6 Cancer Risk Factors You Can Control
Researchers, including those at our Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center, have made many advances in cancer treatment in recent years, but news of a cancer diagnosis is never something one wants to hear. While many cancer risk factors are beyond our control, such as age, genetic predisposition, and exposure to job site carcinogens, here are six factors you can control to decrease your risk of developing cancer.
1. Tobacco Use
Research has found every kind of tobacco use associated with an elevated risk for cancer. Scientists believe cigarette smoking is responsible for about 30 percent of all cancer deaths in the United States. Even if you’ve smoked for years, quitting drastically lowers your likelihood of getting cancer. Check out these three tips to help you quit.
2. Certain Viruses and Infections
While not always avoidable, you can take steps to avoid some cancer-causing viruses and infections. For example, human papillomavirus (HPV) causes about 90 percent of cervical cancers, and it can also be responsible for penis, vagina, anus, and oropharynx cancer. In 2006, the FDA approved a vaccine that protects against certain strains of HPV. Doctors recommend this vaccine for both boys and girls between 9 and 26 years of age. Taking this step can protect yourself or your child from developing future cancers.
3. UV Radiation
Established research has proven excess exposure to the sun causes skin damage and can lead to skin cancers. Always use sunblock when enjoying the outdoors, and do not tan outdoors or in an indoor tanning bed.
4. Healthy Diet & Weight
While there is much debate on the scientifically best diet, several studies have shown lower incidences of cancer in those with diets high in fruits and non-starchy vegetables. Additionally, obese people have a higher risk of certain cancers. Eating a diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables that helps you maintain your body’s ideal weight range is the best course of action for limiting your risk of future cancers.
5. Drinking Alcohol
Drinking alcohol has been linked to an increased risk of oral, esophageal, breast, and colorectal cancer (in men). It may also increase the risk of liver cancer and female colorectal cancer. Most physicians agree drinking moderate amounts of alcohol is acceptable, but be aware that excessive consumption increases your risk for these cancers.
6. Physical Activity
People who are physically active have a lower risk for cancer than people who live a more sedentary lifestyle. Studies find a lower incidence of colorectal cancer in those who are physically active. Some studies also show exercise has a positive effect on incidences of breast and endometrial cancer, as well.
While taking these steps does not completely eliminate your likelihood of developing cancer, it does decrease your risk. If you or someone you care about receives a cancer diagnosis, the experts the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center combine leading-edge technology with compassionate care to provide the best possible treatment for our patients. Schedule an appointment for a routine screening at ApptASAP.org, or discuss which screenings are right for you with your Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group primary care physician.