Lifestyle Choices That May Lower Your Risk for Cancer

December 9, 2019

Lifestyle choices can lower—or raise—your risk of developing cancer. Here’s what adults of all ages should know.

A cancer diagnosis can be life-changing, whether it is for yourself or someone close to you. When you see the statistics, it’s easy to understand why cancer is such a frightening word to hear from a doctor. In 2018, it’s estimated that 1,735,350 people were diagnosed with cancer in this country, and 609,640 died from some form of the disease.

While some types of cancer are linked to genetics, others can be influenced by lifestyle choices. The latter include lung, liver, and skin cancers. By making smart lifestyle choices, you may be able to lower your risk for some types of cancer.

Cancer Prevention: Lifestyle Choices That May Impact Your Risk


  • Stay active

When it comes to staying active, exercising and avoiding sitting for long periods of time are two separate but equally important factors. Here’s what you should know about each.

A sedentary lifestyle is dangerous. So much so that researchers are now saying it may be as bad for your health as smoking! It is linked to higher risk for several types of cancer, including prostate and pancreatic cancer. Researchers believe this is due to the weight gain and obesity common among people who are sedentary.

You may also be able to lower your risk of cancer by exercising at least 30 minutes, five times a week. Breaking up the exercise into two daily sessions might be easier on a busy schedule, or for an older adult who is just getting back into exercising. For example, a brisk 15-minute walk in the morning combined with a 15-minute yoga session in the evening can help you stay fit.

  • Avoid exposure to tobacco

The connection between smoking and lung cancer is indisputable. Smoking is linked to between 80 and 90 percent of all lung cancer diagnoses. But tobacco also contributes to other forms of cancer, such as throat, kidney, stomach, liver, and mouth cancer. If you use tobacco of any kind, whether it is smokeless tobacco or cigarettes, the best thing you can do to lower your cancer risk is to stop.

Secondhand smoke is deadly too. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 41,000 deaths a year are linked to secondhand smoke. Those who live with smokers should require them to smoke outdoors.

  • Follow a healthy diet

Your diet can also impact your odds of developing cancer. Some research shows that consuming processed foods and red meat may put you at higher risk. Avoid ready-to-eat and frozen foods such as lunch meat and processed meats, canned soups, frozen dinners, and other foods that contain a high concentration of preservatives and additives.

Instead, opt for a diet that is primarily plant-based. Green vegetables, colorful fruits, whole grains, legumes, and walnuts are believed to help ward off cancer. One example of a diet that emphasizes plants and other whole foods is the Mediterranean Diet, which is linked to lower incidences of many diseases, including cancer.

  • Protect yourself from the sun

Skin cancer is one of the fastest-growing forms of cancer. You can help prevent it by taking steps to protect your skin. Apply and reapply sunscreen when you will be outside or riding in a car. Avoid being outdoors during the hottest hours of the day. Wear long sleeves and a hat that shields your face.

  • Drink alcohol in moderation

People who consume more alcohol experience higher rates of cancer. Researchers believe it isn’t only the alcohol that is the problem. Risky behaviors commonly associated with overindulging in alcohol may also contribute. For example, heavy drinkers are more likely to eat unhealthy foods and forgo exercise.

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