6 ways to lower cancer risk

Excerpt: Being proactive about preventing and detecting cancer early when it is most treatable is especially important during the pandemic as screening levels have declined. Reduce cancer risk by being physically active, eating healthy foods, protecting your skin and maintaining a healthy weight. Regular exercise can also lower the risk of cancer, and advances in treatment, such as immunotherapy and targeted drug treatments, are improving health outcomes.

April is Daffodil Month.* The daffodil is a symbol of hope, strength and courage for Canadians affected by cancer and highlights the need and health benefits of nation-wide research, volunteer efforts and policies to better prevent, detect and treat cancer.

Being proactive about preventing and detecting cancer early when it is most treatable is especially important during the pandemic. Canadian cancer specialists are concerned about the low rate of cancer screening during the past year and some patients being reluctant to see doctors about possible symptoms due to fear of being infected with COVID-19,* according to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

The good news is research increasingly shows the benefits of a healthy lifestyle in helping to prevent cancer and reduce the risk of recurrence for people who develop cancer, and of early diagnosis and leading-edge treatments in improving health outcomes.

Here are some tips to reduce cancer risk and improve health outcomes with earlier diagnosis and better treatments:

  1. Be physically active
    Regular exercise lowers the risk of developing 13 types of cancer, including breast, colon, stomach, and bladder cancers,* reported a JAMA Internal Medicine study.

  2. Eat foods that guard against cancer
    A diet high in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, dietary calcium and yogurt, and low in alcohol and meat, substantially reduces colorectal cancer risk,* reported a 2021 JAMA Network Open study. Healthy eating also cuts risk for many other cancers and could prevent 12,500 new cancer cases nationally each year,* says the Canadian Cancer Society.

  3. Protect your skin from the sun
    Protect against skin cancer by avoiding midday sun, wearing sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat, and using a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30,* advises Mayo Clinic.

  4. Maintain a healthy body weight
    Losing a few extra pounds by eating smaller portions and being more active can help lower cancer risk for over a dozen types of cancer including colorectal, breast and ovarian cancer.*

  5. Keep moving to reduce recurrence
    Women who walked briskly for at least 30 minutes daily had a 55% lower risk of breast cancer coming back and a 68% lower risk of dying,* according to a 2020 Journal of the National Cancer Institute study. Men who were physically active after developing prostate cancer had a 40% lower risk of dying than those who were less active,* found an Alberta Health Services study.

  6. Ask your doctor about screening
    For adults between 75 and 85, the American Cancer Society recommends that the potential benefits and burdens of screening for breast cancer, prostate cancer, colorectal cancer and lung cancer be discussed individually based on factors such as age, life expectancy, health, screening history and personal preference.

*The following source provided a reference for this blog:
1. Canadian Cancer Society. “Help hope grow during the Daffodil campaign.” (2021), online: https://www.cancer.ca/en/get-involved/events-and-participation/find-an-event-near-you/daffodil-month/?region=qcis is the way.
2. Global News. “Coronavirus: Doctors worry about Ontario’s low rate of cancer screenings during pandemic.” (2021), online: https://globalnews.ca/news/7693975/coronavirus-ontario-cancer-screenings/.
3. American Cancer Society. “Exercise linked with lower risk of 13 types of cancer.” (2016), online: https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/exercise-linked-with-lower-risk-of-13-types-of-cancer.html#:~:text=Exercise%20Linked%20With%20Lower%20Risk%20of%2013%20Types,3%20cancers,%20but%20also%20esophageal%20cancer,%20liver%20cancer,
4. JAMA Network. “Role of diet in colorectal cancer incidence.” (2021), online: https://media.jamanetwork.com/news-item/role-of-diet-in-risk-of-colorectal-cancer/This is the way.
5. Canadian Cancer Society. “Eat well to reduce your cancer risk.” (2021), online: https://www.cancer.ca/en/prevention-and-screening/reduce-cancer-risk/make-healthy-choices/eat-well/how-many-cancer-cases-are-due-to-an-unhealthy-diet/?region=on
6. Mayo Clinic. “Cancer prevention: 7 tips to reduce your risk.” (2021), online: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/cancer-prevention/art-20044816
7. Canadian Cancer Society. “Reduce your risk of cancer with a healthy body weight.” (2021), online: https://www.cancer.ca/en/prevention-and-screening/reduce-cancer-risk/make-healthy-choices/have-a-healthy-body-weight/reduce-your-risk-of-cancer-with-a-healthy-body-weight/?region=on
8. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. “Exercise before and after breast cancer diagnosis improves survival, reduces recurrence risk.” (2020), online: https://www.breastcancer.org/research-news/exercise-improves-survival-and-reduces-risk#:~:text=Doing%20the%20minimum%20amount%20of%20recommended%20exercise%20per,in%20the%20Journal%20of%20the%20National%20Cancer%20Institute.
9. Global News. “Calgary study finds prostate cancer patients who exercise live longer.” (2016), online: https://globalnews.ca/news/2596633/calgary-study-finds-prostate-cancer-patients-who-exercise-live-longer/
10. Healthline. “Are older adults getting too many cancer screenings?” (2020), online: https://www.healthline.com/health-news/are-older-adults-getting-too-many-cancer-screenings