Five cancer prevention tips

Survival has become reality for several types of cancer as researchers and clinicians have gained more information about the disease.

According to the American Cancer Society, cancer deaths have been on a steady decline the past two decades, including another 1.7 percent drop last year. Much of this can be attributed to cancer prevention efforts, which remain the key to reducing incidence and improving outcomes.

Knowledge is powerful, especially in cancer prevention. Here are five tips to help avoid cancer.

1. Schedule cancer screenings

When abnormal tissue or cancerous cells are found early, it is vastly easier to treat. Screening has had the most significant impact in preventing cancer and is a primary prevention strategy for a variety of cancers, including breast cancer, HPV-related malignancies, colorectal cancer, lung cancer and prostate cancer.

2. Get vaccinated

The top three cancers causing death in low-resource countries — liver cancer, stomach cancer and cervical cancer — are largely preventable through screening or vaccination. Research suggests that human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination, mainly used for the prevention of cervical cancer, may also help reduce head and neck cancers by lowering oral HPV infections.

3. Eat healthy

Maintain a healthy body weight and limit alcohol consumption. Between 5 and 6 percent of new cancer cases and deaths globally can be directly attributed to alcohol use. This is particularly concerning because, according to the National Cancer Opinion Survey conducted by ASCO in 2017, 70 percent of Americans do not recognize drinking alcohol as a risk factor for cancer. Excessive alcohol consumption can cause cancer and can delay or negatively affect cancer treatment.

4. Change your lifestyle

Exercise regularly and be active. Two leading causes of cancer-related deaths — lung and colorectal cancer — can be reduced through lifestyle changes, such as increased physical activity and avoidance of alcohol, tobacco and processed meat. The same healthy habits can help prevent dozens of other cancers. Researchers estimate that 50 percent of cancer cases and deaths in the US could be prevented if people adopted simple healthy lifestyle choices, such as avoiding smoking and alcohol, maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly.

5. Curb that desire for a tan

Safe sun exposure practices and avoidance of indoor tanning can substantially lower the risk for melanoma. UV radiation exposure from indoor tanning is a cause of malignant melanoma.

Marisa Siebel, MD, is the director of medical oncology at the Imbert Cancer Center in Bay Shore, part of the Northwell Health Cancer Institute. She is board-certified to treat all solid tumor malignancies and is an attending physician at the Don Monti Division of Medical Oncology and Hematology at North Shore University Hospital, Long Island Jewish Medical Center and Southside Hospital. She previously served as an attending physician at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

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