Will you be able to avoid cancer?

Although I typically discuss autoimmune disease, and lupus, my background in health education is leading me to expand my blog to timely health topics as well… and this is one of them.

We have good news in the world of cancer! Deaths from the most common types of cancer have decreased over the last 20 years. The American Cancer Society’s annual report, Cancer Statistics, 2012, estimates that the overall death rates from cancer have decreased by about 23 percent in men and 15 percent in women. Over one million deaths from cancer have been avoided, according to these percentages. Lung, colon, breast and prostate cancers are responsible for most cancer deaths, and those were the cancers on the decline, according to ACS’s report.

Unfortunately, there has been an increase in new cases of cancer for pancreas, liver, thyroid, kidney, melanoma, esophageal adenocarcinoma (a throat cancer related to the HPV virus). The ACS attributes the rise in these less common types of cancer to the increasing problem of obesity. The sad facts, from ACS, are that there will be  an estimated 1.6 million new cases of cancer in 2012, and over half a million deaths from it.

What does this mean for us?

As always, overall health and wellness is your best defense against cancer. It’s not always possible to avoid cancer completely, but there are certainly behaviors that you can avoid to decrease your risk.

Prevention – As Best As You Can

The American Cancer Society recommends the following to decrease your risk, and try to prevent cancer:

1- Stay Away From Tobacco – Tobacco is responsible for 1 in 5 deaths in the United States.

Quitting smoking, and smokeless tobacco products, is the best thing you can do for your overall health. Of course it is highly addictive and will take more than one try to quit in nearly all situations.

The Surgeon General outlines health reasons to quit smoking: Health benefits of quitting begin immediately upon quitting. Your lungs will start to repair some of the damage done to them, and as time goes on it only improves more. Associated disease risks immediately decrease. Former smokers live longer than current smokers. The number one killers, heart disease, stroke, and cancer are significantly decreased when you quit. It’s never too late to give your body a chance to heal some of the damage from tobacco use.

Want to learn more about this topic in particular? Check out the ACS link: http://www.cancer.org/Healthy/StayAwayfromTobacco/index

2- Eat Healthy & Get Active – Poor diet, and inactivity are 2 key factors in increasing individual cancer risk.

It’s important to:
Get to, and stay at a healthy weight.
Be physically active on a regular basis
Make healthy food choices.

According to ACS, about half a million people die from cancer each year, and 1/3 of these cancer deaths are related to poor diet, physical inactivity and obesity.

Want to learn more about this particular topic:

3- Be Safe in the Sun

Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers, according to ACS. It accounts for about half of all cancers in this country. Decrease your risk by avoiding the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.; Seek shade; Wear a shirt; Use sunscreen; Wear a hat and sunglasses; Avoid other sources of UV light (such as tanning beds and sun lamps).

Want to learn more about this topic:

What’s another way to be sure you don’t die from cancer?

Early detection.

Breast Cancer

Yearly mammograms are recommended for women over 40. Clinical breast exams every three years for women in their 20s and 30s are also important. Breast self exams are important for all women starting in their 20s.

Colorectal Cancer & Polyps

At age 50, men and women should be tested for polyps & cancer using colonoscopy every 10 years. There are alternative tests that can be used, and are done on a 5 year basis. These tests are designed for early detection and removal of suspicious areas. It’s important to be tested to prevent any areas from spreading.

Cervical Cancer

All women should be screened when sexually active, or starting at the age of 21. It should be an annual screening – known as the Pap test. If a women is 30 years old, and has had 3 normal Pap tests in a row, the screening can decrease to 2 or 3 years. You should talk to your doctor about what is right for you.

To learn more about early detection and different cancers check out:


What’s important?

Be as healthy as you can and avoid behaviors that are known to increase your cancer risk. If you live long enough – there is always going to be a risk of cancer, but why shorten your life and increase your risk if you don’t have to?

American Cancer Society – www.cancer.org