Six ways to reduce your risk of cancer in the new year

Advancing Your Health | Jan. 24, 2014

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Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University, Georgia's first and only National Cancer Institute Designated Cancer Center, counts more than 50 rare and common cancers among its research and clinical care programs.

It’s that time of year when we resolve to start fresh and break old habits, but did you know that some of the most common New Year's resolutions could also help reduce your risk of cancer? Nearly 1.7 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in 2014 and many cases could be prevented by taking steps to decrease risk.

According to Dr. Walter Curran, Executive Director of the Winship Cancer Institute, here are six ways to cut your chances of developing cancer:

  • Stop smoking or never start: cigarette smoking is the major cause of lung cancer and many other cancers. Doctors recommend you stay away from all tobacco products and byproducts, including second hand smoke. Winship Cancer Institute is offering a step-by-step program developed by the American Lung Association to help you quit.
  • Watch what you eat and drink: obesity is increasingly proven to be a major risk factor for certain cancers. Eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Limit red and processed meat consumption. Cut down on alcohol consumption; experts recommend no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.
  • Get physical: an active lifestyle is critical for your overall health and well-being, but studies show regular exercise can reduce the risk of a variety of cancers.
  • Practice sun safety: protect yourself from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation by wearing sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. Tanning beds and sunlamps are also associated with increased risk of skin cancer, so stay away.
  • Get screened: early detection of certain cancers can make a difference in treatment and recovery. Women at average risk for breast cancer should have a clinical breast exam and mammogram every year starting at age 40. Cervical cancer screening is now recommended every five years for women at average risk between the ages of 30 and 65. Men and women 50 and older should begin screening for colorectal cancer with a colonoscopy or other early detection method approved by a physician.
  • Know your family history: some cancers run in families, but before you ask for genetic testing, it’s important to know that most cancers are not linked to genes inherited from our parents. Your doctor can help you determine the right course of action.

For more tips on cancer prevention and treatment, see Emory Healthcare's Advancing Your Health: Cancer blog.