A new report released by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) states that a large number of cancers can be prevented by making specific changes to one’s lifestyle and diet.
Many factors that increase the risk of developing cancer
are related to lifestyle; thus, adopting a healthy approach to
living, where possible, can eliminate or reduce the risk of
some cancers (see Figure 5, p. 15). Moreover, many healthy
approaches to living can also reduce cancer recurrence and
improve outcomes following a cancer diagnosis. However,
a great deal more research and many more resources are
needed to understand how best to help individuals change
Some of those changes include quitting smoking (increases risk by 33%), eating a diet consisting of less processed foods (increases risk by 5% ), maintaining a low Body Mass Index (being overweight or obese increases the risk by 20%) , maintaing a consistent exercise regimen (a sedentary lifestyle increases the risk by 5%), and limiting direct exposure to UV rays (tanning beds and sun exposure without proper protection can increase the risk by 2%). Other risk factors can are shown on the chart below:
So, what can you do to lower your risk? A healthy diet and regular exercise are certainly a great place to start. Diets that are lower in processed foods, and are more focused on plant-based eating, tend to be the most successful at maintaining a low Body Mass Index (BMI)—those who have high BMI (25 and above)—and lead sedentary lifestyles are at a greater risk than those who are active and incorporate weight/strength training into their weekly regimen.
Key Guidelines for Adults
All adults should avoid inactivity. Some physical activity is better than none, and adults who participate in any amount of physical activity gain some health benefits.
For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous intensity aerobic activity. Aerobic activity should be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes, and preferably, it should be spread throughout the week.
For additional and more extensive health benefits, adults should increase their aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes (5 hours) a week of moderate intensity, or 150 minutes a week of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity. Additional health benefits are gained by engaging in physical activity beyond this amount.
Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities that are moderate or high intensity and involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week, as these activities provide additional health benefits.
While there are no guarantees—and, clearly there are plenty of stories of healthy, strong, and active individuals being diagnosed with cancer—the focus here should be on taking measures to try, as best you can, to lower/prevent your risk of being diagnosed with some cancers.