Cancer is one of the most feared diseases out there, so it makes sense that we want to do everything we can to prevent it. In the United States alone, it is estimated that cancer will claim about 600,000 lives just this year.
While cancer sometimes seems to emerge at random, even in the healthiest people, a new study performed by Harvard researchers and published in JAMA Oncology, has found that many cases may be preventable. Even better, the four preventative factors that the study singled out are very easy to incorporate into our lives.
Researchers studied just under 136,000 caucasian individuals in the US, and paid close attention to their lifestyles. They took into account cancers classified as carcinomas. The term “carcinoma” refers to all cancers except brain, lymphatic, hematologic, nonfatal prostate, and skin cancers.
The researchers found that adopting a healthier lifestyle could prevent the risk of a new cancer diagnosis for women by 59 percent, and for men by 67 percent. A “healthier lifestyle” in this study consisted largely of four factors:
- not smoking;
- drinking only a small amount of alcohol (one drink per day for women, two for men), or none at all;
- maintaining a healthy weight (a BMI between 18.5 and 27.5); and
- getting at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week.
Based on this data, if every American followed these four lifestyle guidelines, new cancer diagnoses in the United States could drop between 40 and 70 percent.
The study authors wrote:
“A substantial cancer burden may be prevented through lifestyle modification. Primary prevention should remain a priority for cancer control.”
In an editorial that accompanied the study, Graham Colditz, an adjunct professor of epidemiology at Harvard, wrote:
“Cancer is preventable. In fact, most cancer is preventable — with estimates as high as 80 percent to 90 percent for smoking-related cancers. Our challenge now is to act on this knowledge. We have a history of long delays from discovery to translating knowledge into practice.”
Since cancer is obviously something that no one wants to experience, or see their loved ones suffer, it is imperative that we put healthy lifestyle habits into practice as soon as possible. Today is a great day to start.
Where to begin
As with any major lifestyle change, it’s important to start slow, and to make consistent progress forward. If you smoke, quit. If you can’t do it cold turkey, seek help from a health professional you trust to make a plan to get you off the cigarettes, which are killing you in more ways than upping your cancer risk.
If you drink more than the recommended amount of alcohol, cut it down to a drink per day for women, and two for men. This will not only benefit your health, but may also help boost your relationships with those around you, and make you more productive.
As far as a healthy weight, the first step in achieving this is sticking to whole foods from the Earth, and ditching processed foods and fast foods entirely. Fill your plate with plenty of fruits and veggies, healthy proteins, and healthy, unprocessed fats. Look around for new and delicious recipes, and you likely won’t miss the junk food at all.
For exercise, find something that you love to do, whether it’s jogging, dancing, martial arts, or hiking. If you’re new to exercise, it’s very important to start slow so that you do not injure yourself, and work up to a moderate pace that gets your heart pumping.
Sticking to a healthy lifestyle and focusing on the above-listed four factors may not prevent all cancers from occurring. However, you can give your body a fighting chance, and feel your best to boot, by keeping yourself as healthy as possible.