Tips for Thought

It’s no secret that our lifestyle choices, including our diet, dictate the quality of our health in the future. While anyone is susceptible to severe ailments like cancer and diabetes, certain habits we have cultivated over the years can make us more vulnerable than others. Here are some habits that can cause cancer and some tips to reduce the risks.

Some Important Cancer Statistics and Facts:

It’s important to remember that no cancer is 100% preventable. Nevertheless, managing your diet, physical activity, and lifestyle choices reduces your cancer risk, especially these nine types:

  • Breast cancer;
  • Cervical cancer;
  • Colorectal cancer;
  • Head and neck cancer;
  • Lung cancer;
  • Ovarian cancer;
  • Prostate cancer;
  • Skin cancer; and
  • Testicular cancer

Breast cancer is the most diagnosed cancer among American women right after skin cancer. However, thanks to modern technology, many sophisticated treatment options have increased the survival rate for patients.

Cervical cancer can be prevented thanks to the HPV vaccine. HPV, or the human papillomavirus, is responsible for at least 99% of all cervical cancers.

The best weapon against colorectal cancer is to undergo screening. Most colorectal cancers develop from precancerous polyps. Early screening helps detect these polyps, making them easier to treat.

Of all the cancer types, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to prevent since most cases are caused by smoking. Nevertheless, nonsmokers can also develop lung cancer, so being cautious of their surroundings is crucial.

Head and neck cancers include a wide range of tumors that develop in various areas of the head and neck. At least 75% of these cases are related to alcohol and tobacco use. HPV infection is also a factor, especially for throat and tonsil cancers.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the United States. Experts recommend that men undergo a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. Elevated levels of PSA may indicate prostate cancer. While the condition is not preventable, people should still adhere to a healthy lifestyle and undergo annual physical exams.

Skin cancer is a lifestyle disease that affects people of all ages. Frequent skin examinations help people catch potentially dangerous conditions while they’re still treatable. Additionally, making a habit of wearing broad-spectrum sunscreen all year round can help prevent this condition.

Testicular cancer is common among men between the ages of 18–39. Most men may find they have this condition during self-examination or when a doctor undergoes a physical exam. Nevertheless, this cancer type is highly treatable even if it spreads beyond the testicle.

Any woman would be at risk of ovarian cancer, especially if the person had breast or colon cancer. The risk of developing this cancer type increases as the woman ages.

Based on these statistics, we can safely conclude that some cancers are highly preventable while others are not. Nevertheless, maintaining a healthy lifestyle with physical activity and diet can reduce these risks tremendously. Annual physical exams, getting the HPV vaccine, and wearing sunscreen all year can also help.

What Are Some Everyday Habits That Can Lead To Cancer?

Cancer is still the world’s second leading cause of death, right after heart disease. For people who are unaware of how cancer can quickly develop, here are some everyday habits that can lead to cancer and what you can do to lower your cancer risk:

1. Excess use of tobacco and tobacco products.

Tobacco smoke and products contain many chemicals that can severely damage the body at a cellular level. The chemicals in cigarette smoke also affect the body’s DNA, including the ones responsible for protecting the body against cancer. This effect makes the body susceptible to damage, where the eventual build-up of this habit then leads to cancer.

Despite companies advertising “safer” alternatives to smoking, there is still no safe level of smoking, so your best bet is to stop smoking altogether, regardless of the product’s claims. If you’re having a hard time quitting, ask your doctor for any treatments that can help you control your craving.

2. A primarily sedentary lifestyle.

A sedentary lifestyle of rarely exercising and sitting at your desk all day can increase cancer risk. According to the latest research, most sedentary lifestyles increase one’s chances of becoming overweight or obese. Increased adiposity, inflammation, and insulin resistance are vital pathways that can lead to severe conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, and limited mobility.

On the other hand, AICR research shows that moderate exercise for at least thirty minutes a day can reduce one’s risk of endometrial, postmenopausal breast, and colorectal cancers. If you’re working a sedentary job, take a few breaks to walk around. You can also propose a brief exercise program in your workplace to benefit everyone.

3. Eating an unhealthy diet.

A diet rich in processed foods, sugary drinks, alcohol, and red meat increases cancer risk. Most processed foods lack vitamins and fiber while containing high sugar, salt, and fat levels. These foods increase one’s risk of becoming overweight and obese, increasing one’s chances of developing cancer.

As for red meat, chemicals found during the processing of these products have been known to damage cells or cause bacteria to create harmful chemicals in the body. These chemicals include haem, nitrates and nitrites, heterocyclic amines (HCAs), and polycyclic amines (PCAs).

While it’s easy to say that one should stop eating these foods immediately, it may not be sustainable for some. As such, experts recommend cutting down on these food types and replacing them with healthier alternatives like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meat. Moderation is also crucial, so ensure a reasonable portion size if you want the occasional treat.

4. Bad dental habits.

According to a 2019 study, poor oral hygiene aids in the carcinogenic potential of other known carcinogens like tobacco and alcohol. While poor oral hygiene alone is not enough to cause cancer, bad oral hygiene can make one susceptible to cancer when combined with other destructive habits.

If you’re worried you may be susceptible to oral cancer, remember to schedule your dental visits regularly and brush and floss daily. Remember also to limit sugary drinks.

5. Inability to manage stress.

Many people attribute stress to a psychological phenomenon. While that may be the case, constant stress can also have damaging physical effects that can affect one’s health. While stress does not directly increase one’s risk for cancer, it can make one more likely to develop bad habits to manage stress. Some common vices people use to manage stress include smoking, consuming alcohol, or altering one’s diet.

Being stressed is normal in our fast-paced world. However, we can manage these everyday stressors by choosing better techniques. Some ways to manage stress include meditating, having a solid network of support with friends and family, and going on periodic vacations to help clear the mind. You can also significantly reduce stress by taking up a creative hobby or a low-intensity exercise routine like brisk walking.

Takeaway: Cancer is a severe and complex disease that can dramatically affect a person’s life expectancy. With so many cancer types available, everyone must take charge of their health by monitoring their exercise and lifestyle factors. If you’re having difficulty letting go of certain habits, consult your doctor to help you reduce your cancer risk.