Second to heart disease, cancer is a leading cause of illness and death in the united states accounting for one in four deaths. Recent data shows one in three adults have cancer; most of us know at least one person who has fought the disease.
Cancer is characterized by abnormal cell growth that can spread throughout the body, damaging internal organs and body tissue. It begins when a single cell splits abnormally and no longer functions as it should. These abnormal cells multiply at a fast rate, which is why early detection can significantly help one’s chances of survival. Almost half of all cancer deaths can be prevented with early detection and treatment.
With a disease like cancer ,some risk factors are controllable and some are completely out of our hands. The ones that are under our control include smoking, dietary intake, exposure to sunlight, and exposure to carcinogens. According to The American Cancer Society, one-third of cancer deaths were related to nutrition, exercise, obesity, and other lifestyle factors. Making just a few small changes in these areas can significantly reduce your cancer risk. For those of us with a family history of cancer, this is especially important; it means that we have some control with prevention.
Here are five simple steps we can all take to lower our cancer risk.
1.) Eat your fruits and vegetables. I know… this isn’t something new. But it is the number one recommendation for disease prevention, decreasing cholesterol, reducing blood pressure, and weight loss. Even though the advice is something we've heard often, we don't do a good job following it: The average adult in the US eats only two servings of fruits and vegetables a day. To really kick disease prevention into gear ,you want to aim for five to nine servings fruits and vegetables each day. Why? These foods have a complex make up of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients that have shown to protect against various cancers and other diseases. The American Institute for Cancer Research estimates that there would be 20 percent fewer cancer cases if we eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. So try adding some veggies to your scrambled eggs, have a fruit smoothie for breakfast, or order a vegetable soup or a salad on the side next time you eat out. (And yes, strawberries dipped in chocolate do count!)
2.) Eat more plant-based foods. Other than fruits and vegetables, plant-based foods such as whole grains, beans, and lentils also provide cancer protection. These foods are also high in fiber, which may reduce the risk of certain cancers and heart disease. Stock up on bean and lentil soups, sprinkle chickpeas or kidney beans on your salad, swtich from white bread and pastas to whole-grain products, or snack on some hummus with whole grain crackers and/or carrot sticks.