Get more exercise; cut down on red and processed meats; avoid alcohol: These are key steps you can take to lower your risk for cancer, according to the latest guidelines, published in 2020, from the American Cancer Society that underscore the importance of physical activity and healthy eating habits in cancer prevention.
With excess body weight, physical inactivity, poor nutrition and alcohol responsible for about 18 percent of all new cancer cases in the U.S., experts say food and exercise are two weapons individuals have in the fight against cancer — the country's second-leading cause of death.
Factor in smoking, which causes about 19 percent of cancers, and at least 42 percent of cancer cases could be prevented with changes in behavior, researchers say.
"Adopting a healthy lifestyle … can make a big difference in reducing the risk; it's not insignificant,” says Laura Makaroff, senior vice president of prevention and early detection at the American Cancer Society (ACS).
Here are 10 ways you can reduce your risk for cancer, based on ACS recommendations, published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians:
1. Aim for 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week
Guidelines from 2012 called for a minimum of 150 minutes of exercise each week. But now, experts say that more is better, and that 300 minutes of weekly moderate-intensity activity (or just a little more than 40 minutes per day) is “optimal” when it comes to reducing cancer risks.
If more-intense workouts are your thing, strive for a weekly total of 75 to 150 minutes. Physical inactivity is linked to a number of cancers, including colon, female breast and endometrial (lining of the uterus) cancers.
2. Avoid alcohol
Nearly 750,000 cases of cancer diagnosed worldwide in 2020 — or approximately 4 percent — can be attributed to alcohol, according to new research from the World Health Organization.
Cancers of the esophagus, liver and, in women, breast, were among the most common cancers linked to alcohol consumption, the researchers found. And these cancers didn’t just occur in heavy drinkers; even light and moderate drinkers were affected. The research was published in 2021 in the journal The Lancet Oncology.
The ACS says when it comes to cancer prevention, “it is best not to drink alcohol.” Those who choose to drink should have no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.