National Cancer Prevention Day: What Can You Really Do to Turn Down the Dial on Your Cancer Risks?

dial-down-cancer-risk Let’s count them down...

5.  Screen.

Certain health screening tests can reduce your risk of ever developing cancer by detecting cells that are at high risk to become cancerous, and removing them. These tests include pap smears and colonoscopies. Speak to your clinician about whether you are a candidate for either or both.

4.  Vaccinate.

Did you know that there are vaccines available that can reduce your risk of   acquiring certain viral infections that can increase your risk of developing some cancers?

Healthy men and women between the ages of 11-26 may be candidates for the HPV vaccine to reduce the risk of developing the human papilloma virus (HPV).  HPV can cause many cancers, including cervical, head/neck, and cancer of the penis, anus, tongue and tonsils. Men and women over the age of 26 who have previously been abstinent or who are re-entering the dating pool should speak to their physicians to see if they are candidates for this vaccination.

Do you come into contact with blood or body fluids as part of your job or through IV drug use? Are you sexually active, but not in a monogamous relationship? Are you a male who has sex with other men? If so, you should speak to your clinicians about the Hepatitis B vaccine. Hep B increases the risk of liver cancer.

3.  Cover.

Your skin. Avoid prolonged direct sun exposure whenever possible, especially between the hours of 10am-4pm when the sun’s rays are the strongest. When out in the sun, protect your skin by applying a generous amount of sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Reapply often. You can also use hats and clothing with SPF protection.

Importantly: avoid tanning beds, which are known to increase the risk of skin cancers.

2.  Lower.

Your BMI if it is over 25. Did you know that obesity may soon edge out tobacco use as the leading cause of cancer? That’s right. In addition to increasing your risks of heart disease, diabetes and many other chronic diseases, obesity increases the risk of a long list of cancers. You don’t have to lose 100 lbs or become a size 6 to reduce your risks. Even modest changes in your weight may lower your risks.

1.  Avoid.

Tobacco products. All of them. This includes not just cigarettes, cigars, and pipes, but chewing tobacco, smokeless tobacco, tobacco gum, tobacco water and everything else that contains tobacco.

If you do use tobacco, cut down or stop. No matter your age, this will improve your health risks.

Photo by Jason Devaun, via Flickr.