According to a study conducted by the American Cancer Society, at least 42% of newly diagnosed cancers in the United States are potentially avoidable. This translates to about 750,000 cases in 2020 – and makes prevention and early detection more important than ever.
With February being National Cancer Prevention Month, here are five steps from Intermountain Healthcare on steps you can take to lower your risk:
1.Get Screening Tests to Lower Your Risk. Last year, Intermountain Healthcare saw a dramatic decrease of almost 50% in colorectal screenings across the healthcare system, which has led Intermountain physicians to remind people not to delay their colonoscopies.
“Delays in screening could mean that the missed cancers might be larger and more advanced,” said Holly Clark, MD, gastroenterologist at Intermountain Heber Valley and Park City Hospitals. “Cancers, in general are easier to treat in their early stages and early detection could mean a difference between life and death.”
Screenings has the potential to detect cancers and precancerous lesions while in the early stages, which is when they are the most treatable – but before other symptoms appear.
In the early stages of colorectal cancer, there may be no symptoms. This is another reason why it’s important to know the risk factors associated with all cancers and talk to your doctor about scheduling a screening.
Medical experts are now officially recommending that people with average risk have their first colonoscopy or other screening at age 45, rather than 50, which was the previous standard.
For a complete list of cancer screening guidelines, by age, visit the American Cancer Society website.
2. Choose Healthy Foods. Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans while limiting red meat and cutting out processed foods. Experts also suggest decreasing your intake of higher calorie food, decreasing your alcohol consumption and quitting smoking (or never starting in the first place).
3. Maintain a Healthy Weight and Be Physically Active. Experts suggest keeping your weight within the healthy range and avoiding weight gain in adult life. The evidence linking body weight to cancer has grown stronger over the past decade. Specifically, activity and obesity have been linked to breast and colorectal cancer.
Dr. Clark suggests picking a physical activity you enjoy and set aside time to do it.
“Getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day can make a big difference in your overall health and wellness,” said Dr. Clark. “Adding exercise to your daily routine not only reduces stress but increases your energy, boosts your immune system, helps control your weight and reduces your overall risk for cancer.”
4. Protect Your Skin From the Sun. Skin cancer is the most common and most preventable cancer in the U.S. More than 96,400 people are diagnosed with melanoma annually. Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation causes most skin cancer.
5. Know Your Family Medical History. If you have a close relative who has had cancer or even a colon polyp, you may be at higher risk for getting that disease.
“Understanding family history, genetics, and other risk factors can help patients and doctors determine when to screen. You just don’t have any time to waste,” said Dr. Clark.
The choices we make each day can help reduce the overall risk of cancer. Talk to your doctor about which screenings are right for you. For more information on cancer screenings, or to find a physician visit www.intermountainhealthcare.org/cancer or go here.