Because there’s no cure for cancer yet, there’s also no surefire way to see it coming or blame the development of cancer on any specific lifestyle or diet choices. There are, however, studies that show how certain foods, habits and genetics can increase your chances of getting cancer. Read on for 101 easy ways to cut your cancer risk, just in case there is something you can do about it.
Habits to Break
Ditch these habits if you want to lengthen your life, improve your overall quality of life and reduce your cancer risk.
- Smoking: Smoking is one of the most dangerous habits to continue if you are serious about your cancer risk. It can lead to lung cancer, throat cancer and more.
- Drinking alcohol: Alcohol can increase your chances of developing ER+/PR+ breast cancer significantly. If you drink one to two drinks a day, your risk increases by 32%; three or more drinks a day increases your risk to up to 51%.
- Sunbathing: While a few minutes of sunlight a day is actually good for you, regular sunbathing that leads to burns can lead to skin cancer.
- Standing in front of the microwave: Doing it every once in a while probably isn’t too dangerous, but if you’re addicted to your microwave, take a few steps back and to the side to avoid DNA damage and cancer risk.
- Laziness: Cancer.org maintains that "being overweight works in a variety of ways to increase cancer risk," and increasing your level of physical activity, even if you don’t lose a significant amount of weight, can reduce your chances of breast cancer and colon cancer.
- Ignoring your age: While it’s important to remain active and avoid getting depressed about your age, you should also recognize that age is also a factor in increasing your risk of some cancers. Go for checkups more often and pay more attention to your body’s changes as you age.
- Practice safe sex: Women can develop cervical cancer from the STD human papillomavirus, or HPV.
Your diet carries a lot of weight when it comes to reducing cancer risk. Remember that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, especially, is most important.
- Fortified milk and OJ: Drinking milk and orange juice that has been fortified with vitamin D may reduce your chances of dying from colorectal or breast cancer.
- Blueberries: Blueberries are powerful antioxidants and have even helped shrink tumors in babies.
- Eat less red meat: Eat less red meat and less processed meat like sausage to reduce your cancer risk.
- Broccoli: Broccoli and cauliflower contain sulforaphane, which is said to be as effective as anticancer drugs like taxol in stopping cancer cell division.
- Flaxseed: Flaxseed and flaxseed oil is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids which can cut colon cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer risk.
- Avoid high doses of beta-carotene: Beta-carotene found in fruits and vegetables can be good for you, but consuming it in high doses can be harmful for those already at risk for lung cancer.
- Whole grains: Whole grains are a good source of fiber, which may lower cholesterol and reduce cancer risk.
- Mackerel: Mackerel is another good source of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Grain products with folate: Getting enough folate can reduce your risk of developing colon, rectum and breast cancer.
- Tomatoes: Tomatoes are rich in carotenoids, which can help minority women, especially Native American women, reduce their chances of getting cervical cancer.
- Lower salt intake: Very high levels of salt in your diet may increase cancer risk.
- Raw cabbage: Three servings of raw cabbage a month can reduce your chances of bladder cancer by 40% because of its source of isothiocyanates.
- Tuna: Make yourself a tuna sandwich (on whole grain bread) to get omega-3 fatty acids and cut cancer risk.
- Kale: Kale is a cruciferous vegetable that contains phytochemicals and can reduce cancer risk.
- Strawberries: Strawberries are rich in the most effective kinds of flavonoids, which can help even smokers reduce their risk of lung cancer.
- Citrus fruits: Citrus fruits contain biflavonoids, a phytochemical that helps cut cancer risk.
- Anthocyanins: Anthocyanins are found in red and blue fruits and vegetables and help fight tumors.
- Green and black tea: Green and black teas also have effective flavonoids that reduce cancer risk.
Tests and Check-ups
Find out what tests and check ups you need to catch cancer and risk factors early.
- Pap test: Women at least 18 and up should get an annual pap test to check for cervical cancer.
- Mole checks: Ask your doctor to check any new or changing moles. You can also give yourself a check for melanoma by reading this guide.
- Self breast exams: Women should give themselves a breast exam between annual doctor’s visits.
- HPV vaccine: Consider getting or encouraging your daughter to get the HPV vaccine, which can prevent HPV, one of the main causes of genital warts and cervical cancer.
- BRCA-1 and BRCA-2: You may want to get tested to see if you have ovarian cancer genes if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer.
- Prostate self-exam: Give yourself a routine prostate exam if you are under the age of 50 and don’t wait to get it done at the doctor every year.
- Visit the doctor regularly: Visit the doctor at least once a year for a breast exam, pap test, prostate exam and other tests.
- Prostate screening: Men, especially over the age of 50, should receive a professional prostate screening or exam at the doctor’s office.
- Polyp tests: Polyp tests find colon and rectal cancer and are important for men and women over the age of 50 with an average cancer risk.
- Risk Assessment: Use this guide from the National Cancer Institute to evaluate your cancer risk.
- Endometrial/uterine cancer: Starting at the age of 35, women should get an annual screening if they are at high risk for non-polyposis colon cancer.
Cutting out Chemicals and Radiation
Chemicals and radiation can increase your chances of getting cancer, especially if you work in a harmful environment.
- Cleaning supplies: Some cleaning supplies and air fresheners contain terpenes, which can react with ozone to produce harmful chemicals like formaldehyde.
- Formaldehyde: Reduce your contact with formaldehyde, which has been acknowledged as a cancer-causing substance by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
- Processed food: Diets high in processed meats and cheeses and bakery products can "speed growth of lung cancer tumors," reports ScienceDaily.com.
- Try to cut back on CT scans and X-rays: If you’re constantly getting X-rays, talk to your doctor about how it affects your cancer risk, and find out if another procedure, like an ultrasound, can be conducted instead.
- Ionizing radiation: Ionizing radiation is one cause of breast cancer and has been proven to increase risk in women who received radiation therapy to treat Hodgkin’s disease and teenagers who received large numbers of diagnostic x-ray exams to treat scoliosis and tuberculosis.
- Diesel: Those who regularly breathe in diesel fumes may increase their chances of bladder cancer and lung cancer.
Physical activity and a healthy physique are important to reducing cancer risk. Learn about smart fitness choices here.
- Make a point to stay in shape: Keeping your weight down and preventing obesity can reduce your chance of developing esophageal cancer especially.
- Keep track of calories: Find out how many calories you burn during a workout to make it easier to slim down and stay healthy.
- Know how much you need to exercise: Here, the American Cancer Society reveals guidelines for how long adults and children need to exercise per day.
- Get your kids involved: Help your kids prevent cancer early on by encouraging them to share in your active lifestyle.
- Exercise after treatment: If you have already been treated for cancer and want to prevent it from returning, exercise and continue to eat right to reduce your chances of a relapse.
- Yoga: If you’re not able to run or make it to a gym, try yoga for a good workout that doesn’t put too much strain on your body.
- Take the stairs: Taking the stairs instead of the elevator is often recommended as an easy way to fit physical activity into your busy schedule.
- Work out with friends: Socialize and stay motivated while you work out when you organize a group of friends to go on walks, take a dance class or play baseball.
Sometimes cutting your cancer risk means knowing how at-risk you are, due to your family history and symptoms. Check out these sites to learn more about cancer.
- Know your family history: Use a tool like this one to organize your family medical history.
- Know how to give yourself a breast exam: Make sure you’re giving yourself a proper breast exam and not taking any shortcuts.
- American Cancer Society: Learn about the different types of cancer, treatments, symptoms and more on this site.
- National Cancer Institute: Cancer.gov has a cancer drug dictionary, information about clinical trials, statistics, risk information, screening and testing information, and a lot more.
- Cancer Health Center: WebMD’s Cancer Health Center is a great guide for learning about your risks, available options and treatments, and ability to prevent or reduce your chances of cancer.
- New York Times Cancer: Stay on top of all the research studies and news related to cancer, cancer patients, the culture of cancer and more.
- Medline Plus Cancer: This government site provides information on diagnosis, symptoms, treatment and more.
- Susan G. Komen for the Cure: Visit this site to learn about breast cancer risk.
Environmental Factors and Tests
Find out if your environment–manmade or natural–is heightening your risk for cancer.
- Radon: Radon-22 is a radioactive gas that is found indoors and outdoors but has a natural source. It can cause lung cancer but can be detected with home radon kits.
- Asbestos: Breathing in asbestos can cause lung cancer, and your chances of getting cancer from asbestos increase if you smoke.
- Arsenic: Arsenic, which is found in wood preservatives, animal hides, glass manufacturing, cigarettes and other products, can cause cancer if you are exposed to it in high doses.
- Lead: It is still unknown whether or not lead causes cancer directly, but it has been linked to stomach and lung cancer. Metal workers, lead burners, pipe cutters, plumbers, battery makers and other workers who are exposed to lead products are at the greatest risk.
- Tetrachlorethylene: Those who work in dry cleaners are exposed to this substance, also called perc, which can cause cancer.
- Benzene: Benzene inhalation can result in a cancer risk and is especially dangerous for women firefighters.
- PBDEs: PBDEs, or polybrominated diphenyl ethers, are used as flame retardents and "have been identified as endocrine disruptors," according to Cornell and may act as estrogen disruptors, causing increased risk for breast cancer.
You don’t have to totally go organic to reduce your cancer risk, but growing your own vegetables and opting for cleaner materials and products in general is still a good way to avoid chemicals that could prove to be harmful in the future. Learn about going organic with these tips.
- Grow your own organic vegetables: Learn how to plant organic seeds and grow your own safe vegetables with this guide.
- Organic apples: The New York Times reports that "apples are…one of the most pesticide-contaminated fruits and vegetables," so buy these organic.
- Organic skin care: Use organic body lotions, make up and sun screen to avoid putting chemicals directly onto your skin.
- Organic Consumers Association: On this website, you’ll learn about all kinds of organic lifestyle issues and tips, including vitamins, clothes, raw food lifestyle and more.
- Drink organic milk: By drinking organic milk, you’ll reduce your chances of consuming pesticides and antibiotics.
- Organic cotton: Organic cotton is grown without pesticides or herbicides and is used for clothing, linens and more.
- 10 Good Reasons to Go Organic: Learn about the other benefits of going organic, besides helping your health.
- Organic baby items: Protect your babies and children from unnecessary chemicals by buying organic products for them.
- Eat organic meat: Eating organic meat reduces your contact with pesticides, and supporting organic farmers reduces their exposure, too.
From thoroughly washing your food to avoiding secondhand smoke, these daily habits can reduce cancer risk.
- Wash food: Wash fruits and vegetables to remove any pesticides or harmful chemicals.
- Exercise: Physical activity is a must when you need to lower your cancer risk, so make it a part of your daily routine.
- Sleep at least seven hours a night: Sleeping for at least seven hours a night is especially critical for women who want to cut their cancer risk.
- Breast-feed: Breast-feeding your children for six months can reduce your chances of developing low grade, slow-growing breast cancer by 20%.
- Avoid secondhand smoke: Ask friends and relatives to refrain from smoking in your home or car, and try to sit in a non-smoking section of a restaurant if you possibly can.
- Avoid talcum powder: Some studies indicate that there may be a link between talcum powder and ovarian cancer.
- Monitor your environment: Be aware of second-hand smoke, sources of radiation and chemicals to decrease your daily risk.
- Watch the news: Watch the news to learn about the newest cancer studies and treatments.
- Limit alcohol intake: Limit your alcohol intake to just one drink per day to lower your cancer risk.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables: A diet rich in fruits and vegetables keeps your weight down and feeds your body the antioxidants, carotenoids and other nutrients it needs.
- Tune in to your body: The more tuned in you are to your body, the faster you’ll notice irregular symptoms and signs like changing moles or lumps.
Consider the benefits and risks of hormone therapy here.
- Tamoxifen: Tamoxifen can be used to reduce the return of cancer for women whose tumors test positive for estrogen.
- Raloxifene: Raloxifene is another treatment that helps reduce breast cancer in high-risk women.
- Hormone therapy for prostate cancer: Hormone therapy for prostate cancer can be used to stop the production of testosterone and androgens, reducing cancer risk.
- Don’t use PHT: Hormone replacement therapy, or PHT, "definitely increases" your risk for developing breast cancer, according to Health.com. Use it only sparingly, if you must.
- Anabolic steroids: Merck reports that long term use of anabolic steroids, which are used to increase physical performance, "may slightly increase the risk of liver and prostate cancer."
Miscellaneous Guides and Advice
Read these guides for even more easy ways to cut your cancer risk.
- What to eat to lower cancer risk: MSNBC’s report stresses the importance of "veggies, fiber, vitamin D and calcium to prevent disease."
- Exercise plus sleep may lower cancer risk in women: Read CNN’s guide to learn about a study that claims sleep and exercise can reduce cancer risk.
- Limit alcohol to lower cancer risk: This guide encourages you to exercise, stop smoking, eat more fruits and vegetables, and reduce alcohol consumption to lower cancer risk.
- How to Lower Your Cancer Risk: These tips include "see your doctor," "be physically active," and understand that "33 percent of all cancers are related to diet and physical activity issues," as reported by The American Cancer Society.
- Coffee could lower cancer risk: This Japanese study found that drinking coffee may lower the risk of developing oral cancer.
- Antioxidants don’t cut cancer risk, study finds: Read this report to find out that antioxidant supplements may not make a difference in preventing cancer.
- What are the risk factors for breast cancer: Better understand your risk of developing breast cancer when you read this guide.
- Vitamin D can lower cancer risk: This study recently came out and claims that a healthy does of Vitamin D, even from the sunlight, is beneficial.
- Lowering risk for people with a personal history: BreastCancer.org gives hope to those with a family history of breast cancer.
- Common Questions About Diet and Cancer: Cancer.gov’s info page answers your questions about how certain foods help prevent cancer.
- Migraines lower cancer risk: This surprising study may be the silver lining for regular migraine sufferers.