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8 Surprising Ways To Cut Your Cancer Risk

September 27, 2022

There are no surefire ways to avoid cancer. The often-random nature of the disease – which comes in more than 100 different types – means that everyone is at risk.

But there are ways to reduce that risk. Some of them – stop smoking, for example – are obvious. But there are some lesser-known steps you can take to reduce your risk for cancer, in general, or for specific cancers.

Skip Alcohol – Or at Least Drink in Moderation

It’s common to see alcohol moderation listed when it comes to staying healthy. In the case of cancer, it’s related to how the body breaks down alcohol into a chemical called acetaldehyde, which can cause damage to your DNA. When this occurs, abnormal cell growth can create a cancerous tumor. There are several forms of cancer associated with alcohol use, including:

  • Mouth and throat
  • Voice box (larynx)
  • Esophagus
  • Colon and rectum
  • Liver
  • Breast (in women)

The ideal approach would be no alcohol consumption. But if you do drink, try to keep it to one drink a day or up to seven drinks in a week. And there’s no such thing as a preferred drink. Wines, beer and spirits are all linked to increase cancer risks

Limit Shift Work

One of the potential problems with working late shifts is that it disrupts your circadian rhythm, which is your body’s internal clock, responsible for keeping you on track for things like meals and sleeping. This can create additional stresses on your body, putting you in an inflammatory state. This, in turn, prompts your cells to make more copies, increasing the risk of a cancerous mutation.

Whether or not shift work directly causes cancer is still up for debate. But it does tend to contribute to other risk factors, including obesity, poor nutrition and not getting enough exercise.

Avoid Fried or Charred Meat

When meat gets fried or cooked at high temperatures on the grill, it can create carcinogenic substances – heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons – linked to increased cancer risks. This problem is made worse when the food is cooked well done or charred.

One way to mitigate this is by marinating your meat for at least 20 minutes before cooking, using antioxidants such as oregano, parsley, chili powder and rosemary.

Get Off the Couch

While researchers may argue over the cancer-fighting value of various vitamins and supplements, there is uniform agreement that exercise is not going to hurt you. And various pieces of research have pointed to several potential benefits, including:

  • Exercise lowers levels of sex hormones, including estrogen, which are linked to breast and colon cancer.
  • Physical activity reduces inflammation.
  • Your immune system can be boosted.
  • When you are active, your digestive system moves food through your body faster, decreasing exposure to potential carcinogens.

Don’t Skip Your Morning Coffee or Tea

For coffee and tea drinkers, this surely comes as good news. Black tea, green tea and coffee are  strong antioxidants. This follows with the general idea that deeply colored foods tend to be high in antioxidants.

Something to keep in mind, however, is that you can counter any health benefits by loading your favorite brew with too much sugar and creamer. Instead, consider adding things like cinnamon, unsweetened almond milk, melted dark chocolate or vanilla extract for extra flavor.

Don’t Forget Your Veggies

You can’t go wrong with any number of vegetables, including broccoli, cabbage, spinach and squash. Fruits are also good, including red grapes, peaches, strawberries and oranges. These are all high in the kind of anti-inflammatory antioxidants that boost your body’s defenses.

Also, avoid trying to replicate the nutritional value of these foods by taking vitamins or supplements. There’s debate in the medical community about the value of those supplements. You’re better off eating the real thing.

Eat Tree Nuts

Including nuts in your diet may help lower your overall cancer risk. Research has shown, for example, that colon cancer survivors who regularly eat nuts have a lower risk of seeing the cancer return. One study found that people who ate two or more servings a week had a 57 percent reduction in mortality.

Tree nuts include almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews and pecans. They do not include peanuts.

Avoid Post-Menopausal Weight Gain

Avoiding weight gain after menopause is one of the most important things you can do to protect you from breast cancer. Menopause, which typically starts at about age 50, occurs when your ovaries stop releasing eggs.

Accompanying these changes is a general increase in body weight and a shifting of fat to the abdomen. That extra fat tissue increases your estrogen levels and your breast cancer risk.

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