You’ve likely heard about certain habits and lifestyle choices that may increase your risk of developing cancer. Smoking’s association with lung cancer, obesity’s link to colon cancer, and sun exposure leading to skin cancer are just a few.
You might be surprised to learn that according to the American Cancer Society, around 42 percent of cancers may be linked to modifiable behaviors. That is, things we have the power to change with the guidance of your trusted primary care provider.
But with lifestyle changes, can we actually prevent cancer? Not so fast, says Dr. Mark A. Socinski, Executive Medical Director of the AdventHealth Cancer Institute.
Reducing Cancer Risk
Depending on what your habits and behaviors are, you can either limit the risk of exposure or increase the risk of exposure.
Many other factors influence our cancer risk some we can control, some we cant. “Cancer is a disease of your DNA, and we know that many cancers are related to the DNA you inherit,” Dr. Socinski says.
In addition to the genetic blueprint you’re born with, lifestyle behaviors and age (your DNA gets damaged over time, increasing your cancer risk as you get older) form the complex combination of factors that predict your likelihood of developing cancer.
So while Dr. Socinski may stop just short of calling cancer preventable, he says embracing a healthier lifestyle can absolutely reduce your risk of cancer and a battery of other diseases.
“We need to be responsible for our personal health and practice good health habits in general,” says Dr. Socinski.
It's true that a number of poor habits can increase your risk of cancer, while healthier behaviors may reduce or delay your risk of developing cancer.
Tips for Reducing Your Cancer Risk
According to Dr. Socinski, leading a healthier lifestyle can lower your risk of cancer and other diseases. Here are a few things you can discuss with your primary care provider to promote your whole health.
1. Stop Smoking...Or Don't Start
The new American Cancer Society findings confirm that smoking cigarettes remains the top cause of cancer. In general, fewer people are taking up smoking, but we still have a long way to go. “We’ve made some progress as a nation, but about 20 percent of the population still smokes, and that’s a problem,” says Dr. Socinski.
If you’re currently a smoker who is interested in quitting, you can join AdventHealth’s Break the Chain Stop Smoking Program, an individualized course of treatment to help you kick the habit once and for all. For information call Call407-303-4450 x5550.
2. Exercise Regularly
Inactivity and obesity are linked to a variety of diseases, including colon cancer and cardiovascular diseases. By incorporating regular exercise, be it biking, walking, running, yoga or strength training we can set ourselves up for better health overall. Your primary care doctor can write a “prescription” customized for your health status, age and other important factors so that your exercise routine is safe and effective for your personal needs.
3. Eat More Fruits, Vegetables and Lean Meats
A diet heavy in red meat and processed meat can put you at a higher risk of developing colon cancer. Diversify your diet with plant-based options that provide abundant vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber found in many fruits and vegetables to reduce your cancer risk. Your primary care doctor can work with you and recommend additional services such as a dietician to meet your individual nutritional requirements for optimal health.
4. Limit Exposure to Ultraviolet Radiation
This one is especially important for Floridians. Nearly all skin cancers are caused by too much exposure to UV radiation either from the sun or other sources, like tanning beds.
With around four million cases diagnosed each year, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S., but there’s a lot you can do to limit your risk. Stay in the shade whenever possible, protect skin with hats and long sleeves or pants, and wear broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day, even when it’s cloudy.
Talk to your primary care doctor about your skin cancer risk, skin changes and whether you should see a specialist such as a dermatologist on a regular basis.
Your Primary Care Provider is Your Whole-Health Guide
All of these tips can be discussed with your trusted primary care provider, who can develop a personalized cancer risk reduction plan for you. Find your primary care expert and partner in whole-health today.