More than 1 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer every year. Men have a 1 in 2 chance of developing cancer during their lifetimes. For women, the risk is 1 in 3. In the U.S. more than 13 million people are actively battling cancer or have survived the fight. Cancer has numerous causes, only some of which we understand.
We know that smoking, alcohol abuse, unprotected sun exposure and genetics can increase the risk of developing certain cancers. In fact, our lifestyle choices may play a significant role in cancer risk and prevention. Researchers are discovering that the same healthy lifestyle choices that can decrease the risk of heart disease and diabetes may also decrease cancer risk.
“We know that we can prevent about a third of all cancers if people would maintain a healthy weight, eat a plant-based diet and be physically active,” American Institute for Cancer Research dietitian Alice Bender told AARP.
People who make healthy choices about diet, exercise and weight control — the Big 3 of cancer prevention — can significantly reduce their chance of developing cancer and, should cancer develop, improve their odds of survival.
- Weight. Maintaining a healthy weight may be the most critical step people can take to reduce cancer risk. People who are overweight or obese experience higher rates of many cancers.
- Diet. Eating a Mediterranean diet rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, whole grains, olive oil and fish has been shown to reduce cancer risk.
- Exercise. Regular physical exercise aids weight control, boosts the immune system and may aid cancer prevention.