If your New Year’s resolution to get fit and healthy is already losing steam, February, which is National Cancer Prevention Month, is a great time to give yourself a second chance. Renew your efforts to make healthier choices by learning what you can do to help reduce your cancer risk.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the leading national public health institute of the United States, reports that cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, exceeded only by heart disease. Every year, cancer claims the lives of more than half a million Americans and one of every four deaths in the United States is due to cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, the nationwide health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem, to help reduce your cancer risk, you should do the following things:
- Stay away from all forms of tobacco.
- Get to and stay at a healthy weight.
- Get moving with regular physical activity.
- Eat healthy with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Limit how much alcohol you drink (if you drink at all).
- Protect your skin.
- Know yourself, your family history, and your risks.
- Get regular check-ups and cancer screening tests.
While the recommended tips above will all help you take control of your health, the American Cancer Society says much of the suffering and death from cancer could be prevented by more systematic efforts to reduce tobacco use, improve diet and physical activity, and expand the use of established screening tests. These three things have the most impact on reducing your chances of being diagnosed with cancer.
About half of all Americans who keep smoking will die because of the habit. Smoking accounts for about 30% of all cancer deaths in the United States, including about 80% of all lung cancer deaths. Currently, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women, and is one of the hardest cancers to treat. Quitting smoking before the age of 40 reduces the risk of dying from smoking-related disease by about 90%.
For most Americans who do not use tobacco, the most important cancer risk factors that can be changed are diet and physical activity. One-third of all cancer deaths in the United States each year are linked to diet and physical activity, including being overweight or obese. Eating a healthy diet and being physically active are good for you and will lower your risk of cancer.
Cancer screenings, like mammograms and colonoscopies, increase the chances of detecting certain cancers early, when they are most likely to be curable. If you have a new health insurance plan or insurance policy beginning on or after September 23, 2010, there are several preventive services that are covered without you having to pay a copayment or co-insurance or meet your deductible. Check out www.HHS.gov to see what preventive services covered under the Affordable Care Act.
By quitting or limiting your tobacco use, improving your diet and increasing physical activity, and getting your preventative screenings, you are taking an active role in living a healthier lifestyle and lowering your chances of cancer.
If you, or a loved one, has been diagnosed with cancer, or have questions about cancer treatment options available, please contact the MUSC Hollings Cancer Center today.