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Fighting Cancer: Ring in The New Year With a Healthy Lifestyle

Publication: The Jewish Outlook, Austin

Can living a healthier lifestyle prevent cancer? Researchers suggest the answer is yes. At-least one-third of all cancer cases are preventable, according to the World Health Organization. Give the opportunity to impact the future of your well-being, resolving to make proactive health choices this year makes a lot of sense.

Starting the year on the right foot can be a challenge since winter’s shorter, less active days often accompany larger plates of richer foods. But researchers believe many cancers and other diseases may be prevented by adopting healthy habits. As the hectic, and perhaps indulgent, holiday season transition to the new year, Texas Oncology offers suggestions for a prevention-focused lifestyle.

Eat Right

Managing your weight and eating a balanced diet may bolster your body’s defenses against cancer and other illnesses. Winter wardrobes may hide the holiday pounds, but it’s important to reduce calories, limit the intake of sugars, saturated fats, trans fats, and alcohol, and to eat nutritious foods like fresh produce. The American Cancer Society recommends:

  • substitute whole gains for refined or processed grains;
  • limit processed and red meats, foods preserved with salt, and fat;
  • have no more than one alcoholic drink daily for women and two for men;
  • eat two and a half cups of fruits and vegetables daily;
  • drink plenty of water

Get Check-Ups And Screenings

Resolve to get regular check-ups and health screenings. Screenings can detect cancers at their earliest and most treatable stages.

With better science, treatment advances, and more research, screening guidelines continue to evolve. Recommendations from physician groups, cancer advocacy groups, and your personal doctor may vary. The guidelines below can help clear up any confusion about the most common cancer screenings.

  • Skin Cancer: Everyone should check their skin for changes in freckles, moles, and other skin markings monthly. Report any changes to your physician.
  • Colorectal Cancer: Beginning at 50, everyone should screen for colorectal cancer with one of these options. Earlier screening may be warranted if you have a family history of colon cancer.
    • Annual fecal occult blood tests (FOBT) or fecal immunochemical tests (FIT)
    • Every three years, a stool DNA test
    • Every five years, a flexible sigmoidoscopy or a double-contrast barium enema
    • Every 10 years, a colonoscopy or every five years, a virtual colonoscopy
  • Cervical Cancer: Even women who have received HPV vaccines should get cervical cancer screenings:
    • Starting at age 21, women should have a Pap test every three years.
    • Women in their 30s through age 65 should have a Pap test and DNA HPV test every five years or only a Pap test every three years. After age 65, discuss the need for cervical cancer screenings with your physician.
  • Prostate Cancer: The PSA test is a blood test that measures levels of a protein produced by the prostate. Higher PSA levels indicate a higher likelihood that a man has cancer, but other reasons may elevate PSA levels. The DRE (Digital Rectal Exam) also tests for prostate cancer.
    • Beginning at age 50, men should discuss prostate cancer screenings with a physician.
    • Men at high risk (African Americans and men with a family history of prostate cancer before age 65) should discuss with a physician whether screenings are appropriate beginning at age 40.

While you can’t be screened for every kind of cancer – not yet – researchers are working to establish tests for cancer types. It’s important to maintain a regular screening schedule. Consult your physician about the best schedule for your personal health and family history.

Stay Active

Don’t let winter’s shorter, cooler days be an excuse for avoiding physical activity. Whether you prefer hiking, biking, playing outside with the kids, or an indoor option, it’s easy to stay active during relatively milt Texas winters. The World Cancer Research Fund has estimated that up to one-third of the cancer cases that occur in the United States are related to overweight or obesity, physical inactivity, and/or poor nutrition, and this could also be prevented.

Save Your Skin

Winter offers less time in the sun, but there’s no off season for sun protection. Avoid improper exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, but it is preventable by taking protection measures such as using sunscreen and covering up the skin. Anyone, regardless of skin color, may develop skin cancer, though people with fair skin or who are outdoors frequently are at a higher risk. Parents should also remember that children also need protection from the sun.

Quit Smoking

Lung cancer is the deadliest cancer in Texas, and each year kills more people than colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined. About 87 percent of all lunch cancer deaths are attributed to smoking, as are 32 percent of all cancer deaths. Research consistently shows that smoking cessation is paramount to lung health. Smokers who quit are more likely to live healthier, longer lives, while decreasing lung cancer risk. Secondhand smoke can cause lung cancer in nonsmokers. The more a person is exposed to smoke, the greater their risk of developing lung cancer.

Your cancer risk is dependent on a variety of factors, but it’s clear that regular screenings, eating better and exercising more to maintain a healthy weight, sun protection, and avoiding smoking or secondhand smoke can lead to fewer cancer diagnoses. These are all important steps in adopting a healthier lifestyle this year – if they’re permanent, rather than fleeting, additions to your routine. By making simple changes to adopt healthy lifestyle habits, Texans can realize a full range of healthful benefits. As we turn the calendar page to a new year, Texas Oncology urges you to make a fresh state toward living a healthier life.