Most cancers don’t develop overnight or out of nowhere. Cancer is largely predictable, the end result of a decades-long process, but just a few simple changes in your daily life can significantly reduce your risk. Here are 21 great tips.
Your Lucky 21
- Get Tested. One of the best ways to stay ahead of cancer is to be tested regularly. The most common of these tests include mammographies for testing of breast cancer, colonoscopies for testing of colorectal cancer, and PSA testing for prostate cancer. See your doctor if you have a family history of cancer so that the proper testing can be done.
- Eat your fill of broccoli, but steam it rather than microwaving it. Broccoli is a cancer-preventing superfood, one you should eat frequently. But take note: A Spanish study found that microwaving broccoli destroys 97 percent of the vegetable’s cancer-protective flavonoids. So steam it, eat it raw as a snack, or add it to soups and salads.
- Get about 15 minutes of sunlight on your skin each day. You’ve heard of the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D haven’t you? Turns out we’ve been so good at heeding advice to slather on sun lotion and avoid the sun’s rays that many of us aren’t getting enough of this valuable nutrient. Researchers find that getting too little vitamin D may increase your risk of multiple cancers, including breast, colon, prostate, ovarian, and stomach, as well as osteoporosis, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and high blood pressure. The best source? Exposure to UVB rays found in natural and artificial sunlight. About 15 minutes a day ought to do it. Avoid overexposure, of course. That can increase your risk for cancers of the skin. You can also get vitamin D in your calcium supplement if you choose a supplement that contains both.
- Pop a calcium supplement with vitamin D. A study out of Dartmouth Medical School suggests that these supplements reduce colon polyps (a risk factor for colon cancer) in people susceptible to the growths.
- Add garlic to everything you eat. Garlic contains sulfur compounds that may stimulate the immune system’s natural defenses against cancer, and may have the potential to reduce tumor growth. Studies suggest that garlic can reduce the incidence of stomach cancer by as much as a factor of 12!
- Coat barbecue food with a thick sauce. Grilling meat can create a variety of cancer-causing chemicals. But researchers from the American Institute for Cancer Research found that coating the meat with a thick marinade and thereby preventing direct contact with the charring flames reduced the amount of such chemicals created. Another tip: Precook your meat in the oven and then throw it on the grill to finish.
- Every week, buy a cantaloupe at the grocery store and cut it up after you put away your groceries. Store it in a container and eat several pieces every morning. Cantaloupe is a great source of carotenoids, plant chemicals shown to significantly reduce the risk of lung cancer.
- Mix half a cup of blueberries into your morning cereal. Blueberries rank #1 in terms of their antioxidant power. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, which are unstable compounds that can damage cells and lead to diseases including cancer.
- Learn to eat artichokes tonight. Artichokes are a great source of silymarin, an antioxidant that may help prevent skin cancer. To eat these delicious veggies, peel off the tough outer leaves on the bottom, slice the bottom, and cut off the spiky top. Then boil or steam until tender, about 30-45 minutes. Drain. Dip each leaf in a vinaigrette or garlic mayonnaise, then gently tear the fibrous covering off with your front teeth, working your way inward to the tender heart. Once there, gently scoop the bristles from the middle of the heart, dip in a little butter or lemon juice, and enjoy!
- Limit Your Alcohol Intake. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol regularly increases your risk factor for many types of cancer. Studies suggest that men who consume 2 alcoholic drinks per day and women who have 1 alcoholic drink per day significantly increase their risk factors for certain types of cancer. And any alcohol consumption can be hazardous to your long-and-short-term health, so be careful with that stuff!
- Every time you go to the bathroom,stop by the kitchen or water cooler for a glass of water. A major study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1996 found that men who drank six 8-ounce glasses of water every day slashed their risk of bladder cancer in half. Another study linked the amount of water women drank to their risk of colon cancer, with heavy water drinkers reducing their risk up to 45 percent.
- Take up a tea habit. The healing powers of green tea have been valued in Asia for thousands of years. In the West, new research reveals that it protects against a variety of cancers as well as heart disease. Some scientists believe that a chemical in green tea called EGCG could be one of the most powerful anticancer compounds ever discovered.
- Throw some salmon on the grill tonight. Australian researchers studying Canadians (go figure) found those who ate four or more servings of fish per week were nearly one-third less likely to develop the blood cancers leukemia, myeloma, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Other studies show a link between eating fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, halibut, sardines, and tuna, as well as shrimp and scallops) with a reduced risk of endometrial cancer in women. Ah, those amazing omega-3s at it again!
- Take a multivitamin 5 days a week. Many studies suggest getting the ideal levels of vitamins and minerals can improve your immune system function and help prevent a variety of cancers. But men, be careful as the intake of too many minerals may lead to a condition that leads to prostate cancer.
- Carry a shot glass in your beach bag. Then fill it with sunscreen and rub it all over your body. A shot glass holds about 1.5 ounces, which is how much sunscreen dermatologists estimate you need to protect yourself from the cancer-causing UV rays of the sun. Repeat every two hours.
- Cut a kiwifruit in half, then scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Now eat! Kiwi is a little hand grenade of cancer-fighting antioxidants, including vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein, and copper. You can also rub a couple of cut kiwifruit on a low-fat cut of meat as a tenderizer.
- Have your partner feed you grapes. They’re great sources of resveratrol, the cancer-protecting compound found in wine, but don’t have the alcohol of wine, which can increase the risk of breast cancer in women. Plus, the closeness such an activity engenders (we hope) strengthens your immune system.
- Sprinkle scallions over your salad. A diet high in onions may reduce the risk of prostate cancer 50 percent. But the effects are strongest when they’re eaten raw or lightly cooked. So try scallions, Vidalia onions, shallots, or chives for a milder taste.
- Make a batch of fresh lemonade or limeade. A daily dose of citrus fruits may cut the risk of mouth, throat, and stomach cancers by half, Australian researchers found.
- Take a 30-minute walk every evening after dinner. That’s all it takes to reduce your breast cancer risk, according to a study from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. It turns out that moderate exercise reduces levels of estrogen, a hormone that contributes to breast cancer. When 170 overweight, couch potato women ages 50-75 did some form of moderate exercise for about three hours a week, levels of circulating estrogen dropped significantly after three months. After a year, those who lost at least 2 percent of their body fat had even greater decreases in estrogen. Another study linked four hours a week of walking or hiking with cutting the risk of pancreatic cancer in half. The benefits are probably related to improved insulin metabolism due to the exercise.
- Call up your pals and hit the bowling lanes or golf fairways. A study from the State University of New York at Stony Brook found that men with high levels of stress and those with less satisfying contacts with friends and family members had higher levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in their blood, a marker for the development of prostate cancer.