February is National Cancer Prevention Month. Cancer, one of the most deadly diseases in the world today, takes millions of lives every year. Because of the high amount of new cancer cases diagnosed year over year, reducing your risk of developing them is highly important.
There are many types of cancer, with some more common than others. According to the National Cancer Institute, the most common types of cancer are breast cancer, lung cancer, and prostate cancer, with 100-200,000 estimated new cases in the U.S. for 2017.
There are many risk factors that may increase someone’s ability to develop one of these, or other, types of cancers. There is no special formula that causes someone to develop cancer, and in some cases it can be a variety of factors.
According to the National Cancer Institute, factors such as family history, age, and genetic mutations can cause the development of cancer. Though these factors cannot be avoided, there are many that can. Elements such as alcohol, exposure to chemical substances, diet, activity level, tobacco, sunlight, and exposure to radiation can weaken the body to be more susceptible to cancer.
According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, it is estimated that “approximately one-third of cases of the most common cancers in the U.S. could be prevented by eating healthy, being active, and staying lean. That’s an estimated 374,000 cases of cancer in the United States that would never happen.” Cancer is never 100% preventable, but there are many ways that you can live your life to help reduce your risk.
Filling your body with healthy foods can help boost your immune system and aid in healthy organs. Make sure you are incorporating lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into your diet and watching your processed-food intake. The American Cancer Society recommends:
- “Eating at least 2½ cups of vegetables and fruits each day”
- “Eating less red meat (beef, pork, and lamb) and less processed meat (bacon, sausage, luncheon meats, and hot dogs)”
- “Choosing breads, pastas, and cereals made from whole grains instead of refined grains, and brown rice instead of white”
- “Eating fewer sweets”
Strengthening your body is just as important as eating healthy. According to Mayo Clinic, it is recommended to do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week, along with strength training at least twice a week. This can be accomplished by going to the gym, going for a walk, doing house-hold chores or yard work. Whatever you can accomplish to get your cardio and strength training in throughout the week is good for your health.
According to the National Cancer Institute, “Some patients whose cancers are detected and treated early may have better long-term survival than patients whose cancers are not found until symptoms appear.” It is incredible important to prioritize regular cancer screenings in your lifetime. By detecting cancer early, you can treat it sooner, which may ultimately save your life.
In an article from WebMD, “Smoking has also been linked to more than a dozen other cancers and accounts for 30% of all cancer deaths overall.” It is extremely important to be smoke and tobacco-free. We understand that it’s hard to get there, so the YMCA participates in free tobacco cessation courses to help adults quit for good. For more information on these programs, visit our website HERE.
Excess alcohol isn’t good for your liver, but studies also show that it can increase your risk for certain cancers. According to the American Cancer Society, it is recommended that:
- Men should have no more than 2 drinks a day and women no more than 1.
- One drink is equal to about 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.
Though there is no way to completely prevent cancer, incorporating these five items into your lifestyle can keep your body healthy and reduce your risk. No matter what your age, making these lifestyle choices now is the best decision you can make for your health.
If you know someone who has battled cancer or have battled it yourself, the YMCA also provides a free cancer survivor program called LIVESTRONG at the YMCA that helps adult cancer survivors reclaim their health and well-being following a cancer diagnosis. Participating YMCAs create a welcoming community in which survivors can improve their strength and physical fitness, diminish the severity of therapy side effects, develop supportive relationships, and improve their quality of life.
The next session for LIVESTRONG at the YMCA begins in March at our YMCA branches and is still accepting participants. To sign up or to learn more, please contact Susan Jacobs at 717-232-3751.
-Emily Sanville, Digitial Communications Coordinator