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Lifestyle changes that may reduce your risk of cancer

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Over the course of their lifetimes, Americans have a 1 in 3 chance of developing cancer, according to research reported by the American Cancer Society. However, the risk of developing each type of cancer and each person's individual risk can vary depending on lifestyle and environmental factors.

Some cancers stem from genetics, meaning you were born with a predisposition to develop them. However, studies reported by the National Institutes of Health have found that at least 75 to 80 percent of cancers in the U.S. might be prevented by lifestyle changes.

Here are some steps you can take to decrease your risk of developing cancer.

Avoid tobacco

Cigarette smoking is responsible for almost 90 percent of lung cancer deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other sources of tobacco, such as pipes, cigars and chewing tobacco, also increase a person's risk of cancer.

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Smoking also increases your chances of "mouth and throat, esophagus, stomach, colon, rectum, liver, pancreas, voicebox (larynx), trachea, bronchus, kidney and renal pelvis, urinary bladder, and cervix" cancers, according to the CDC.

Quitting any tobacco products will immediately reduce your risk of cancer.

Eat fruits and vegetables

While there is no superfood proven to defeat cancer, research shows that a diet high in fruits and vegetables may reduce your chances of developing cancer, according to American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR). Certain foods have also been found to have cancer-fighting properties.

For instance, garlic contains sulfur compounds that "may also stop cancer-causing substances from forming in your body, speed DNA repair, and kill cancer cells," AICR says. "The World Health Organization recommends that adults consume approximately one clove of garlic daily to promote good health."

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Other powerhouse foods include broccoli, tomatoes, strawberries, grapefruit, red bell peppers, carrots and spinach. These foods are high in the antioxidants and phytochemicals that can help protect your body from cancerous cells.

Practice moderation

The golden rule of nutrition is to consume certain foods in moderation, but that rule is vague. More specifically, small amounts of red meat might not be harmful, but Harvard Medical School reported that higher amounts may increase your risk of colon and prostate cancers. You should also limit or avoid charbroiled foods, deep-fried foods and high-sugar foods, which may lead to obesity.

Similarly, alcohol should be consumed in moderation. The Department of Health and Human Services' Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests having no more than one alcoholic drink per day for women or two per day for men. Moderate to heavy alcohol consumption has been associated with head and neck cancer, esophageal cancer, liver cancer, breast cancer and colorectal cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Use sun protection

Wearing long sleeves, long pants, sunglasses, and sunscreen and using shade protection is a key lifestyle habit that can help you avoid developing cancer.

"Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, affecting more than 3.5 million Americans each year," according to Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Prolonged exposure to radiation from sunlight or tanning beds raises your risk of skin cancer.

Most skin cancers are non-melanoma, which means they don't usually spread and generally need only topical treatment or minor surgery to remove them. However, 2 percent of skin cancers are melanoma, which is a form of cancer more likely to metastasize through the bloodstream to other parts of the body.

For more information on how to help prevent cancer or what to do if you know you have a high risk of developing it, visit a Cancer Treatment Centers of America location near you. 


This is the sixth article in a six-part series focusing on important topics related to cancer care. It is presented by Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Tulsa. For more information, please visit cancercenter.com/Tulsa or call (888) 605-CTCA.

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