If you knew you could be helping yourself to cut your cancer risk in half just by practicing 4 things, would you do it?
This is the message from a study published in the journal JAMA Oncology that sought out the answer to the question of, "How many cancer cases and deaths in the Unites States can be attributed to lifestyle factors?" The cohort study revealed that adopting four healthy lifestyle behaviors appears to be the answer.
This is exciting news as this study confirms that following a healthy lifestyle pattern could make a substantial dent in the incidence of cancer in this country. It points a finger at the true key to making this a reality starting and ending with the emphasis on primary prevention for cancer control.
Cancer continues to be the second leading cause of death in the United States with 1.6 million new cancer cases and 600,000 cancer deaths projected to occur in 2016. This study found that overall, 20% to 40% of carcinoma cases and about half of carcinoma deaths could potentially be prevented through certain lifestyle modifications.
Here are the 4 lifestyle behaviors that if practiced throughout a lifetime, were found to be linked to a lower rate of cancer incidence and death:
1. Don't smoke
The study revealed that smoking contributed to 48.5% of deaths from the 12 smoking-related cancers in the United States including lung, pancreas, bladder, stomach, colon/rectal and esophagus.
The message here is plain and simple -- don't ever start smoking and if you already are, quit. Smoking cessation is the single most important step to leading a long, healthy life. Quitting smoking is not easy but your health depends on it.
Not only does smoking vastly increase the risk of developing cancer, but it also increases the likelihood of heart disease, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, strokes, high blood pressure and a risk to unborn babies of pregnant women who smoke.
2. No or moderate alcohol drinking
Heavy alcohol consumption is another lifestyle factor contributing to the increased risk of cancers in various sites of the body -- colorectal, breast, oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, and liver and possibly to a higher risk of cancers of the lung, pancreas, stomach, and gallbladder.
Moderate alcohol consumption is defined as no more than 2 drinks a day for a man and no more 1 drink a day for a woman.
If you currently don't drink beverages containing alcohol, don't start. Consuming alcohol should only be done in moderation and never drink and drive.
3. Maintain a healthy body weight for life
Excess weight contributes to a host of health problems with one of them being an increased risk of cancer. Cancers associated with obesity are esophagus, colorectal, pancreas, breast (after menopause), endometrium, kidney, and liver and probably increases risk of cancers in the ovaries, prostate (advanced only), and gallbladder.
Obesity is defined as having a body mass index or BMI of 30 or greater. Currently 38% of American adults are obese with 33% having a BMI of 25 to 29.9 which is defined as being overweight.
The key here is to not gain excess weight in the first place. Maintain a healthy body weight throughout your life is the way to go but, of course, this is easier said than done. Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight is possible when it is a priority in keeping you disease-free and out of doctor's offices.
4. Regular exercise
There's just no way around it, exercise is always going to be part of a healthy lifestyle. And a good thing it is as physical activity has been linked to a lower risk of cancers in the colorectum, breast, and endometrium.
The study showed that exercising at a moderate intensity for at least 150 minutes or at a vigorous intensity for at least 75 minutes every week appears to help prevent cancer cases in individuals.
It just proves that exercise must be a healthy habit we all should participate in daily. Find physical activities you enjoy doing to want to keep your interest. Make the time, make it fun and you will be successful in making exercise a routine lifestyle habit.
Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery and is an expert in robotic prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and professor of urology at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News Channel's Medical A-Team Learn more at roboticoncology.com. Visit Dr. Samadi's blog at SamadiMD.com. Follow Dr. Samadi on Twitter, Instagram, Pintrest and Facebook.