Reducing Your Risk

We all know there are a number of risk factors that increase our chance of getting cancer. Many risk factors are not in our control (like aging) and can feel discouraging. Even a habit like smoking, that adds to your risk, can feel like it's too late to do anything to reduce your risk. You shouldn't feel bad for anything that is within or not in your control. Always start where you are. Every body is different. Your path to prevention (or survival) is going to be different than someone else's.

The major risk factors for developing cancer include age, alcohol, cancer-causing substances, chronic inflammation, diet, hormones, immunosuppression, infectious agents, obesity, radiation, sunlight, and tobacco. In the case of breast cancer, they are looking at women who have not breast-fed their children.

While these contribute to cancer, it's possible to consider each and compensate by doing what we can to keep our immune system strong. Think of cancer as mutations of our healthy cells. Some sunlight is healthy. Too much sunlight can cause damage. Some inflammation for an acute injury is a healthy reaction. Chronic inflammation can cause many health problems.

Cancer Risk Factors

Age: According to NCI the median age of a cancer diagnosis is 66 years. While there are certainly cases of cancer at all ages, a quarter of new cancer cases are in the age range of 65 to 74. 

However, staying active, going for walks, and maintaining a healthy, balanced diet will keep your body and immune system strong.

Alcohol: Consuming alcohol can increase your risk of mouth, throat, esophagus, larynx, liver, and breast cancer.  While it is not necessary to completely eliminate alcohol (unless there is another condition that would require it), reducing your intake will reduce your risk. Doctors advise moderate alcohol consumption, which is one drink per day for women, or two drinks per day for men.

Cancer-Causing Substances: While it's easy to see the connection with smoking to cancer, there are other substances in our environment that are harder to detect and avoid. The best way to reduce your exposure is to learn about these cancer causing substances and where they may be in your environment. These include: Arsenic, Asbestos, Benzene, Formaldehyde, Radon, Soot. For a complete list, see cancer.gov.

Chronic inflammation: While inflammation is part of a healthy immune system to heal acute injury, however, over time, chronic inflammation can cause DNA damage and lead to cancer.  Chronic inflammation may be caused by prolonged infections, abnormal immune reactions to normal tissue, or other chronic health conditions. If you have prolonged inflammation, talk to your doctor about what might be triggering it and treat the source. 

Diet: There are a lot of dietary approaches to reducing your risk of cancer, and helping your recovery after Daily consumption of fried foods, processed foods, sugary foods without also eating cleansing foods with high-fiber and anti-oxidants can increase your risk of cancer. Luckily, this is one of the easiest risk factors to turn around and have it work in your favor.

Hormones: Hormone therapy (Estrogen) is often prescribed to women to help with menopausal symptoms. Depending on the hormones used, it can increase your risk of breast or endometrial cancer.

Also Diethylstilbestrol (DES) was a type of hormone therapy used between 1940 and 1971 to prevent miscarriages and other problems related to pregnancy. Women who used this therapy had an increased risk of breast cancer, and their daughters have in increased risk of vaginal or cervical cancer.

Estrogenics can even appear in the environment, in beauty products that contain parabens, or in pesticides and BPA plastic containers. If you taken hormone therapy at any time in your life, it will help if you take care to avoid any addition estrogens in your environment.

 

Do What You Can to Minimize Risk

It's important to look at the potential risk factors in our lives, do what we can to minimize them, while also giving our body a boost to fight it. If you smoke, or you live and/or work in an area with air pollution, two ways you can help protect your lungs are with regular exercise (in an air conditioned gym) and a diet rich in fruits and vegetables that are cleansing and contain antioxidants. Studies in China have also found that regularly drinking Green Tea helps prevent lung cancer.

So, with every risk factor, there are ways to improve your odds. The first step is to be aware of those risks that affect you.