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7 Ways to Reduce the Risk of Cancer

While some types of cancer have unknown causes, learn about seven common causes and how to reduce your risk.

woman holding a healthy plate of food and exercising, ways to help prevent cancer

While there’s still much research to be done and some causes of cancer are still unknown, science has made strides in determining some reasons for cancer. Here are seven of the common causes of cancer and how you can lower your risk.

1. Don’t smoke

By now, just about everyone knows there are tremendous health risks in smoking. But you may not know that tobacco is the single biggest avoidable cause of cancer in the world. It drastically decreases life expectancy and causes about 480,000 deaths in the US every year. And yes, smoking is very addictive, but if you are a smoker, stopping the habit is a life or death proposition. Other products such as smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes are also habit-forming and have associated health risks. 

2. Limit sun exposure

We’re not saying you need to become a vampire, but decreasing the amount of sun exposure you get decreases your risk of getting skin cancer. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, with 1 in 5 Americans developing skin cancer by age 70. Regularly using sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher can reduce your risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by roughly 40%. If you’ll be in the sun for a long period of time, wear a hat and long sleeves to protect yourself from UV rays.

3. Decrease your alcohol intake

This is less common knowledge, but alcohol use has been strongly linked to cancer. The more you drink, the higher your cancer risk. It doesn’t matter what type of alcohol either—from beer to wine to vodka—it all contains ethanol, and that’s what evidence suggests causes cancer.

4. Get moving

There’s a link between physical inactivity and cancer in that excess weight causes the body to produce more estrogen and insulin, and those two hormones can stimulate cancer growth. Being physically active also helps your immune system, so it can better fend off cancerous cells. Even walks help, but you could join a gym or a dance class if you need extra motivation. Every step is a little bit of cancer prevention. 

Related: Common but Curable: Facts about Breast Cancer 

5. Eat healthier foods

This one makes sense: eat better and you’ll be healthier. But so few of us stop to think about the connection between the quadruple chocolate sundae we’re eating and cancer. Start incorporating plant-based foods into your diet and get healthier while lowering your risk of cancer.

6. Practice safe sex

The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is a major cause of a main type of cervical cancer. HPV can also cause anal, vaginal, vulval, penile, and some types of mouth and throat cancers, so it’s imperative that you use a condom every time you have sex. There are also vaccines to help prevent HPV, but they don’t prevent every type of HPV, so it’s still important to use safe sex practices. 

Related:  Are You Up to Date with These Health Screenings? 

7. Filter your water

The quality of the water coming out of your tap varies from city to city and from house to house. Older pipes leak rust into water, and chemicals and pollutants from factories and farms leak into the water supply.  One of those pollutants is arsenic, which is a known carcinogen. To keep your water tasting good and treating you right, filter it. While sometimes genetics is at play, many cancers can be linked to lifestyle and environment. Take steps to reduce your risk of cancer—and live a healthier life overall. 

While you’re here, check out our other articles on healthy living. For information on our medical and dental plans, visit selecthealth.org/plans

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Post Author

Jennifer Diffley
Jennifer Diffley is a SLC resident. She is a senior copywriter and has her MFA in creative writing from NYU. Jennifer is committed to health, but has an unhealthy fascination with outrageous shoes.