In Singapore, about 39 people receive a cancer diagnosis every day, and every 1 in 4 people develop cancer in their lifetime. While genetics play a part in your cancer risk, experts believe that up to half of cancer cases are preventable.
It is known that your chances of developing cancer are influenced by your lifestyle choices. Studies by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute of Cancer Research found that maintaining a healthy diet, regular physical activity and good body mass can potentially reduce the incidence of cancer by 30 – 40%.
If you’re looking to take your health into your own hands, here are 6 lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk of cancer.
1. It’s never too late to quit smoking
Tobacco use is the biggest avoidable risk factor for cancer. Tobacco smoke contains over 7,000 chemicals, of which 250 are found to be harmful, and more than 69 are known to cause cancer. Smoking is associated with numerous types of cancer including lung, mouth, larynx, throat, bladder, cervix, pancreas and kidney cancers.
About 90% of lung cancer is smoking-related. Even if you aren’t a smoker, exposure to secondhand smoke can also put you at risk for lung cancer and other respiratory conditions.
2. Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight is linked to increasing your risk of certain cancers, including colon and rectal cancer. Based on 2010 figures, 40% of the Singapore population is considered to be overweight, of which 10% are obese. A Singaporean study also found that across both genders, being overweight increases your chances of developing cancer by one and a half times.
Having a balanced diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans can help you to maintain a healthy weight. Reduce your intake of high-calorie foods like refined sugar and animal products rich in fat.
3. Increase your physical activity
Being physically active delivers benefits to your overall health. There is compelling evidence which shows that physical activity reduces the risk of colon and breast cancer. Exercising can also help you to maintain a healthy weight, improve your immune system and reduce stress levels.
Aim to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily to improve your health and wellbeing.
4. Eat less red and processed meat
Eating too much red and processed meat has been classified by the World Cancer Research Fund as one of the causes of colon cancer. About 21% of bowel cancer cases in the UK are also associated with the consumption of red and processed meat. Examples of red meats are beef, lamb, pork and liver. Processed meats include luncheon meats and hot dogs.
The recommended intake of red or processed meat is 70 gm daily or 500 gm weekly. The method of cooking these meats also affect the cancer risk associated with them. Avoid cooking the meats using methods like frying or grilling. Experts believe that the prolonged high temperatures used in these methods convert the fats in the meat to mutagenic chemicals, which can cause cancer.
5. Limit alcohol
Too much alcohol also increases your risk for various types of cancer like colon, lung, breast, kidney and liver. While it hasn’t been concluded how much alcohol is safe for consumption, it’s agreed that your risk increases with the amount of alcohol you drink and the more frequently you drink.
If you choose to drink, it is recommended to stick to 2 drinks a day for men and 1 for women.
6. Get screened regularly
Certain cancer screening tests can prevent cancer. For example, a colonoscopy can find and remove polyps, which could turn into cancer. It also increases the chances of finding cancer early, if there is any. Cancer that is found early can save lives – especially before they have the chance to grow and spread. When cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, it is more likely to be treated more successfully.
Prevention is always better than cure. Implement these healthy lifestyle habits to reduce your risk of cancer and improve your general health and wellbeing. For peace of mind, visit our cancer treatment centre in Singapore to discuss your health concerns with our oncology specialist!