Reduce your family's cancer risks by making healthier choices
By Lisa Franzen-Castle
UNL Extension Nutrition Specialist
There’s no magic bullet to prevent cancer, but research shows up to two-thirds of cancer deaths are caused by smoking, physical inactivity and poor diet.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for almost one in every four deaths.
April is National Cancer Control Month, a good time to start reducing your family’s risk for cancer by making healthier choices that will lead to a longer, healthier life.
Tips for making healthier choices:
Improve eating habits. Most people cannot overhaul their food habits quickly. Add a few servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Try mixing dark, leafy greens like spinach in a salad and eat a piece of fruit for a snack. Make your diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and whole grains on a regular basis. Choose lean cuts of meat and eat smaller portions. Prepare meat by baking, broiling, or poaching at lower temperatures.
Be active. Make physical activity a regular part of your family’s daily or weekly schedule and write it on a family activity calendar. Keep track of your progress with an exercise chart or on-line tool. Organize school activities around physical activity, walk the dog with your children, or exercise while you watch TV. Ask friends and family to exercise with you, and plan social activities involving exercise.
Toss tobacco. Reduce your cancer risk by quitting tobacco or not starting. Smoking is the cause of more than 80 percent of all lung cancers and the cause of 30 percent of all cancer deaths. Non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke are at risk for lung cancer and other respiratory problems. You can add up to 10 years to your life by quitting. Strive to break the addiction, and create smoke-free environments in your home and community.
Get screened. You have the power to take control of your health and catch many cancers before they start, or at their earliest, most treatable stages. Be familiar with warning signs and symptoms, get regular check-ups and perform self-exams. Some cancers are over 90 percent curable if detected early, so don’t forget to schedule your 2013 screening.
Lose excess weight. Being overweight is one of the main risk factors for uterine, colon, breast, esophageal and kidney cancers. Both ovarian and pancreatic cancers have also been linked to excess weight. If you are overweight or obese, losing weight will likely reduce your cancer risk.
As part of National Cancer Control Month, the American Cancer Society’s website, http://www.cancer.org , includes a variety of helpful tips, educational resources related to staying healthy, ways to find support and treatment and exploring research, all designed to spread the message of reducing cancer risk.