February is Cancer Prevention Month. Did you know that four out of 10 cancer cases in the US are associated with preventable risk factors? Below is a guide for helping you and your loved ones reduce your risk of developing cancer.
Cancer develops when the DNA of normal cells changes and triggers the cells to multiply rapidly. While some cancer risk factors–such as age, race/ethnicity, and inherited genetic characteristics–cannot be controlled, other risk factors–like environmental exposure and lifestyle–are within our control. In fact, almost 20% of cancers are related to excess body weight, alcohol intake, poor diet, and physical inactivity.
What can you do to reduce your risk?
According to the American Cancer Society, tobacco use is associated with 30% of cancer deaths in the United States. Both smoking and chewing tobacco are linked to the development of several cancers (i.e. lung, mouth, throat, voice box, pancreas, bladder, cervix and kidney). Even being around secondhand smoke might increase the risk of lung cancer.
Smoking cessation can improve your health almost immediately after quitting and is beneficial at any age. In fact, cancer risk can be reduced by 50% just 10 years after cessation. There are many tools to help you quit, discuss which options might be right for you with your doc
Eat a healthy diet and maintain a healthy weight
Maintaining a healthy weight and eating a healthy diet are strongly associated with reduced cancer risk. The CDC states that being overweight or obese increases your risk of 13 different types of cancers including breast, thyroid, liver, pancreas, kidneys, uterus, ovarian and colon.
Consider the following tips for improving your diet and maintaining a healthy weight:
- Go plant-based. Eating plenty of plant foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes) assures a high intake of fiber, antioxidants and micronutrients. These nutrients are important for satiety, a healthy gut, reducing oxidative damage of the cells. Replacing all animal fats/oils with plant-based ones also helps. A vegetarian and/or vegan diet are also associated with overall reduced risk and a healthy weight.
- Avoid processed and charred meat. Processed meats (ham, bacon, and any type of encased meat) are classified as a Group 1 carcinogen (known to cause cancer) by the World Health Organization. The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), also identified heterocyclic amines (HCAs) which are formed when meat, poultry and fish are charred, as known carcinogens.
- Consume alcohol moderately or not at all. The American Cancer Society recommends no more than two drinks per day for men and one for women (5 oz wine, 1.5 oz of liquor, or 12 oz of beer). However, even moderate drinking increases cancer risk. The American Society of Clinical Oncology states 4% of cancer related deaths in the United States are related to any alcohol consumption. Alcohol is linked to an increased risk of cancers of the mouth and throat, breast, liver and colon, and probably also the stomach and pancreas. Heavy drinking can cause cirrhosis of the liver, which is a major risk factor for liver cancer.
Be physically active
Regular physical activity is thought to lower the risk of breast cancer and colon cancer. It can also help you reach and/or maintain a healthy weight. On the other hand, a sedentary lifestyle is linked to cancer and other health risks. In fact, sitting for long periods of time even among people who exercise regularly.
The CDC recommends sticking with one of the following in their Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans:
- At least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity (walking, gardening, yoga), or
- 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity (running, elliptical, walking on an incline), or
- An equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.
- Children and teens should get at least one hour of moderate or vigorous activity each day.
- Additional activity above this level can provide extra benefits.
Protect yourself from the sun
Exposure to the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun or tanning beds is a major risk factor for skin cancer. People with light skin are at greatest risk, but darker-skinned people of all ethnicities can still get skin cancer. Reducing sun exposure is the best way to prevent skin cancer.
- Apply sunscreen daily. Look for products that block UVA and UVB rays and the higher the better. Use even on cloudy days and be sure to reapply every 2 hours if outside.
- Stay in the shade or create your own. Wearing hats, sunglasses, and SPF protective clothing can help block harmful rays.
- Avoid midday sun. The UV index is highest and most dangerous between 10 AM and 4 PM.
- Don't use tanning beds or sunlamps. These are just as dangerous as the sun.
Get vaccinated and avoid risky behaviors
As a result of protecting against viral infections, vaccinations and smart lifestyle choices protect against some cancers.
Discuss the following vaccinations with your healthcare provider.
- Human papillomavirus (HPV). Almost all cases of cervical cancer, as well as many cases of head and neck and anal cancers, could be prevented by HPV vaccination which is recommended for girls and boys ages 11 and 12. Gardasil 9 was recently approved by the FDA for males and females ages 9 to 45.
- Hepatitis B. Hepatitis B can increase the risk of developing liver cancer. Adults at high risk of getting hepatitis B are people who have sex with more than one partner, people who have one sexual partner who has sex with others, and people with sexually transmitted infections. Others at high risk are people who inject illegal drugs or public safety workers who might have contact with infected blood or body fluids.
Some behaviors increase the risk of infections that can lead to certain cancers. Therefore, utilizing the below guidelines reduces risk:
- Practice safe sex. Always use a condom and limit the number of sexual partners to reduce your exposure to HIV or HPV. People who have HIV or AIDS have a higher risk of cancer of the anus, liver and lung. HPV might also increase the risk of cancer of the anus, penis, throat, vulva and vagina.
- Don't share needles. Utilizing shared needles can lead to hepatitis B and C as well as HIV. All of which increase the risk of liver cancer.
Get screened regularly
Some cancers can be detected early by self screening and/or regular testing. Diagnosing precancerous abnormalities such as cervical dysplasia, abnormal breast tissue or colon polyps can prevent a progression to cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends routine screening for breast cancer, cervical cancer and colon cancer, as well as regular visual exams for skin cancer; opinions are mixed about prostate cancer screening. Lung cancer and liver cancer screening are recommended only for people at high risk. Ask your healthcare provider about the best cancer screening schedule for you.
Reduce environmental risk factors
The below chemicals can increase cancer risk if exposed. Speak with your healthcare provider if you suspect exposure.
Asbestos – mineral fibers found in some construction materials,
Arsenic – present in drinking water in some areas
Benzene – present in gasoline fumes and cigarette smoke
Formaldehyde – a preservative and disinfectant
Radon – a radioactive gas released from radioactive elements naturally found in rocks and soil in some areas. Invisible and odorless, the gas can seep into homes, especially basement.
Despite widespread myths, there is no convincing evidence that artificial sweeteners, deodorants or antiperspirants, power lines or radiation from cell phones are associated with increased cancer risk.
You can empower yourself and your loved ones to reduce your risk for certain cancers. However, in some cases, your risk of cancer or exposure to certain carcinogens may have been drastically increased at no fault of your own. Meyers & Flowers is dedicated to protecting those who developed cancer due to risk factors out of their control and within someone else's.
For example,Takeda, the largest pharmaceutical company in Japan, released Actos (pioglitazone), a drug designed to lower blood sugar levels in patients with type II diabetes. In June of 2011 more than 10 years later, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning about the risk of bladder cancer for long-term use of the Actos, which was defined as using the drug for longer than a year. Simultaneously, France and Germany removed the drug from the market due to the risk of bladder cancer. Due to Takeda’s negligence in informing the public of the cancer risk, victims developed bladder cancer that may have been avoided.
Meyers & Flowers Law Firm represented those victims and reached a $2.4 billion settlement for 9,000 victims who developed bladder cancer while taking the medication. This is the second largest settlement paid to victims targeting side effects for a drug that is still on the market.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer due to someone else’s negligence, we may be able to help. Seeking the advice of a knowledgeable and experienced trial attorney is the first step to ensuring fair and complete compensation for your claim. Contact us at 630-576-9696 for your free, no obligation case evaluation.