When you think about preventing cancer, quitting smoking is probably the first thing that comes to mind. In reality, there are many lifestyle choices you can make that affect your risk.
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As much as 35% to 50% of cancer cases are related to your diet, according to The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. That’s because some foods and drinks tend to inhibit the growth of cancer cells while others may accelerate the process.
Follow these tips to use your diet to cut your risk.
Fighting Cancer with How You Eat:
- Increase fiber. A diet rich in fiber helps to prevent cancer, possibly by diluting carcinogens. Good choices include any plant products, especially when they’re unrefined and unpeeled. In fact, becoming a vegetarian could cut your risk of cancer in half.
- Monitor fats. On the other hand, fats seem to promote the growth of cancer cells, and animal fats are of special concern. While it’s essential to have some healthy fats in your diet, you may want to talk with your doctor about what’s the best level for you.
- Focus on fruits and vegetables. In addition to providing fiber, most fruits and vegetables are low in calories and high in antioxidants and many other cancer-fighting substances. Aim for at least 7 servings a day.
- Avoid processed meat. Many studies support a strong connection between cancer and processed meats like hot dogs and bacon. The same is true for red meat. Some cooking methods, including grilling and barbecuing, can also concentrate carcinogens.
- Try soy products. Just like other plant foods, soybeans contain anticarcinogens, and they’re packed with protein. Add some tofu and miso to your weekly menu.
Fighting Cancer with How You Drink:
- Filter your water. Home and office water filters can reduce your exposure to contaminants and help you stay hydrated. Plus, any liquids that increase urination help reduce the risk of bladder cancer.
- Brew coffee and tea. Different studies have produced mixed results, but there is some evidence that coffee and tea drinkers have lower rates of cancer. Consider it a fortunate side benefit if you enjoy caffeinated beverages.
- Limit alcohol. Excessive alcohol raises the risk of many cancers, especially when combined with smoking. As a general rule, moderate drinking is defined as up to 2 drinks a day for men, and one for women.
- Replace soda. Here’s one more good reason to give up soda. The caramel dye in some colas and other darker beverages is considered a known carcinogen by many experts and the State of California.
- Lose excess weight. Obesity increases the risk of cancer, especially if you tend to accumulate those extra pounds around your waist. While spot reduction is a myth, you can manage your weight with diet and exercise.
- Stay active. Regular exercise burns fat and calories. Even just 2 hours a week of brisk walking can cut the risk of breast cancer by almost 20%.
- See your doctor. Following cancer screening guidelines for your age group can help you detect cancer in the early stages when treatment is most effective. Talk with your doctor about what procedures are appropriate for you.
When it comes to cancer, there are some factors beyond your control, such as family history and environmental exposure. However, experts believe that as much as 70% to 80% of cases can be avoided through simple actions, including abstaining from smoking, drinking responsibly, managing your weight, and exercising regularly.
Maximize your odds of staying cancer-free by eating smart and living healthy.