It’s a somewhat unnerving statistic to be sure, but about one of every three Americans will develop some form of cancer during his or her lifetime. Cancer also happens to be the second leading cause of death in America, kept from the top spot only by heart disease.
Regardless of these grim facts, doctors today have made great progress in the treatment and in some cases, elimination of these terrible diseases. In many cases, the best way to treat cancer is to diagnose and prevent it from the onset, and we’re here to show you how to do just that.
Be prepared for a worrying statistic. This year alone, around 1.4 million new cases of cancer will be diagnosed. Even more troubling is the fact that more than 565,000 people will die of the diseases in the same year. Here’s one good statistic though: experts believe that 60 percent of America’s cancer deaths can be avoided.
We have to be realistic about all of this, of course. As of yet, there is no catch-all cancer cure, no miracle drug that’s going to eradicate the millions of permutations of the disease. Nevertheless, while we wait for science to find that solution, we can still do a lot to protect ourselves; a great deal more than you might have believed possible.
Keeping An Eye Out
Many of you know this already, but the best thing one can do to prevent cancer is to make sure that you get regular check-ups, especially if you know there is a history of cancer in your family. Many of these check-ups include regular screening tests that can detect the disease before it shows any outward symptoms.
Screenings For All
Men and women should go for regular screening tests. Women should perform their own breast exams and men should examine their own testicles. This is to ensure that there aren’t any strange lumps of any kind. Skin cancer checks should be done early and often as well. All of these checks can be summed up in one handy acronym.
The American Cancer Society has developed an acronym for cancer prevention, which they call C.A.U.T.I.O.N. It stands for: Change in bowel or bladder habits, A sore that does not heal, Unusual bleeding or discharge, Thickening or lump in the breast or elsewhere, Indigestion or difficulty in swallowing, Obvious change in a wart or mole, and finally, Nagging cough or hoarseness.
Though this is hardly a faultless guide, it does accurately match many of the symptoms that one might feel if one was perhaps suffering from some form of cancer. Many of these are symptoms known to a majority of Americans, and that might be due in part to the fact that most Americans have known a friend or family member to have suffered through some form of cancer.
As we mentioned earlier, the best way for us to reduce our risk of cancer is to get diagnosed early. The earlier a doctor knows what’s wrong, the earlier they can begin treatment to head cancer off right from the start. The question you might be asking yourself now is, can you reduce the risk of cancer before any symptoms emerge? The answer is yes.
In 2005, a list of cancer risk factors was put together that identified the potential environmental causes of the diseases and what we could do to lower our risk. They are as follows: smoking and other tobacco use, alcohol consumption, obesity and diet, lack of exercise, carcinogens in the workplace, viruses, body size, women’s reproductive factors, pollution, poverty, excessive sun exposure, medical procedures, drugs, salt, food additives, contaminants, and family history.
What does this all mean for you when it comes to cancer prevention, especially when it comes to family history or a genetic predisposition to the disease? Evidence shows that only a small portion of cancers are inherited, the rest of these are things that you yourself can watch out for simply by being more mindful of your choices and environment.
Break Bad Habits
Smoking is bad for you, we all know this. Avoiding cancer starts with avoiding all forms of tobacco entirely, including exposure to secondhand smoke. Smoking has been linked to lung cancer and other respiratory cancers as well. As for other vices like drinking, limit yourself to no more than two drinks a day. Studies show excess alcohol can increase the risk of mouth, larynx, esophagus, liver, and colon cancer.
Keep Off The Weight
The next thing you can do to stave off cancer is to stay lean. Obesity isn’t just a main cause of heart disease, it also increases the risks of many forms of cancer. Burning calories with exercise not only helps keep the weight off, it actually helps everything else too. Weight isn’t the only factor though. What we eat has a marked effect on cancer development as well.
Though the tests are inconclusive, there are links between the excessive consumption of saturated fat and red meat, and the increased risk of both colon and prostate cancers. Deep fried and charbroiled foods should also be limited because carcinogens can attach themselves to them.
Only The Good Stuff
Not only does good fiber aid digestion, two 2003 studies found that high-fiber diets might actually help reduce the risk of colon cancer. Increasing the consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and good fats will also help to keep you healthy, fit, and full of the nutrients we need to stave off cancer.
This may seem like a no brainer, but one of the best ways to prevent cancer is to avoid unnecessary exposure to radiation. You can do this by checking your home for radon, which can cause lung cancer. Ultraviolet radiation, found in sunlight, has been linked to skin cancer for years. Protect yourself by not staying in the sun for too long and wearing sunscreen.
There are a few radiations we don’t have to worry so much about. These are electromagnetic radiation from high-voltage power lines and radio-frequency radiation from microwaves and cell phones. Despite what many people think, neither of these has been linked to causing cancer by the American Cancer Society.
While too much ultraviolet radiation is bad, getting extra amounts of Vitamin D is actually quite good for preventing cancer. Experts today recommend 800 to 1,000 IU a day, which can usually be attained by taking a Vitamin D supplement. Careful studies in recent years have shown that other vitamins, however, like vitamins C and E, folic acid, and multivitamins are not protective; some of them may even do more harm than good.
As much as we can, we should avoid exposure to any industrial toxins like asbestos, fibers, benzene, aromatic amines, lead, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and other such chemical compounds. It goes without saying that many of these compounds are not good for our bodies and may help form cancer cells.
A number of sexually transmitted diseases can also contribute to cancer. These are bad enough on their own and can come from sharing contaminated needles or exchanging fluids with the affected. It’s elementary of course, as nobody seeks out things like hepatitis viruses, HIV, and the human papillomavirus, but it’s still wise to remind everyone to be cautious.
There are actually a few tips that the American Cancer Society have thrown out there in regards to cancer prevention as well. Statistically, it has been proven that men who take aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs appear to have a lower risk of colon cancer and in some cases, prostate cancer — when taken responsibly of course.
Ironically, cancer treatments themselves — chemotherapy, radiology, and immune suppression drugs — all have the potential side-effect of increasing the risk of additional cancers. So it’s better to keep up with the cancer prevention methods and not have to get to that point at all. Ultimately, staying healthy and avoiding things you ought to avoid anyway are some of the best ways to prevent cancer.