alive logo

10 Ways to Reduce Cancer Risk

Simple lifestyle choices = significant effects


There are a variety of factors, including lifestyle choices and supplement options, that can reduce your risk of cancer and aid in cancer prevention.

Despite estimates that 40 percent of Canadian women and 45 percent of men will develop cancer during their lifetimes, there are a variety of factors, including lifestyle choices and supplement options, that can reduce your risk. Consider the following suggestions to help maintain overall health and aid in cancer prevention.

1. Protect yourself from excessive sun exposure.

A certain amount of exposure to natural sunlight is important for good health. But too much exposure can cause skin cancer, of which Australia has the highest incidence in the world. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, accounting for an estimated 80 per cent of all new cancer cases in Australia.

To lower your skin cancer risk, avoid sun overexposure without protection during peak UV times of the day (10 am to 4 pm), especially in summer. Wear protective clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and long sleeves and pants, if spending long periods in the sun, and use a natural sunblock with an SPF of at least 15, reapplying regularly according to the manufacturer's directions.

Evidence suggests that along with practising good sun-sense, consuming certain nutrients may help protect your skin from sun-related damage. These nutrients include apigenin, a flavonoid found in broccoli, celery, onions, tomatoes, apples, cherries and grapes, and in tea and wine. Also protective is curcumin, which is found in turmeric; resveratrol, found in grapes, red wine and peanuts; and quercetin, commonly found in onions and apples.

2. Say no to smoke

Tobacco use is the single most important risk factor for cancer. It is the cause of nearly 20 percent of all fatal cancers in Australia and a main cause of lung cancer, one of the most preventable cancers. Lung cancer is also the most fatal of all types of cancer, worldwide. So eliminating and/or reducing your exposure to tobacco smoke is simply a no-brainer. If you don't smoke, keep up the good work but be aware second-hand smoke from others affects you.

Research has shown that nonsmokers who live with a smoker have a 24 percent increase in risk for developing lung cancer when compared with other nonsmokers. Encourage family members and friends to quit by helping them to find smoking cessation programs or techniques—health care practitioners can recommend effective quitting aids, and an employer may offer programs to help smokers quit, as part of a benefits package.

3. Don't forget D

Numerous studies have indicated that people with lower vitamin D levels in their blood have an increased risk of developing cancer compared to those who have higher levels of D. In a 2008 study of 512 women, vitamin D deficiency was linked to a poorer prognosis in breast cancer patients.

Although vitamin D deficiency was found to be associated with higher grade breast cancer tumours, and patients with vitamin D deficiency also demonstrated an increased risk of recurrence and lower overall survival rates than those patients with sufficient vitamin D levels, the lead author later pointed out that the associations are only observed when blood was drawn after diagnosis. When data was analyzed looking at blood drawn before diagnosis, there was no association.

While evidence suggests a link between vitamin D and prevention of some cancers, consuming too much vitamin D may be harmful. The Institutes of Health, on behalf of the US and Canadian governments, released new recommendations for vitamin D is no more than 80 µg a day, with 5 µg a day sufficient for healthy adults under 50 years old. For those with dark skin or who have no exposure to sunlight, a supplement of 10 µg a day is considered safe. Note that most Aussies get enough vitamin D from incidenta daily sun exposure.

4. Grabba cuppa green

A cup of tea can kick-start your day with a boost of health-enhancing antioxidants. Green tea is rich in polyphenols, a group of plant chemicals that include antioxidants called catechins. These antioxidants may help to prevent certain cancers.

Studies have linked tea consumption to reduced risks of cancers of the colon, breast, ovary, prostate, and lung. Not a tea drinker? Green tea supplements have shown to be effective as well.

In one study, 60 men who had a condition that is considered to be a precursor of prostate cancer were divided into two groups. Men in one group took 600 mg of green tea catechin supplements daily, while men in the other group received placebo. After one year, significantly fewer prostate cancers were detected in the green tea catechin group.

5. Make it a multi

Getting essential nutrients is an important factor for supporting your body and immune system and preventing disease. By following the Australian government's recommendations for healthy eating, you can reduce your risk of certain types of cancer, as well as other diseases.

But sometimes diet alone can be tricky, due to a busy lifestyle. In order to meet your vitamin, mineral, and nutrient needs, supplement with a multivitamin to help with any deficiencies in your diet and to prevent disease.

There is also indication that multivitamins can play a role in cancer prevention for infants; after reviewing studies spanning 45 years, researchers concluded that maternal ingestion of prenatal multivitamins was shown to be associated with a decreased risk for pediatric brain tumours, neuroblastoma, and leukemia.

6. Get busy

Good sexual health could translate to better physical health, strengthening our immune system and helping to prevent disease. Having sex one to two times a week has been associated with higher levels of an antibody called immunoglobulin A (IgA), thus boosting the immune system.

As well, there may even be a relationship between sex and prostate cancer. In a study published in the British Journal of Urology International, researchers concluded that men who maintained a regular sex life in their 50s were also at lower risk of developing prostate cancer.

7. Go for the smelly stuff

Garlic has been used medicinally for thousands of years and is one of the oldest of all cultivated plants. Garlic is now used to help prevent heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, and to improve the immune system.

Several studies have shown the cancer-protective activity of garlic by using different garlic preparations including aged garlic, fresh garlic extract, garlic oil, and certain organosulphur compounds derived from garlic.

Studies have indicated that people with more raw or cooked garlic in their diet are less likely to develop some types of cancer, particularly cancers of the stomach or colon. A review of seven studies revealed a 30 per cent reduction in risk of colorectal cancer among people who consumed a high amount of raw or cooked garlic.

8. Reduce the booze

Although most Australians who drink alcohol do so in moderation, others may misuse it, with very negative health consequences. An estimated one in five Australians are believed to engage in high-risk drinking. Heavy drinking can contribute to many debilitating chronic diseases, including cancer.

Overall, a causal relationship has been noted between alcohol consumption and over 60 types of injury and disease. According to data from the World Health Organization, alcohol is estimated to be responsible for about 20 to 30 percent of worldwide esophageal cancer, liver cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, homicide, epilepsy, and motor vehicle accidents.

To reduce the riisk of developing cancer, the Australian Cancer COuncil recommends abstaining from alcohol altogether, arguing that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption. For those who choose to drink, the Cancer Council recommends no more than two standard drinks a day.

9. Seek vitamin C

Vitamin C is an important antioxidant that helps maintain the health of blood vessels, tendons, ligaments, bones, gums, and teeth. Evidence also indicates that vitamin C and fruit consumption may be linked to a reduced risk of stomach cancer.

The association between fruit and vegetable consumption and the risk of stomach cancer was assessed in a study of approximately 29,000 males, aged 50 to 69. Scientists from the US National Cancer Institute and National Public Health Institute of Finland reported that fruit and vitamin C intake reduced risk of non-cardia cancer, a major form of stomach cancer, by approximately 45 per cent.

Make sure to supplement if your levels are low—check the NHMRC website for recommended dosages.

10. Bust some moves

Up to 35 per cent of all cancers can be prevented by being active, eating well, and keeping a healthy body weight. Physical activity is associated in particular with a reduction in risk of cancers of the colon and breast.

Over 50 studies worldwide have examined the relationship between exercise and colon cancer, and many studies have consistently found that adults who increase their physical activity, either in intensity, duration, or frequency, can lessen their risk of developing colon cancer by 30 to 40 per cent.

More than 60 published studies of exercise and breast cancer risk indicate that physically active women have a lower risk of developing breast cancer than do inactive women. While a lifetime of regular, vigorous exercise is thought to be the most beneficial, women who increase their physical activity after menopause may also have a reduced risk compared with women who are not active.

The majority of studies suggest that 30 to 60 minutes daily of moderate- to high-intensity physical activity is associated with a reduction of cancers of the colon and breast.



Hollywood Balancing Act

Hollywood Balancing Act

Drawing on martial arts philosophy, Peter Jang finds mind-body balance in a decade-plus career

Shawn RadcliffeShawn Radcliffe