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What are the best ways to reduce the risk of getting cancers?

Updated on September 11, 2012

A small number of cancers are caused by inherited genes but a vast majority is triggered by DNA damage that accumulates during a person’s lifetime. The damaged DNA can make cells grow and divide uncontrollably, which is the hallmark of all cancers. In some cases, healthy living reduces the risk of cancers by reducing the DNA damage. Some experts say that more than four in ten cancer cases can be prevented by lifestyle changes.

The following are some important measure to reduce the risk of getting cancer.

  • Stop smoking- It is most important preventable cause of cancer. It causes four in five cases of lung cancer. It also increases the risk of cancers of mouth, larynx, pharynx, esophagus, sinuses, nose, liver, pancreas, stomach, kidney, bladder, cervix, bowel and breast cancer. Tobacco contains more than 70 different cancer causing substances, which can damage DNA and change important genes.
  • Keep a healthy weight- Many types of cancers are caused by overweight and obesity which include breast cancer (after menopause), bowel cancer, uterine cancer, esophageal cancer, pancreatic cancer, kidney cancer and gall bladder cancer. Fat tissues in over-weight and obese people produce more hormones and growth factors which promote cancers.
  • Limit alcohol- Drinking alcohol can increase the risk of mouth, larynx, pharynx, esophagus, breast, bowel and liver cancers. There is little risk if men limit to two small drinks and women to one small drink a day. Drinking and smoking together even pose a bigger threat.
  • Eat a balanced diet- Our diets influence the risks of some cancers like bowel, stomach, mouth, food-pipe and breast cancers. Eating a healthy and balanced diets that is rich in fibers, fruits, and vegetables, but low in red and processed meat and salt.
  • Stay physically active- A 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five days a week has a positive effect on health. The more active you are, the more you can reduce the cancer risk. People who walk for an hour a day regularly will reduce the risk to develop cancer by 16%. People who just walk half an hour a day are 34% less likely to die of cancer and 33% more likely to beat the disease. It is never too late to start keeping fit, which means that the negative effects of years of inactivity can be reversed.
  • Avoid some infections- Some viruses are also responsible for cancers. Human-papilloma virus can cause cervical cancer. Similarly, hepatitis-B and C virus can cause liver cancer. AIDS also promotes some cancers.
  • Avoid exposure to UV radiations- Over-exposure to UV radiations is a primary cause of skin cancers. To avoid over-exposure, use shade, clothing and at least UPF 15 sunscreen.
  • Avoid cancer causing substances at work place- Occupational exposure to cancer causing chemical is responsible for some cancers. These chemicals include arsenic and related chemicals, asbestos, benzene, benzidine and cadmium dyes, chromium pigments, fertilizers and pesticides and many organic solvents. Persons, working in the industries using and manufacturing these chemicals, can use protective clothing and other means.
  • Go for preventive screening- This will detect early cancers if done timely and will help in successful early treatment.


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