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Cancer Risk Reduction

According to the National Cancer Institute, a risk factor is anything that raises or lowers a person's chance of developing a disease. Some inherited risk factors are unavoidable, but it is a good idea to be aware of them. Discuss your lifestyle and family history with your doctor, ask about ways to reduce your risk and create a schedule for checkups and screenings. What you eat and drink, how active you are, and other lifestyle behaviors all can affect your risk for cancer.
Avoid Tobacco Healthy Eating Exercise Sun Protection Other Resources for Risk Prevention

Avoid Tobacco
Avoiding Tobacco Smoking damages nearly every organ in the human body, is linked to at least 15 different cancers, and accounts for some 30% of all cancer deaths. Because cigarette smoking and tobacco use are acquired behaviors -- activities that people choose to do -- smoking is the most preventable cause of death in our society. Yet one in five Americans still light up. Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your loved ones.

For information on Northwestern's Smoking Cessation Program, click here.

Healthy Eating
"Food, Nutrition and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective," a recently released global report on diet and cancer risk reduction, concludes that 30 to 40 percent of cancers are directly linked to dietary choices. Although no diet can guarantee protection against disease, incorporating the following suggestions can improve your health and reduce your cancer risk:
  • Choose foods and beverages in amounts that will help you maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat at least five servings of a variety of vegetables and fruits each day
  • Choose whole grains instead of refined grains and sugars
  • 1 medium-sized piece of fruit
  • Limit consumption of processed and red meats
Nutritional counseling is available to Lurie Cancer Center patients. To schedule a consultation with the dietitian, call 312.695.2423 or 866.LURIE.CC.

For information on other Northwestern nutrition tools and programs click here.
The Eatwell Plate
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Did you know you benefit from even small amounts of moderate activity throughout the day? Regular physical activity is easier to fit in than you may realize and can significantly lower your lifetime risk for cancer. The American Cancer society recommends that adults engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity, above usual activities, on 5 or more days of the week; 45 to 60 minutes of intentional physical activity are preferable.

Moderate Activity is anything that makes you breath as hard as you do during a brisk walk. During moderate activities, you'll notice a slight increase in heart rate and breathing, but you may not break a sweat. Vigorous Activities generally engage large muscle groups and cause a noticeable increase in heart rate, breathing depth and frequency, and sweating.

Other beneficial activities include those that improve strength and flexibility such as weight lifting, stretching, or yoga.
Moderate Activities Vigorous Activities
Exercise and Leisure Walking, dancing, leisurely bicycling, ice-skating or roller-skating, horseback riding, canoeing, yoga Jogging or running, fast bicycling, circuit weight training, aerobic dance, martial arts, jump rope, swimming
Sports Volleyball, golfing, softball, baseball, badminton, doubles tennis, downhill skiing Soccer, field hockey or ice hockey, lacrosse, singles tennis, racquetball, basketball, cross-country skiing
Home Activities Mowing the lawn, general lawn and garden maintenance Digging, carrying and hauling, masonry, carpentry
Occupational Activity Walking and lifting as part of the job (custodial work, farming, auto or machine repair) Heavy manual labor (forestry, construction, fire fighting)

Sun Protection
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation comes from the sun, sunlamps, and tanning booths. It causes early aging of the skin and skin damage that can lead to skin cancer. Doctors encourage people of all ages to limit their time in the sun and to avoid other sources of UV radiation:
  • Avoid the midday sun (from mid-morning to late afternoon) whenever possible. You also should protect yourself from UV radiation reflected by sand, water, snow, and ice. UV radiation can penetrate light clothing, windshields, and windows.
  • Wear long sleeves, long pants, a hat with a wide brim, and sunglasses with lenses that absorb UV.
  • Use sunscreen. Sunscreen may help prevent skin cancer, especially sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. But sunscreens cannot replace avoiding the sun and wearing clothing to protect the skin.
  • Stay away from sunlamps and tanning booths. They are no safer than sunlight.
Watch Dr. June Robinson discuss ways to protect your skin and identify concerning spots on your loved ones.
Sun Protection

Other Resources

The National Cancer Institute provides general cancer risk reduction information for specific cancers:

arrow Breast Cancer arrow Liver Cancer
arrow Cervical Cancer arrow Lung Cancer
arrow Colorectal Cancer arrow Oral Cancer
arrow Endometrial Cancer arrow Ovarian Cancer
arrow Esophageal Cancer arrow Prostate Cancer
arrow Gastric Cancer arrow Skin Cancer