Cancer:Reducing Your Risk with a Healthy Lifestyle

What can I do to lower my risk of cancer?

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. If you are a cancer survivor, these same lifestyle habits can help you stay healthy.

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.

What foods should I eat?

A healthy diet includes plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grains. It is low in fat, cholesterol, salt and sugar. Eat at least 5 servings of a variety of different colors of vegetables and fruits each day. These foods are nutritious and low in calories. Choose whole-grain breads, cereals, rice and pasta. Eat fish, poultry and dried beans instead of beef, pork and lamb. Limit full-fat dairy products, red meat and processed foods.

The following are some other tips for a healthy diet:
  • Watch your portion size, especially with foods and drinks that are high in calories, cholesterol, fat, and added salt and sugar.
  • Restaurant portions are often very large. When you eat out, try eating an appetizer as your main dish or ordering a child-portion meal. You can also split a full-sized dish with a friend or take home half of your meal.
  • Avoid sugary foods, including pastries, sweetened cereals, cookies and cakes. These foods aren’t nutritious and usually aren’t filling. You will probably feel hungry again soon after eating them.

What about drinking alcohol?

Drinking alcohol increases the risk of many cancers, including cancers of the mouth, throat, breast and liver. If you do drink alcohol, do not have more than 2 drinks per day if you are a man or more than 1 drink per day if you are a woman. One drink is a 12-ounce bottle of beer (4.5 percent alcohol), a 5-ounce glass of wine (12.9 percent alcohol) or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.

More Information

For more information talk to your doctor.

Other Organizations

Source

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff.

Lifestyle Interventions to Reduce Cancer Risk and Improve Outcomes by Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, PhD, RD, Cheryl L. Rock, PhD, RD, Kevin Patrick, MD, MS, Tim Byers, MD, MPH (American Family Physician June 1, 2008, http://www.aafp.org/afp/20080601/1573.html)

Created: 10/09