Currently, in the US, a cancer diagnosis is made every 23 seconds. February is National Cancer Prevention Month, and we talked to Robert Balbis, DO about preventable cancers and what lifestyle changes people can make to reduce their risk.
What cancers are considered to be the most preventable?
Breast, colon, endometrium (uterus), gastric, skin, and kidney cancers are all considered to be the most preventable. There is level one evidence that shows that if people keep a healthy lifestyle, they have a much lower risk of getting these cancers.
Dr. Balbis emphasizes that there is no 100% preventable cancer. Still, if you do get diagnosed, having a healthy lifestyle will prepare you to take on the treatment and give you the best chance possible for recovery.
What are some things people can do to prevent cancer?
1. Avoid Obesity
Balancing caloric intake with exercise and avoiding excessive weight gain is one of the best things people can do to lower their risk. There is evidence that obesity is a risk factor for breast, colon, endometrium, gastric, cardia, and kidney cancers. Plus, if someone is overweight going into cancer treatment, there is a poorer chance of full recovery. Dr. Balbis suggests maintaining a healthy body mass index throughout life through a proper diet and exercise.
2. Be Active
According to many studies, having a consistently active lifestyle helps reduce the risk of breast and colorectal cancer. Dr. Balbis recommends, “at least 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity per day at least five days a week." Some activity examples are briskly walking, yoga, biking, dancing, and swimming.
3. Eat a Healthy Diet and Avoid Alcohol
There are two key factors in maintaining a healthy diet, portion control, and plant sources. There is a strong connection between colorectal cancer and red meat, so it is a good idea to limit beef, pork, and lamb. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains have essential vitamins and nutrients that will keep your body healthy.
4. Do your preventative screenings
Preventative screening tests done at the recommended intervals can detect "pre-cancerous" lesions or find newly formed cancers in their earlier stages. Thereby increasing the chances of effective treatments and cures. The American Cancer Society now recommends everyone start screening for colorectal cancer at age 45. Regular PAP smears and HPV immunizations should eliminate cervical cancer. Using SPF 15 or higher at all times when outdoors and getting regular skin exams can significantly reduce the risk of developing skin cancer or identify them early.
If you would like to talk about your risk, how to reduce the risk, and hopefully prevent cancers, click here to schedule an appointment with Dr. Balbis or one of our other SIMEDHealth primary care providers.