What can I do to lower my risk of cancer?
Unfortunately, some risk factors for cancer (such as family history) are out of your control. But there are things you can do each day to improve your health and lower your risk of cancer. The best ways to lower your cancer risk are to stop smoking and to maintain a healthy weight, be active and eat a healthy diet. Limiting how much alcohol you drink is also important, as is limiting your exposure to sunlight or tanning beds. If you are a cancer survivor, these same lifestyle habits can help you stay healthy.
Seeing your doctor regularly can also help. Depending on your age and medical history, your doctor will probably run tests (called screenings) to try to detect the early signs of certain cancers. For most types of cancer, the sooner the cancer is found and treatment begins, the better your chances of recovering.
Why is my weight important?
Reaching and staying at a healthy weight lowers your risk of many different cancers. Maintaining a healthy weight will also help lower your risk of other conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes. Ask your doctor what a healthy weight would be for you. If you are above a healthy weight, even losing just 5 percent to 10 percent of your current weight can help your health.
Why is being active important?
Being active on a regular basis can lower your risk of several types of cancer, including colorectal cancer and breast cancer. Exercise helps strengthen bones, build muscle and reduce body fat. It can also help improve self-esteem, and increase heart and muscle strength. Regular physical activity is also important for cancer survivors because it can help reduce tiredness and stress.
Most adults can do moderate activity without checking with their doctor first. However, if you are a man older than 40 years of age or a woman older than 50 years of age, or if you are a cancer survivor, talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program.
Try to get at least 30 minutes of activity, 4 to 6 times per week. Try to keep a medium- to high-intensity level of activity. You can become more active by adding even a small amount of activity into your daily routine. For example, try taking the stairs rather than the elevator. Go for a walk during a coffee break or during lunch.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff