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Small Changes Can Help Prevent Cancer

Making small changes could make a big difference in preventing cancer.

Avoid preventable risk factors by incorporating these guidelines into of your lifestyle.

Three choices can make a vast difference in increasing your odds for staying healthy and keeping yourself in check.

Don’t Smoke Tobacco

Smoking damages nearly every organ in the human body, is linked to at least 15 different cancers, accounts for about 30 percent of all cancer deaths and costs billions of dollars each year, according to the American Cancer Society.

In the United States, cigarette smoking is responsible for about 90 percent of all cases of lung cancer — the leading cause of cancer death. Smoking cigars and pipes or chewing tobacco isn’t safe either.

“The importance of not smoking cannot be over emphasized in the prevention of cancer,” says Dr. Thomas Johnson, oncologist with Sacred Heart Medical Oncology Group. “Quitting is imperative for anyone who uses tobacco. Even people who have used tobacco for many years reduce their risk of cancer by quitting, as compared to people who continue to use tobacco.”

Toss Cigarettes Away“The predisposition for lung cancer does run in families,” Johnson says. “Smokers with relatives who have contracted lung cancer are at extremely high risk for developing cancer themselves, due to their genetic makeup.

You will often see multiple cases of lung cancer in a family that has a history of COPD, emphysema or lung cancer — those family members are predisposed to cancer and should not smoke.

Tobacco use alone increases their risk of cancer by 10 to 20 percent.”

Eat Healthy Foods and Get Regular Exercise

Fully one-third of cancer deaths are linked to poor diet, physical inactivity and carrying excess weight.

The American Cancer Society recommends that you limit foods high in fat, eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day and limit alcohol, if you drink it at all. Include moderate physical activity (such as brisk walking) for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week to help achieve or maintain a healthy weight.

“Being overweight increases cancer risk by causing the body to produce and circulate more of the hormones estrogen and insulin, which can stimulate cancer growth,” said Dr. Dee McLeod, oncologist with Sacred Heart Medical Oncology Group. “Studies suggest that people whose diet is high in fat have an increased risk of cancers of the colon, uterus and prostate. Lack of physical activity and being overweight are risk factors for cancers of the breast, colon, esophagus, kidney and uterus.”

Avoid Harmful Sun Exposure

Most skin cancer occurs on exposed parts of your body, including your face, hands, forearms and ears. When going out in the sun keep these tips in mind: Avoid peak hours of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., stay in the shade, cover exposed skin with clothes and hats and use sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15.Get immunized

Certain cancers are associated with viral infections that can be prevented with immunizations. Talk to your doctor about immunization against Hepatitis B and the Human Papilloma Virus.

Get Health Screenings

“For many types of cancer, by the time that there are symptoms, the cancer is too far advanced to achieve a cure,” McLeod says. “Cancer screenings identify those at high-risk for cancer, and to be most useful, must detect cancers before symptoms would cause a person to seek care. Early detection is so often a key factor in successful treatment.”

Screenings should include tests to detect cancers of your skin, mouth, colon and rectum. If you’re a man, it should also include your prostate and testes. If you’re a woman, add cervix and breast cancer screening to your list. Visit www.cancer.org to find the American Cancer Society Guidelines for Early Detection of Cancer.

For more information on cancer prevention and treatment, visit The SacredHeart Cancer Center.