The choices you make about your food, physical activity and weight can reduce your risk of developing cancer. It is estimated that if Americans followed these 8 recommendations cancer rates would drop by one-third.What can you do to protect yourself?
1. Aim for a healthy weight throughout life. Parents should help their children maintain a normal weight throughout childhood and adults should avoid weight gain during adulthood. Excessive weight puts you at greater risk for cancers of the kidney, pancreas, esophagus and postmenopausal breast cancer.
2. Be active every day. Worldwide, progress has brought with it a more sedentary life style. Regular physical activity protects against colon, breast, endometrial and lung cancers. Aim to be active at least 30 minutes a day; shooting for 60 minutes as the gold standard. Don’t be discouraged if you are currently not very active, any increase in daily activity is an improvement. Keep it simple, just move.
3. Eat more fresh foods and less processed foods. Eat high calorie foods less often, avoid sugary drinks, and eat fast food sparingly. This would be a major eating shift for many Americans.
4. Eat mostly plant foods. The American Institute for Cancer Research has an education program that suggests filling your plate three-fourths full with plant foods and one-fourth with animal foods. This is a good place to start. Aim for 5 servings of fruits and nonstarchy vegetables (greens, broccoli, bok choy, eggplant) a day. Eat grains and beans daily. Limit foods made from refined grains, such as white bread, white rice and white flour. Diets most protective against cancer are plant based.
5. Limit red meat (beef, pork, goat and lamb) and avoid processed meats (ham, bacon, salami, pastrami.) This recommendation is not suggesting a diet of no meat, just keep portions small. Diets heavy in meat are associated with a higher risk for colon cancer. Keep your consumption of red meat to less than 18 ounces a week, and try replacing some of the red meat you eat with fish, poultry and nuts.
6. Limit alcohol. The recommendation to limit but not eliminate alcohol stems from a risk benefit ratio. Small amounts, no more than 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women, is protective against heart disease. But, alcohol, even small amounts, increases the risk for breast cancer. An intake of more than 2 drinks a day increases the risk for colon, liver, mouth and throat cancer.
7. Limit salt intake. Excessive salt consumption increases the risk for stomach cancer.
8. Aim to meet your nutrient needs through food. Evidence shows that high doses of nutrient supplements can both protect against and cause cancer. More studies are needed before any specific recommendations can be made.
Cancer survivors were encouraged to follow all the recommendations, as well. As treatments become more effective millions of people survive cancer. Prevention can be an important key to recurrence.