Some of the most common cancers, such as breast, lung, prostate, colon, rectum, and cervical cancer can be prevented through lifestyle changes or by early detection through cancer screenings. Experts from MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper offer six steps to reduce your risk.
1. Eat a healthy diet. To reduce your risk of cancer, look no further than your pantry and refrigerator.
“A healthy diet can help reduce a person’s cancer risk,” says Kristin L. Brill, MD, Breast Surgeon and Director of The Janet Knowles Breast Cancer Center. “A diet rich in plant-based foods, whole grains, and legumes like beans or lentils can give your body the range of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants it needs to stay healthy. A healthy diet also means limiting your intake of red meat, salt, and alcohol, and avoiding processed meat and sugary beverages.”
2. Exercise. Just 20 minutes a day could mean a reduction in your risk of cancer.
“We’re recognizing more and more that obesity can increase a person’s risk for several types of cancer, including breast and colorectal cancers,” says Brill.
Excess weight causes the body to produce more estrogen and insulin, which are hormones that can stimulate cancer growth, Brill explains. Any type of regular exercise can make a big impact.
“Walking, group aerobic classes, even chair yoga – there’s an exercise out there for everyone,” says Brill.
3. Get your cancer screenings. Routine screenings are one of the most powerful tools in fighting cancer.
“Advances in cancer screenings now make it possible to find many tumors in their earliest, most treatable stages,” says Generosa Grana, MD, Director of MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper. “Mammograms and Pap smears are important for women, and everyone over age 50 should undergo colorectal screenings.
“MD Anderson Cooper is one of thousands of organizations nationwide that pledged its commitment to the 80 percent by 2018 initiative,” says Grana.
The 80 percent by 2018 project is designed to substantially reduce colorectal cancer through colorectal cancer screening.
“Our goal is to have 80 percent of all men and women age 50 and older get their regular screenings for colon cancer by 2018,” says Grana. “If we achieve this goal, we will be able to prevent 203,000 colorectal cancer deaths across the U.S. by 2030, with 6,000 deaths prevented in New Jersey alone.”
Doctors may recommend additional screenings based on each patient’s medical history and risk factors, such as lung cancer screenings for those with a history of smoking.
4. Get the HPV vaccine and know your HPV status. Although the human papillomavirus (HPV) is extremely common – those three letters have a huge impact on your cancer risk.
“Most people with HPV don’t know they’re infected and never develop symptoms or health problems from it,” says David P. Warshal, MD, Director of the Gynecologic Cancer Center. “But it can lead to several types of cancer, including cervical, vulvar, vaginal, anal, penile, and throat cancers.”
These cancers are almost exclusively caused by HPV, and the key to preventing them, says Warshal, lies with a vaccine.
“The latest vaccine, Gardasil 9, protects against nine types of HPV, seven of which are associated with 90 percent of cervical cancers. We recommend that boys and girls receive the HPV vaccine between 11 and 13 years old,” Warshal says. “Preventing these HPV infections would mean preventing tens of thousands of cancers annually in the United States – it’s a no-brainer.”
5. Know your family history and risk factors. When it comes to preventing cancer, knowledge can be power.
“Knowing your family history and cancer risk factors can help you and your doctor better manage your health, but it’s only one piece of it,” says Grana. “Genetic testing can be a tool for preventative action and help you make decisions on things like additional cancer screenings, preventative drugs, and even surgeries.
“But there are medical and psychological implications to genetic testing,” says Grana. “Cooper has an excellent genetic testing program, and we’re here to ensure people understand and are prepared to deal with their results.”
6. Don’t smoke. And if you do, stop. Smoking can harm nearly every organ of the body and causes nearly one of every five deaths in the U.S. each year. Smoking is a leading cause of cancer and death from cancer. It also causes other health concerns such as cardiac disease, respiratory problems, vascular disease, and many others.
Call us to schedule your next cancer screening appointment:
- Mammogram: 1.888.499.8779
- Colonoscopy: 856.642.2133
- Lung Cancer: 856.735.6235
For Cancer Genetic Counseling and Testing appointments, call the William G. Rohrer Cancer Genetics Program at 1.855.632.2667.