It’s often assumed that cancer results either from bad genes or bad luck but in truth it’s a blend of our genes, our environment and the lifestyle that we adopt, says Dr Surender Kumar Dabas, Vice Chairman & HOD, Oncology, BLK-Max Super Speciality Hospital. So can lifestyle modifications prevent cancer? Dr Dabas shares, “Not all cancers are preventable but certain behaviours can significantly reduce the risk of developing cancer. So take control of your health and encourage those around you to do the same.”
Cancer Prevention: How To Lower Risk
Dr Surender Kumar Dabas shares the following steps that can reduce the risk of cancer:
1. Maintain a healthy weight: Obesity has been proven to be associated with many cancers, so keeping your weight in check helps.
2. Eat healthy: A balanced and nutritious diet plays a crucial role in cancer prevention. Make fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, vitamins, etc. a part of your routine meals. Limit intake of fast foods, processed foods, red meat and sugary beverages.
3. Exercise regularly: Regular exercise every day for at least 30-45 minutes helps maintain a healthy weight besides contributing to overall well-being. Physical activity helps regulate hormones and strengthens the immune system, reducing cancer risk.
4. Say no to tobacco: Tobacco is implicated in causing a wide array of cancers so avoiding tobacco in every form, smoking or chewable goes a long way in cancer prevention. Don’t start if you never started and quit if you are already on tobacco. Keep trying, it takes many attempts before you succeed and seek professional and peer help for the same.
5. Limit alcohol consumption, best being none: Choose non-alcoholic beverages preferably juices and avoid parties/occasions centred on alcohol. Seek help if you are alcohol addicted/dependent.
6. Ensure sun protection: Soaking in the sun feels good but too much exposure can lead to skin cancers. Avoid sun exposure in peak hours, i.e 10 am to 4 pm and use protective clothing, hats and sun-screen.
7. Protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections: STDs like HPV, Hepatitis and HIV have a role in causing many cancers. Practise safe sex, be loyal to your partner and use protection.
8. Manage stress: Chronic stress weakness immune system, potentially contributing to cancer development. Adopt yoga, meditation and mindfulness; avoid environment precipitating stress.
9. Be mindful of environmental factors:Limit exposure to environmental carcinogens like lead, radon etc due to workplace hazards and take necessary precautions to minimise exposure.
10. Get vaccinated: Certain vaccines prevent infection resulting in cancer; for instance, the HPV vaccine prevents cervical cancer and hepatitis B vaccine prevents liver cancer. Consult your healthcare professional.
11. Go for regular screening to ensure early detection: This helps in detecting cancer at an earlier stage with better treatment outcomes. Follow recommended screening guidelines for breast, cervical, colorectal, prostate and lung cancers based on your age, gender and risk factor. If you have a positive family history, you need to get tests done at a younger age. Consult your doctor/preferably an oncologist.
“Cancer prevention is multifaceted needs adopting a holistic approach and these small lifestyle changes can make a significant impact on your long term health. Not only in cancer prevention but also good treatment outcome if diagnosed with cancer,” says Dr Dabas.