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Sometimes it can seem like everything can cause cancer - smoking, alcohol, sun, stress, artificial sweeteners, obesity, high fat diets, lack of exercise...the list seems endless. As there is no one cause of cancer - it is multifactorial (many causes) - there is no one prevention method. Instead cancer prevention generally involves lifestyle changes and more awareness of environmental hazards. Some studies suggest that nearly 90 percent of all cancers are in some way related to lifestyle choices and occupational exposures. The following are guidelines to cancer prevention recommended by the American Cancer Society.
Studies consistently show that women who maintain an active lifestyle are less likely to develop cancer than those who do not. In fact exercise may reduce the risk of many cancers in women including breast, colon and endometrial cancer (uterus). The fact that women who engage in little physical activity are statistically also more likely to be obese and eat a diet higher in fat only compounds the problem. The World Cancer Research Fund recommends:
30 minutes of moderate activity 5 days a week. For maximum benefit however it would be ideal to aim for 60 minutes at a moderate pace or 30 minutes at a vigorous pace. Moderate exercise gets your heart beating a little bit faster, like brisk walking. Vigorous activity raises the heart beat so that you build up a sweat and feel out of breath. Examples include jogging or team sports.
Outside of preventing cancer, exercise helps lift depression; it also lowers the risk of heart disease in women, diabetes, high blood pressure and osteoporosis. Even if you do not have time for a formal workout everyday, try to include exercise in your daily routine by:
Obesity in women is linked to breast cancer (particularly in postmenopause women), colon cancer, endometrium cancer, esophagus and kidney cancer. It also raises the risk of other cancers including: cervix, ovary, thyroid, gallbladder, Hodgkin lymphoma and multiple myeloma. It is thought that extra body fat increases the amount of estrogen and insulin produced by the body which in turn promotes the growth of cancer cells (see effects of estrogen). A healthy weight is determined by a person's height and is expressed in terms of a body mass index (BMI). Maintaining a healthy BMI long-term is one of the best things you can do for your overall health. See also breast cancer prevention.
Both over-nutrition and under-nutrition has been linked to cancer. For example low-fiber diets have been blamed for some cancers. It is thought that fiber helps move food along the colon quicker so that there is less chance of toxins being absorbed by the body during the digestive process. High fat diets are also linked to cancer. As fats are digested it is thought they may produce a toxic chemical which is carcinogenic (cancer causing). It is estimated that nearly one third of all cancers in the US are related to bad diet. In 2001 the American Cancer Society updated it's guidelines to place more emphasis on physical activity and diet in the prevention of cancer. It recommends:
Fruit & Vegetables: Considered cancer diet foods, eat at least 5 servings of both fruit and vegetables a day. Try to pick colorful fruit as this is a sign of high nutrient content. Both food types are high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which all help to lower the risk of most cancers.
Whole Grains: Eat 3 servings a day. For example, porridge for breakfast, whole-wheat bread sandwich for lunch and brown rice instead of white with dinner.
Red Meat & Processed Meat: Cut back on red meats like beef, pork and lamb, as well as bacon, hot dogs, deli meat and bologna.
Alcohol: Limit consumption to no more than 1 drink a day for women and 2 drinks a day for men.
Smoking tobacco causes at least 85 percent of cases of lung cancer and nearly 30 percent of all cancers. Even chewing tobacco is related to cancer of the mouth. Cigar smokers should also be aware of the risks. They are 34 percent more likely to die from cancer than non-smokers. About 80,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with lung cancer every year, and about 65,000 of those die from the disease. If smoking causes 85 percent of lung cancers, not smoking could save 55,000 women's lives a year. Studies suggest that women in fact may be more susceptible to carcinogens in tobacco than men, which means smoking is an even riskier business. The good news is smokers who quit before they are 50 halve their risk of dying in the next 15 years than if they had continued smoking.
Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer, in fact it accounts for nearly 50 percent of all cancers in the United States. Most skin cancers are classified as non-melanomas, which fortunately mean they are often very curable. However there are still about 68,000 cases of melanoma a year, the most serious form of skin cancer. The most common risk factors of developing skin cancer are:
• Excessive and/or unprotected exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays.
To minimize your risk of skin cancer:
• Avoid the sun and seek the shade between 10am and 4pm.
Scientists have been studying possible links between cancer and electromagnetic fields (EMF) for the past 20 years. To date there is no firm evidence to suggest a link. Studies have investigated EMF exposure from electric blankets, hair dryers, electric razors, heated water beds and electric massagers. In fact studies seem to contradict each other in their results.
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