Reader's Digest

You Can Prevent Many Cancers

- By Michelle Crouch

One in six deaths worldwide is from cancer, yet research shows that at least 42 percent of cancers could be prevented. Along with healthy eating and not smoking, add these habits to your list of ways to lower your risk.

1 Wear a hat.

A widebrimme­d hat gives your face an added layer of protection on top of your sunscreen. It also covers the back of your neck and your scalp, where many people forget to apply lotion. A University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study found that people with melanomas on the scalp or neck die at almost twice the rate of people with skin cancer on other parts of their bodies.

2 Consider taking baby aspirin.

Research shows it may protect you from as many as ten different cancers, including liver, lung, and prostate cancer. In a recent study, women who took a

low-dose aspirin regularly had a 23 percent lower risk of ovarian cancer. Some studies, though, have shown that for certain people, aspirin is not as effective as originally thought in protecting against other diseases. Because aspirin can cause bleeding issues, ask your doctor whether it’s right for you.

3 Indulge in a daily cup of joe.

A 2017 review of the evidence indicates that drinking just one cup of coffee—either decaf or regular—every day could lower your risk of several types of cancer, especially liver and endometria­l cancer. Scientists think this may be due to the phytochemi­cals in coffee, which have antioxidan­t and anti-inflammato­ry properties.

4 Ditch or dim screens before bed.

Studies suggest that high levels of exposure to artificial light at night—especially the blue light emitted by cell phones, TVS, and tablets—may boost your risk of breast and prostate cancer. Light disrupts circadian rhythms, which may weaken your body’s immune function. The science is evolving, but you might want to limit your electronic­s usage in the evening or use a blue-light filter such as the Night Shift setting on most Apple devices.

5 Check your home for radon.

This gas is the secondlead­ing cause of lung cancer in the United States, and as many as 1 out of every 15 homes has unsafe levels. Radon comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in the ground under your house, and it’s just as likely to be a problem in newer homes as in older ones. Because radon is odorless and colorless, a test is the only way to know your risk. Pick up a test kit at the hardware store, or hire a profession­al to check your home. Repeat at least every two to three years.

6 Spend less time sitting.

According to a large-scale study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, people who sat more hours during the day had a 24 percent increased risk of colon cancer and a 32 percent increased risk of endometria­l cancer compared with those who sat the least. The connection held true even for those who were physically active, indicating that exercise alone is not enough to offset the risks of too much sitting.

7 Get screened for hepatitis C.

Hepatitis C is the most commonly reported blood-borne infection in the United States.

Yet carriers often don’t know they have the virus, because it has no obvious symptoms. For reasons not entirely understood, baby boomers are five times more likely to have the

virus than other adults, so it’s especially important to be tested if you were born between

1945 and 1965. “We can cure hepatitis C,” says Anna Giuliano, PHD, an epidemiolo­gist at the Moffitt Cancer Center. “But if you don’t get screened and it progresses to liver disease, your risk for liver cancer is very high.”

8 Cut out alcohol.

Alcohol has been classified as a known carcinogen and has been linked to at least seven types of cancer. While some researcher­s say alcohol in moderation is OK, a 2018 study that looked at connection­s between alcohol and different types of cancer suggests that no amount is safe.

9 Rethink that ham sandwich—even if the package says “nitrate-free.”

Eating just 15 grams a day of processed meat—that’s a single slice of ham— appears to increase your cancer risk by 4 percent, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. The food industry has responded with new nitrate-free deli meats and bacons, but there’s no evidence that they are any better than traditiona­l varieties.

10 Get the HPV shot.

This vaccinatio­n prevents up to six types of HPV cancers. The shot was originally recommende­d just for young people, but recently the FDA approved it for everyone under age 45.

11 Question the need for a CT scan.

CT scans are important diagnostic tools, but research shows they are overused. Each blast of radiation can damage DNA and may cause tumors later in life. In one study, researcher­s predicted that nearly 2 percent of all future cancers in the United States might be caused by CT scans. While the associatio­n appears to be slight, if your doctor suggests a CT scan, ask whether it’s possible to try another type of imaging tool that doesn’t use radiation, such as an MRI or an ultrasound.

12 Switch to glass for food storage and heating.

Many plastics contain chemicals that may be linked to cancer, says Lorenzo Cohen, PHD, director of integrativ­e medicine at MD Anderson Cancer Center and coauthor of Anticancer Living. BPA has gotten the most attention, but some Bpa-free products contain a chemical called BPS that is also believed to be harmful.

13 Don’t count on vitamin D.

Although previous research had suggested a link between lower levels of the popular supplement and cancer, a clinical trial published in late 2018 found that taking vitamin D did not help prevent the disease. (But it is still important for bone health.)

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