The International Agency for Research on Cancer states that cancer cases are likely to increase by 67% from 14.1 million in 2012 to 23.6 million worldwide by 2030. What you may not realize, however, is that many cancers could be prevented by making healthy lifestyle choices.
What changes could you make to your life to reduce your risk of getting cancer? Here are the most recent top 10 cancer prevention recommendations published by the World Cancer Research Fund.
1. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Research shows that excess body fat is linked to the development of many cancers, including esophagus cancer, mouth cancer, stomach cancer, pancreatic cancer, liver cancer, breast cancer, kidney cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, and rectal cancer. It has also been linked to the occurrence of endometrial and ovarian cancers in women. A good rule of thumb is to keep your weight within a healthy BMI range (18.5 - 24.9), avoiding being overweight or obese.
2. Be Physically Active
There is strong evidence that physical activity prevents excess weight gain and protects against certain cancers, including cancers of the colon, breast, and endometrium. Limit sedentary habits such as sitting, lying down, and watching TV and aim to be at least moderately physically active. The American Cancer Society recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week. Children and teens should get at least 1 hour of moderate or vigorous intensity activity each day.
3. Eat Whole Grains, Vegetables, Fruit & Beans
A diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruit, and beans can help you maintain a healthy weight while also protecting you against certain cancers. Aim to consume a diet that provides at least 30g of fiber from food per day. To do this, focus on eating whole grains (brown rice, wheat, oats, barley, and rye) and at least five servings of non-starchy fruits and vegetables.
There is strong evidence that consuming great amounts of fast foods and other processed foods high in fat, starches, or sugars, are a leading cause of weight gain. And, as mentioned earlier, excess weight has been linked to the development of various cancers. Avoid eating foods such as potato chips, sweets, pre-prepared dishes, and products made from white flour (bread, pasta, pizza) in excess.
5. Limit Red and Processed Meat
Evidence shows that red (muscle meat like beef and pork) or processed meat (ham, bacon; sausages) are both linked to the development of colorectal cancer. Red meat consumption should be limited to no more than three portions per week. When possible, consume very little, if any, processed meat. Consider getting protein from leaner meats like poultry and fish or through dairy, eggs, and nuts.
6. Limit Sugar-Sweetened Drinks
Sugary, high-calorie drinks should also be avoided, or at least consumed in moderation. Consumption of sugary drinks is contributing to the increase in obesity, which increases the risk of many cancers. When it comes to beverages, water and unsweetened drinks are the way to go. When possible, avoid adding sugar to drinks such as tea and coffee. Limit fruit juice consumption as their natural sugars can also contribute to weight gain.
7. Limit Alcohol Consumption
Cancers of the mouth, pharynx, and larynx, esophagus, liver, colon, rectum, breast, and stomach have been linked to the consumption of alcoholic drinks. Evidence shows that all types of alcoholic drinks have a similar impact on cancer risk, so the recommendation is to avoid them altogether. Or, at the very least, do not exceed the national guidelines, which is 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks for men per day.
8. Don’t Rely on Nutritional Supplements for Cancer Prevention
At this time, there is no strong evidence that supports dietary supplements as a method for reducing cancer risk. The best way to meet your nutritional needs is through diet alone. Talking with your doctor can help determine if there are any supplements that you could benefit from.
9. For Mothers: Breastfeed Your Baby, If You Can
There is strong evidence that breastfeeding is a benefit to both mother and child. Breastfeeding can protect against breast cancer, especially if a woman breastfeeds for longer than 1 year. The reasoning behind this is that breastfeeding mothers have fewer menstrual cycles during this time, therefore, there is less estrogen (which can feed cancer) being produced. In addition to that, breastfeeding promotes healthy growth in the infant, protecting them from becoming overweight or obese.
10. Follow Your Doctor’s Recommendations After a Cancer Diagnosis
To keep moving in the right direction, it’s important for cancer patients and survivors to follow the recommendations of their doctors after a cancer diagnosis and/or the completion of cancer treatment. Recommendations typically include nutritional care and physical activity guidance from trained professionals that are designed to lower your risks of cancer recurrence.
If you are worried about your risks of developing cancer, be sure to make an appointment and to talk to your primary care doctor about other ways you may be able to lower your risk for cancer.