Healthy lifestyle habits lower your cancer risk

April is Cancer Awareness Month in Canada, also known as Daffodil Month. Daffodil Days began in 1957, after Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) volunteers adopted the daffodil, spring’s first flower, as a symbol of hope in fighting cancer.

Since then researchers have learned much more about how appropriate screening tests and healthy living can help prevent cancer or detect cancer early when it’s most treatable. Although cancer can occur at any age, advancing age is the most important risk factor for cancer overall and for many individual types, such as breast, prostate and colorectal cancer, says the National Cancer Institute.

Screening guidelines for older adults

Screening mammography is the most reliable way to find breast cancer early. It’s recommended every two years for women between 50 and 69, says CCS. If you are 70 or older, talk to your doctor about how often you should have a mammogram.

Stool tests with the right follow-ups can lower the risk of dying from colorectal cancer, according to CCS, which recommends a stool test every two years for people between 50 and 74. If you are 75 or older, talk to your doctor about whether a stool test is right for you.

When prostate cancer is detected and treated early, the chances of successful treatment are better. Men over 50 should talk with their doctor about whether to have testing for early detection of prostate cancer, says CCS.

Four healthy choices that make a difference

The evidence continues to grow that healthy lifestyle choices can make a huge difference in preventing cancer. According to JAMA Oncology, four healthy habits can prevent 40% of cancer cases and 50% of cancer deaths:

  • Moderate-intensity exercise five times a week
  • Maintaining a healthy body weight
  • Avoiding smoking
  • Drinking alcohol in moderation, up to one drink per day for women and two for men

Healthy eating also reduces the risk for many cancers. According to a 2016 Alberta Health Services study, about 30% of colorectal cancer cases are linked to not eating healthy. Eating more fibre, and less red and processed meats, helps prevent colorectal cancer. The study also found eating plenty of fruits and vegetables daily can reduce oral, esophageal, lung, stomach and laryngeal cancers.

So healthy choices improve your quality of life and increase your chances of preventing cancer!