sun protection

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer diagnosed in the U.S. The sun's ultraviolet rays damage the DNA of skin cells. Use sunscreen with broad-spectrum coverage (UVA and UVB rays) that's waterproof and has an SPF of 30 or higher.

Babies under six months cannot use sunscreen, so your best bet is to keep them away from the sun.

"Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before you go outside for best results and reapply every two hours if you're sweating or in the water," Dr. Khalil says.

For more information on any of these tips, contact one of our primary care providers


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