According to the American Cancer Society, there were 1,918,030 new cancer cases and 609,360 cancer-related deaths in 2022. The vast majority of people in the United States have been affected by cancer, whether through their own diagnosis or that of a loved one.
Thankfully, cancer research grows every day, and scientists around the world are working to find a cure. In the meantime, taking preventive measures to lessen the likelihood of developing the disease is a smart place to start.
February is National Cancer Prevention Month, and it's the perfect time to learn about the preventive measures you can take to support your health. Whether you've recently been diagnosed with a medical condition and are interested in taking steps to boost your health, or you're generally healthy and simply want to make sure you're doing all you can to prevent cancer, we've got you covered.
Taking steps to prevent cancer will benefit your overall health and well-being. Let's take a look at some of the steps you can take to lessen the likelihood of developing cancer.
Understanding cancer risk factors
In order to take action against cancer, it's important to evaluate your risk. Some risk factors are genetic and therefore unavoidable, but other risk factors can be avoided with lifestyle changes.
- Smoking: Smoking has long been known to cause cancer, as it causes damage to almost every part of the body. Smoking has been proven to cause lung, colon, cervical, rectal, bladder, liver, pancreatic, kidney, throat, oral, larynx, and esophageal cancers. Vaping is not a safe alternative, as e-cigarettes are not regulated and typically contain substances (including nicotine) that are known to cause cancer.
- Exposure to ultraviolet radiation: Most skin cancers are caused by exposure to ultraviolet light, either from the sun or from tanning beds. Getting a sunburn increases the risk of developing skin cancer. It's important to regularly apply SPF when you're outside, and to try to stay out of the sun from 11 am until 3 pm in spring, summer, and early fall.
- Viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections: There are several types of infections that are associated with cancer, including human papilloma virus (HPV), hepatitis B and C, and Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). Vaccination against HPV and hepatitis are important to lower the risk of these conditions. H. pylori causes stomach ulcers that can increase the risk of stomach cancer. Human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV can also increase the risk of certain infections.
Healthy habits for cancer prevention
- If you smoke, quit. If you're not sure how to quit or are having a hard time, talk with your doctor for help.
- Cut down on alcohol, or stop drinking it.
- Maintain a healthy weight and try to get at least two and a half hours of physical activity per week.
- Stay out of strong sunlight, and don't use tanning beds.
- Get vaccinated against preventable diseases that are more likely to cause cancer, including HPV and hepatitis.
- See your doctor regularly for check-ups and recommended screenings
We get it--going to the doctor can be nerve-wracking, especially if you're worried about an aspect of your health. Doing so, however, can be life-saving. Getting yearly check-ups from your primary care provider allows your doctor to form a baseline for your health, making it easier to notice when something has gone wrong.
Your care provider will talk with you about when you'll need to be screened for certain types of cancer. If you have a family history of certain types of cancer, your doctor may recommend that you get screened sooner than called for by general guidelines.
In addition to providing physical screenings for health issues, your doctor can also talk with you about preventive measures you can take against cancer and other conditions, hazards in your workplace that could contribute to disease, and more.
If you feel like something is off with your health, or you've noticed changes in your health that you can't explain, you don't need to wait until your next yearly physical to get help. Knowledge is power, and it's only possible to fight a health condition once you know it exists. Reach out to your doctor and schedule an appointment to take control of your health.
Nutritional strategies for cancer prevention
What you choose to eat can make a major difference when it comes to lowering your cancer risk.
According to the Harvard Public School of Health, some simple steps you can take to prevent cancer include:
- Limit red meat, such as beef and lamb.
- Cut down on or eliminate processed meat, like hot dogs. Recent research showed that the risk of colorectal cancer increased by 12% for every 100g/day of red meat intake and increased by 16% for every 50g/day of processed meat intake.
- Eat plenty of whole, unprocessed grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes. These foods have high amounts of dietary fiber. Research suggests eating foods high in fiber can protect against colorectal cancer.
- Limit fast food--aim to cook at home instead. Research shows that it's likely that people who get a high percentage of their total calories from fast foods may have an increased risk of cancer.
- Follow a nutrition plan that helps you maintain a healthy weight--sustainably. People who are overweight or have obesity are at a higher risk for some types of cancers.
Doing our part: Research at Evidation
At Evidation, we're working to contribute to medical research responsibly using data to move medicine forward. We know that cancer and other diseases are devastating, and we want to contribute to a healthier world. Every time a member of Evidation consents to share their health data with us for research purposes, we're able to use that information to make a difference.
Our recent contributions to research include:
- From in-person trials to DCTs and back again: Why has implementation of remote trials been so challenging?
- Sarcoma -- The Forgotten Cancer
- Psychosocial functioning among caregivers of childhood cancer survivors following treatment completion
Evidation: Using health data for good.
At Evidation, we believe in putting you in the driver's seat of your health. Your health data allows you to earn rewards, get personalized content--including articles and health tips--catered to your needs based on your health patterns, and participate in health research, potentially helping people around the globe. Download the app today so we can begin a partnership that works toward a healthier you--and a healthier world.