The old saying goes: prevention is the best medicine. And when we talk about cancer , the premise is true in many cases.
Recent research still indicates that approximately one third of cancer deaths are caused by poor eating and behavioral habits .
This means that there are modifiable risk factors, that is, that can be combated in order to decrease the chances of the appearance of a malignant tumor.
This list includes a sedentary lifestyle, an unhealthy diet and other habits often related to hundreds of other illnesses – when combined, the factors further increase the risk of cancer.
It is a fact that there are also those factors that we have no control over, such as age and family history. These are considered non-modifiable.
But the good news is that, according to the WHO, 30% to 50% of cancers can be prevented.
Then check out tips that can help you prevent different types of cancer:
- 1 Don’t smoke and stay away from cigarette smoke
- 2 Control your weight
- 3 Follow a balanced diet
- 4 Practice physical exercises
- 5 Don’t abuse alcohol
- 6 Vaccines-se
- 7 Practice safe sex
- 8 Avoid prolonged sun exposure
- 9 Assess the risks of hormone replacement
- 10 Assess the use of certain medications
- 11 Avoid radiation exposure
Don’t smoke and stay away from cigarette smoke
The smoking is the major risk factor of cancer , accounting for 22% of deaths from the disease. This is what a 2015 study by Global Burden of Disease says , a program that brings together global statistics on prevalence, risk factors and damage from disease.
The habit of smoking regularly brings yet another alarming number: it is related to at least 12 types of cancer, in addition to several other diseases.
These damages are caused by the thousands of toxic substances present in the cigarette.
Smokers are 20 times more likely to have lung cancer . When the addiction is released, the numbers are decreasing.
According to the Tobacco Control Division of the National Cancer Institute, for someone who has been without smoking for 10 years, the risk of lung cancer is approximately 50% lower compared to that of a person who still smokes.
Other organs and areas that may be affected by the tumor include: mouth, larynx, pharynx, stomach, esophagus, pancreas, kidney, liver and bladder.
Smoking may also increase the risk of cervical cancer in women infected with HPV , in addition to some leukemias.
Complications also affect passive smokers, as the act of inhaling other people’s cigarette smoke exposes them to the same diseases.
So, how about quitting smoking right now?
Read more: How and why to quit smoking?
Control your weight
The obesity is the second leading risk factor for cancer. Having a healthy weight can help prevent tumors in the esophagus, stomach, pancreas, gallbladder, liver, intestine (colon and rectum), kidneys, breast ( postmenopausal women and men), ovary, endometrium, thyroid and prostate.
When there is excess fat in the body, an inflammatory process takes place that increases the production of hormones capable of damaging cells. This effect may end up causing or accelerating the appearance of the tumor.
So, do you want to effectively decrease the chances of getting cancer?
Keep an eye on the scale, more precisely on your Body Mass Index ( BMI ). This is a standard measure, used to classify whether a person’s weight is above or below what is recommended for their height.
Considering the BMI, a person can be classified as overweight when presenting values between 25 and 29. Obesity is defined when the calculation reveals numbers from 30 onwards. Consult an endocrinologist to help you in this evaluation!
Follow a balanced diet
That famous expression “you are what you eat” has never made so much sense. According to the National Cancer Institute (INCA), inadequate food and nutrition are on the list of the main causes of cancer that can be prevented.
Food is important for obtaining many of the nutrients necessary for the body to function properly.
This is already a great reason to follow a balanced diet – which provides a menu rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes and cereals, far away from ultra-processed foods.
In cancer prevention, this balance becomes even more fundamental.
The high intake of red meat and processed meat, for example, is associated with an increase in the chances of colorectal cancer by 28% to 35% and 20% to 49%, respectively.
Other studies suggest that men who consume large amounts of calcium (through food or supplements) may be at an increased risk of developing prostate cancer .
Practice physical exercises
The relationship between exercise and cancer, in some cases, is a little more indirect. Being an active person can help eliminate one of the key factors for the appearance of a tumor: obesity.
It is clear that running away from a sedentary lifestyle brings countless health benefits already recognized.
And when we associate this practice with weight control – along with a healthy diet – its contribution to cancer prevention becomes more evident.
But it is never an exaggeration to remember.
In addition to maintaining the ideal weight, physical activity helps to keep the body in balance by regulating hormones, promotes the proper functioning of the intestine and strengthens the body’s defenses.
All of these benefits also contribute to keeping the body protected from cancer.
The secret here is not in the intensity or amount of time, but in regularity.
Therefore, doing a few minutes of activity daily can bring the same positive results to your health as spending hours at the gym.
Don’t abuse alcohol
In the case of alcohol, there is a fairly simple ratio: the less alcohol you drink, the lower your risk of cancer.
According to the INCA, ethanol is a risk factor for cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, stomach, liver, intestine (colon and rectum) and breast (pre and post-menopause).
Recent research published in Nature (British scientific journal) has also revealed the reason for this increased risk: excess alcohol damages blood stem cells, which favors the development of tumors.
It is also important to know that there is no distinction between the type of drink. So, whether distilled or fermented, the risk is the same.
Anyone who thinks that vaccines only serve to protect us from certain infectious diseases is wrong. Contamination by the HPV virus (sexually transmitted infection or STI), specifically, can cause some types of cancer.
In this case, the vaccine is the best prevention.
When it comes to cervical cancer – the fourth most common among women – more than 95% of cases are linked to HPV. Women vaccinated against this virus are also better protected from vaginal, anal and vulva cancers.
On the other hand, men must also be vaccinated to protect themselves from other types of cancer related to HPV: penis, throat and anus.
But it should be noted that not every person infected with the virus will have a malignant tumor, as it usually presents as a complication of STI.
Another disease which can be prevented by vaccination is liver cancer, which is associated with hepatitis B virus .
Practice safe sex
The importance of using condoms in combating sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is already well understood.
But what few people may know is that protected sex is capable of preventing certain types of cancer. This is because some of the viruses transmitted by sexual contact have carcinogenic potential.
In this list are HPV (cancers of the cervix, vulva, vaginal, anal, penis and throat); HTLV (leukemia and T lymphocyte lymphoma); Epstein-Barr virus (cancer of the nose and throat); and hepatitis B virus (liver cancer).
Avoid prolonged sun exposure
That golden skin in the summer may look charming, but it often ignores the risks of prolonged sun exposure. Excessive contact with ultraviolet (UV) rays and artificial tanning chambers (already banned by ANVISA) are the biggest environmental risk factor for skin cancer.
The non- melanoma tumor is the most common among men and women. At the same time, children are the group most vulnerable to the harmful effects of the sun.
When exposed frequently and excessively, they have a greater chance of suffering from the disease in adulthood or old age.
It is worth remembering that protective care is not restricted only to the hottest and sunniest days. The mandatory use of sunscreen is valid for all seasons!
Also, don’t forget to avoid exposure during the most dangerous times, between 10 am and 4 pm.
Assess the risks of hormone replacement
Menopause, the end of the reproductive phase, is a period of several changes in the female organism. With it, the woman starts to suffer with intense hormonal changes and, generally, some very uncomfortable symptoms.
Among the treatments available is hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which uses drugs based on pure estrogen or associated with progesterone .
The measure is somewhat controversial. According to studies already proven, the cumulative use of hormones for HRT increases the risk of breast cancer , as well as that of uterus and ovary.
For this reason, hormone replacement has become contraindicated in some cases, for example when there is a family history of breast cancer. In contrast, this type of treatment can be quite beneficial for many women.
The important thing is always to evaluate with the doctor the best form of treatment for your health conditions.
Assess the use of certain medications
Here we have one more controversial factor. Some – few and rare – cancers can be induced by the use of medications.
According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), there are 23 drugs (or combinations of agents) considered carcinogenic to humans.
This category includes drugs used to treat cancer, immunosuppressants and hormone-based drugs.
In the case of immunosuppressants (used in transplanted people, for example), the risk comes because these drugs reduce the body’s ability to detect and fight cancer cells or even to fight infections that can cause cancer.
To avoid drug-induced illness, the relationship between the risks and benefits of using the substance should be assessed. This analysis is the responsibility of the physician responsible for treating the patient.
Avoid radiation exposure
First of all, do you know what radiation is? They refer to the propagation of energy through waves or particles. In our day-to-day lives, we can find them on the X-ray machines in our offices and even at home, in the microwave.
Moderate or elevated radiation exposure is known to increase cancer risks considerably.
The so-called ionizing radiation (present in radiography, tomography, mammography and radiotherapy) are capable of damaging DNA and generating a tumor. Among the areas most likely to be affected are the thyroid, breasts, bones, lung and colon.
It is worth mentioning that the risks related to these procedures are small and cumulative , that is, it is unlikely that a single exam will be able to damage your cells and a large number of them would be necessary to cause damage to health.
In addition, in general, the benefits usually outweigh. If you are unsure, talk to your doctor.
In the case of X-rays present in microwave devices, there is no danger in relation to cancer.
When it comes to radiation, the greatest risk may be related to exposure to radon, a natural gas that is considered to be the second leading cause of lung cancer.
Radon can be found in uranium-rich soils, present in ore regions, common in some parts of Brazil. When released into the air, this gas is usually concentrated in closed places, such as homes.
Despite being imperceptible, it is possible to protect yourself from it by keeping the environments well ventilated.
Now that you know that many cancer risk behaviors can be reversed, how about putting the tips into practice?
These measures not only help to prevent the disease, but bring several other health benefits.
Practice a healthy lifestyle and keep up with the positive changes in your body!