Heart disease and cancer are the two leading causes of death in this country. Both diseases come in many forms. Whether it is a personal diagnosis of cancer or the loss of a loved one to the disease, most people have been touched by cancer in some way.
According to the American Cancer Society, cancer is “a group of diseases characterized by the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells.” While progress in treating and preventing the disease is being made, it continues to devastate many lives. Researchers estimate that over 1.7 million people received a new diagnosis of cancer in 2019, and nearly 607,000 Americans lost their lives. That statistics translates to 1,660 deaths per day.
Is Cancer Preventable?
While the majority of cancer diagnoses are considered unavoidable, the American Cancer Society estimates that 42% of cases may have been prevented with lifestyle modifications. Their cancer prevention recommendations include:
- Stop smoking: Researchers say 19% of all cancers can be linked to tobacco use. Smoking is believed to cause cancer in the lungs, blood, bladder, colon, cervix, throat, esophagus, pancreas, liver, larynx, and stomach. Using smokeless tobacco can increase your risk for esophagus, mouth, throat, and pancreatic cancer. Stop smoking and give up smokeless tobacco to lower your risk of cancer.
- Avoid sun and tanning bed exposure: Experts say that many new cases of skin cancer—which total nearly five million each year—are preventable. Limiting sun exposure, wearing sunscreen if you are outside or riding in a car, and avoiding tanning beds may help lower your risk for skin cancer.
- Prevent infectious agents: A combination of lifestyle changes and vaccinations may also lower your exposure to some infectious agents which are related to certain cancers. These include human papillomavirus (HPV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori).
- Schedule regular health screenings: It is important to have an annual physical and any tests or screenings recommended by your physician. These can help detect some forms of cancer in the earliest, most treatable stages of the disease. A mammogram to detect breast cancer, a colonoscopy or other approved screening for colon and rectal cancer, a pap test to detect cervical cancer, and a prostate screening are often recommended. Physicians may also advise a low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) or other screening for adults who smoke.
- Monitor your weight: According to the National Cancer Institute, being overweight or obese can increase your risk for some forms of cancer. These can include cancer of the kidney, esophagus, colon, pancreas, breast, and gallbladder. Maintaining a healthy weight may help you avoid these types of cancer.
In addition to the prevention steps outlined above, experts say eating a healthy diet and exercising may also offer protection from cancer.
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