How to Lower Your Cancer Risk Today

How to Lower Your Cancer Risk Today

Cancer rates around the world will skyrocket 57 percent in the next 20 years, according to a sobering new report from the World Health Organization.

What you may not know, in North America—despite amazing advances in treatment -- the number of cancer cases will increase dramatically: Up 52 percent in Mexico, 55 percent in the U.S., and 66 percent in Canada! But this doesn’t have to happen.

Related: Where Are We on the War on Cancer?

One-third of common cancers can be prevented by adopting an improved nutrition and weight-loss plan, getting regular physical activity, managing stress, and avoiding tobacco—everything we outline in YOU: On a Diet. If everyone followed those recommendations it would eliminate 374,000 new cases of cancer annually, including 38 percent of breast cancers, 11 percent of prostate cancers, 50 percent of colon cancers, 36 percent of lung cancers, and 24 percent of kidney cancers.

Related: Are there ways to prevent cancer through diet?

And, according to researchers from the University of Michigan and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, each of these healthy steps can reduce your risk of dying from cancer by 10 percent; do them all and your cancer risk plummets 61 percent.

Related: How to Reduce Cancer Risks

In many corners of the world folks can’t get the screening tests for colon, prostate or breast cancer which catch precancerous growths and cancers in their earliest, most treatable stages. But here, in North America, these screens are more readily available. And you’re getting them regularly, right?

We bet you’re also smart enough to follow these powerful cancer-dodging steps:

  • Stop smoking. Tobacco is the world’s leading cause of cancer deaths. So if you’ve tried to quit before, try again. Smokers try, on average, eight to ten times before they quit smoking for good.
  • Move, move, move. Get 30 minutes of activity—minimum—daily. We suggest walking. Build up to 10 thousand steps a day and add in 30 minutes of weights two to three times a week. Then ease into cardio. You’ll reduce your cancer risk by boosting immunity and stopping your body’s overproduction of cancer-fueling compounds like insulin, prostaglandins, and some hormones.
  • Load up on produce; choose 100 percent whole grains.  Fruit, vegetables, and whole grains are loaded with fiber that boosts immunity and helps keep your gut bacteria in a cancer-fighting mood. Plus they deliver phytochemicals that cool inflammation and protect your DNA. Eat nine servings of produce and three to four of whole grains daily and you’ll get cancer-fighters like indoles from broccoli and cabbage, lutein in tomatoes (cooked tomatoes are best), anthocyanins in blueberries and raspberries, and lignans and phenolics in grains.
  • Go easy on red meat, eliminate processed meat, and moderate your alcohol consumption. A red meat-heavy diet raises colon cancer risk 28 percent and your risk for many other cancers almost as much. Processed meats may be even unhealthier. If you drink alcohol, stick with one drink or less per day for women, two or less for men; excess alcohol can raise risk for cancers of the colon, liver, breast, and mouth. 
  • Give these food felons the heave-ho. Added sugars and syrups and refined flours increase inflammation and cancer-feeding glucose levels—and they push cancer-fighters like fresh fruit, veggies and whole grains off your plate.
  • Whittle your middle. Carrying extra pounds, especially at your waist, increases odds for cancers of the breast, colon, kidneys, esophagus, pancreas, and gallbladder. Hormones released from fat cells encourage development of tumors and stimulate their growth, while body-wide inflammation fuels cancer development. The best belly-busting foods? Non-fried fish rich in omega-3 and omega-7 fatty acids, fiber-rich 100 percent whole grains and veggies, and walnuts, almonds, and avocados.
  • Ask your doc about low-dose aspirin. Meta-studies show daily low-dose aspirin cuts risk for colon, lung, pancreatic, ovarian and  eight other cancers by 20-40 percent. Aspirin also cuts the risk that a cancer will spread by 35 percent. Ask your doc if aspirin is right for you (it can be a risk for digestive bleeding). We take 80 milligrams twice a day, with a half-glass of warm water before and after to reduce negative side effects.

Related: Why and How to Quit Smoking

Medically reviewed in July 2019.

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