Identify and Reduce Cancer Risk Factors
- Carol Ann Read Breast Health Center
- Comprehensive Cancer Center Chemotherapy & Radiation Therapy
- High Dose Rate Brachytherapy Center
- Radiation Therapy Services
How Can You Reduce Your Risk?
There is a lot you can do to lower your risk for many types of cancers.
Eat Healthy Foods
You can lower your risk of some cancers by eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and by cutting back on saturated fat (solid fats found in meats and dairy products). Vitamin and mineral supplements with A, C, D, and E may also help lower your risk.
How you prepare your food is equally important as research has shown a connection between certain types of cancer and overcooked meat.
Guidelines to consider adopting to reduce your risk of cancer are:
- Eat more grains and vegetables, limit red meat and avoid processed meat
- Do not use any form of tobacco
- Limit your intake of alcohol
- Get plenty of exercise. Fast walking, jogging, bicycling, aerobic dance, or other activities that get your heart rate up will help. Aim for at least 20 or 30 minutes per day. Check with you doctor before starting an exercise program.
Get Screened for Cancer
There are other screening tests you should consider like colonoscopies, yearly mammograms and cervical PAP smears for women, prostate screening and DREs for men. You should discuss what tests you should have with your doctor.
Watch Your Weight
Being overweight can increase the risk of cancer, particularly in post menopausal women. Ask your doctor what your ideal weight should be for your age and height. If you weigh more than you should, you should consider losing the extra pounds. Exercise and smart eating will help. Lose weight slowly because “crash” diets almost always fail. Maintain a consistent healthy weight throughout life.
Too much stress may be a contributing factor in increasing the risk for all types of cancer. While you can’t always avoid situations that make you tense, you can ease the strain by practicing stress-reduction techniques, including meditation, deep breathing, mild exercise and yoga.
Smoking increases your risk of getting cancer and causes heart and lung diseases. If you smoke, you should try to quit. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. And stay away from people who do smoke to avoid exposure to second-hand smoke.
Limit Alcohol Intake
Doctors advise people who drink to do so in moderation. According to the American Cancer Society, drinking in moderation currently means no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men. If you have colorectal cancer, heavy consumption of alcohol may increase your risk of recurrence (National Cancer Institute).
If alcohol use is a problem for you or a loved one, Alta Bates Summit offers two substance abuse programs:
- MPI Chemical Dependency Treatment Program offers services for adults
- Thunder Road Adolescent Treatment Center helps adolescents stop the cycle of abuse
Practice Sun Safety
Stay out of the sun between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. when rays can be most harmful. When outside, wear a hat, long sleeves, pants and sunglasses and try to stay in the shade. Use sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 to 30 and reapply throughout the day. Avoid tanning booths and sunlamps. Check your skin regularly for anything new or for changes.
Cancer researchers are examining Vitamin D’s role in cancer risk reduction. Until more studies are done, the American Cancer Society recommends following the sun protection guidelines while getting Vitamin D from foods and supplements. Please talk to your physician about maintaining adequate Vitamin D levels while minimizing exposure to the sun.
A normal cell may become a cancer cell after a series of gene changes occur. Some gene changes that increase the risk of cancer are inherited, or passed on, from parent to child. These changes are present at birth in all cells of the body. It is uncommon for cancer to run in a family. However, certain types of cancer do occur more often in some families than in the rest of the population. These include: Melanoma, Breast, Ovary, Prostate, and Colon cancer.
If you or someone in your family has had cancer, and you are concerned about the risk of a cancer diagnosis for you or a loved one, you may decide to consider genetic testing (editor’s note, link to Genetic Counseling page).
For information on genetic counseling, please call 510-240-3056.
For more information on reducing risks for cancer, please call Markstein Cancer Education and Prevention Services at (510) 869-8833.
Additional Ways to Prevent Cancer
- Always follow instructions and safety tips to avoid or reduce contact with harmful substances both at work and at home.
- Women considering menopausal hormone therapy should discuss the possible risks and benefits with their doctor.
- If you live in an area that has radon, test your home for gas levels. The home radon test kit is easy to use, inexpensive and sold in most hardware stores.
- The Federal Drug Administration has approved a vaccine for the prevention of cervical cancer. Discuss this preventative treatment option with your primary care physician.
- Do not have unprotected sex or share needles.
- You may want to consider getting the vaccine that prevents hepatitis B infection.