Whether or not you have a family history of cancer, your chances of developing cancer are very much affected by the lifestyle choices you make. According to research by the World Health Organisation (WHO), at least 12.6 million people are diagnosed with cancer around the world every year, and more than 7.5 million die of the disease – a toll that is steadily rising in every country. Here is a list of steps you can incorporate in your daily life to lower your chance of being among the gruesome statistics.
1) Make High Quality Food a Priority
In our highly industrialised society, the quality of food we can easily obtain is often poor, after being grown in depleted soil, transported long-distance, stored, processed and packaged. When they reach our table, they are left with very little nutrition which are essential for our body to keep cancer at bay.
To get the most out of your food, use fresh, organic ingredients and prepare your meals at home. Season your food with herbs instead of processed sauce. Outside food are often high in calories and chemical additives while being low on nutrition. Processed food, like canned food, are loaded with cancer-causing agents, such as bisphenol-a (BPA) and acrylamide, which has been linked to several types of cancer including bowel, bladder and kidney, and is known to cause infertility and loss of muscle control.
2) Consume a Plant-based Diet
Research has shown that most immune-boosting and cancer–fighting substances, such as antioxidants, come from plants. A plant-based diet doesn’t mean you have to turn vegetarian, but eating mostly foods that come from plants, such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains and beans. Aim for a plate of food that is filled at least two-thirds with whole grains, vegetables, beans, or fruit. Dairy products, fish, and meat should take up no more than a third of the plate.
Some well-known potent cancer fighters are berries, almonds, Brazil nuts, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, beans, garlic, tea, grapes, red wine, avocados and tomatoes. Most culinary herbs, including turmeric, ginger, rosemary, cumin, and cayenne are also rich in cancer fighting compounds so use them whenever possible.
3) Reduce Your Exposure to Environmental Chemicals
Growing scientific evidence shows that exposure to chemicals in the general environment is contributing to society’s cancer burden. Environmental sources of carcinogens are wide ranging, including pesticides, disinfectants, industrial wastes which are released into the air and which seep into our pipe water; exhaust fumes; and consumer products, such as building materials, chemical air fresheners, cosmetics and food packaging materials. Some common carcinogens found in consumer products are BPA (a common component in plastic containers), parabens (preservatives in skincare and cosmetics) and formaldehyde (automobile exhaust fumes).
Be aware of the ingredients a product contains before you purchase it. Minimise your exposure by avoiding the use of products which contain cancer-causing components. If possible, use alternatives instead. One of the best non-toxic disinfectants is plain soap and water. Another all-purpose cleaner that works great for kitchen counters, cutting boards and bathrooms is 3% hydrogen peroxide and vinegar.
4) Cook Your Meat Right
Foods that have carcinogens are usually meat that are cured, dried and preserved – such as sausage, bacon, and Lap Mei (a type of Chinese cured meat); barbequed; deep-fried, burned or charred. Why? Cooking meat at a high temperature causes chemicals called HCAs (heterocyclic amines) and PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) to form. These carcinogens can cause changes in the DNA that can lead to cancer. Opt for healthier cooking methods like steaming, broiling, boiling or baking for your meats instead.
If you must grilled your meat, choose leaner meats and trimming the fat well before grilling, because the fat and juices dripping from the meat creates more flames and smoke, which in turn leads to carcinogen formation. Also, flip frequently to reduce HCAs by 75 to 95 percent, according to Nutrition Action Healthletter. Use a low-heat setting, because it makes it harder for the meat to burn or char. Marinating the meat prior to grilling, especially with herbs, lowers the formation of HCAs as well. Scientists believe the antioxidants in these marinades block HCAs from forming.
5) Do Not Smoke
WHO states that tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of cancer in the world which results in 22% of cancer deaths. According to the United Kingdom Cancer Research Organisation, tobacco smoke contains at least 80 cancer-causing chemicals. Smoking is linked to cancer of the larynx, oropharynx, bladder, mouth, lip, tongue, nose, nasal sinus, cervix, ureter, bone marrow (myeloid leukaemia), pancreas and stomach.
If you can’t stop smoking for yourself, do it for the sake of those living with you – exposure to second-hand smoke has been shown to increase the risk of lung cancer in non-smokers as well.
6) Exercise & Maintain a Healthy Weight
According to the American Cancer Society, being overweight or obese accounts for 20% of all cancer deaths among women and 14% among men. On the other hand, up to one hour of moderate activity daily or 30 minutes of vigorous activity is recommended to cut cancer risk.
Besides weight management, exercise improves bowel movement and promotes regular excretion of waste, hence preventing the accumulation of toxins which lead to cancer. Active bodies also produce less insulin and insulin-like growth factors that speed tumour growth.
7) Protect Yourself from the Sun
Skin cancer – one of the most common kinds of cancer — is also the most preventable. As ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun are the main cause of skin cancer, keeping yourself protected from these rays will keep you from developing skin cancer.
Some easy and practical tips to remember include: staying indoors when the sun is at its strongest (about 11am to 4pm) and using sunglasses, board rim hats and ample sunscreen, or wearing clothing which covers your skin as much as possible when being outdoors. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a working group of the WOH, has added UV radiation-emitting tanning devices, which include tanning beds and lamps, to the list of the most dangerous forms of cancer-causing radiation, so stay away from them.
8) Go for Regular Screening
Have regular self-exams and screenings for various types of cancers — such as breasts, prostrate, colon and cervix, will help you discover any tumour at its initial stage. Finding cancer early (when treatment is most likely to be successful) can greatly increase your chance for a cure and reduce your risk of dying from the disease.
For example, the American Cancer Society recommends yearly mammograms for women starting at age 40, clinical breast exam about every 3 years for women in their 20s and 30s, and Pap test (cervical cancer testing) for women starting at age 21.
Those with a family history of certain cancers should get themselves properly checked for the specific cancer 10 years earlier than the time their family member was diagnosed with cancer.