According to the American Cancer Society‘s “Cancer Facts & Figures 2012”, lifestyle choices can have a huge affect on cancer risk. Researchers reviewed existing data and found that nearly one third of cancer deaths are caused by tobacco use. Another third is caused by obesity and lack of exercise.
Those are BIG numbers. Researchers estimate that over 577,000 people in the U.S. will die of cancer in 2012. One third of those will be attributable to smoking or other tobacco use, and one third of those will be related to excess weight and not exercising.
I feel like I need to repeat that because it’s hard to believe that so many deaths will be associated with lifestyle choices – stupid choices. Deaths that are largely avoidable.
Of course, we know that not smoking and exercising does not guarantee that you won’t die from cancer. Statistics don’t work like that. But there is clear evidence that the choices we make affect our risk of dying from cancer.
Smoking increases men’s risk of developing lung cancer by 23% compared to non-smokers. The increase in risk for women is 13%. It also increases the risk of cancers of the nasopharynx, nasal cavity, paranasal sinuses, lip, oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, lung, esophagus, pancreas, uterine cervix, ovaries (mucinous), kidney, bladder, stomach, colorectum, and acute myeloid leukemia.
Numerous studies have now shown that obesity and excess weight are strongly associated with an increased risk of developing several cancers, including breast, colon, endometrial, adenocarcinoma of the esophagus, kidney, and pancreatic. Excess weight may also be associated with liver, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myeloma, cervical, ovarian, and aggressive prostate cancers.
Achieve and maintain a healthy weight!
The report also finds that a physically active lifestyle reduces the risk of breast, colon, endometrial, and advanced prostate cancers. Risk of obesity-related cancers is also affected by physical activity because of the role it plays in losing and maintaining a healthy weight.
Recommendations are to engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week for adults. Children and adolescents should get 1 hour of moderate to vigorous activity every day. Limit sedentary activity.
Also, choosing to limit sun exposure and not use tanning beds helps prevent certain types of skin cancer.
Don’t use tanning beds! Limit sun exposure!
You don’t have to be perfect on any of these points (except maybe smoking – there really is no excuse!). You just have to commit to trying to make better choices more often than not. Make a habit of choosing health.
These are simple lifestyle choices that can reduce your risk of developing certain cancers. Avoiding cancer is the very best way to survive it.
Those of us who have had cancer know how tough it is. We don’t want to go through it again. Those of you who haven’t had cancer want to keep it that way. Presumably if you’ve found this blog, you have someone close to you who has had cancer. You have a pretty good idea of just how much you should want to avoid it yourself.
There are so many risk factors for disease that we have no control over. But some risks for cancer are very much in our control. Don’t smoke, move more, wear sunscreen, eat well….Encourage your friends and family to do the same.