10 tips to try to reduce your risk of cancer or cancer recurrence in the New Year
American Institute for Cancer Research offers these recommendations to reduce your risk of a cancer diagnosis
Ringing in the New Year can bring up quite a few different emotions. Maybe it’s excitement that a New Year is upon us or sadness that we are not ringing in the New Year with a certain family member. Some may feel gratitude to see another year, or for some, it’s the anxiety over our New Year’s resolutions.
We don’t want your resolutions to be so overwhelming that you throw them out the window in just a few weeks. Selecting an achievable goal for your health can benefit you in numerous ways for years to come. One example is trying to prevent cancer.
“Cancer is a disease that has impacted many of us, whether that be ourselves, a family member or a friend,” says Morgan Fink, outpatient oncology dietitian at the Nancy N. and J.C. Lewis Cancer & Research Pavilion. “Practicing a healthy lifestyle may reduce your chance of getting cancer.”
To help with that, the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) put together 10 recommendations for everyone to follow to help reduce our risk of cancer or cancer recurrence.
Fink walks through these recommendations for you and offers some suggestions on ways we can begin to implement them in our everyday lives through the New Year.
1. Be a healthy weight
A “healthy weight” varies from person to person, but there is growing evidence pointing to excess weight contributing to cancer risk, as well as numerous other disease states.
o The AICR has wonderful recipes online, as well as many resources to help you get started. Following one or more recommendations on this list will also help get you well on your way to becoming a healthy weight. Need some extra help? Reach out to a dietitian at the Nancy N. and J.C. Lewis Cancer & Research Pavilion.
2. Be physically active
Just 30 minutes of exercise five times per week will help reduce your risk for a number of chronic diseases.
o If you are just starting out or returning to exercise, start slow. Set realistic goals for yourself, and find an activity you enjoy or switch your exercise up frequently to help you stay consistent.
3. Eat a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and beans
Evidence points to a diet high in plant-based food for cancer prevention, due to the high content of fiber, nutrients and phytochemicals.
o Follow the New American Plate model from the AICR, with 2/3 of your plate being plant foods (whole grains, fruits, veggies, beans) and 1/3 consisting of animal-based protein-rich foods, such as lean poultry, fish and dairy foods.
4. Limit consumption of fast foods and other foods that are high in fat, starches or sugars
Limiting fast foods can help you maintain a healthy weight. Most fast food meals contain more calories than most people need in a day.
o Sometimes fast food is the convenient choice due to our busy schedules. Try meal prepping on Sundays or waking up a few minutes earlier to pack your lunch. If needed, ask to meet with a dietitian to learn more about healthy convenience foods.
5. Limit consumption of red or processed meat
Eating more than 18 ounces of red meat per week can increase your cancer risk. Eat little processed meat, if any.
o It helps to think of meat as a side dish, instead of the entrée. Meatless Mondays or cooking an occasional plant-based dish are a good way to start. Skip the processed and deli meats, and opt for fish, veggies or tofu on sandwiches.
6. Limit consumption of sugar/sweetened beverages
Too many sugary drinks may contribute to excess weight, and therefore, increased cancer risk.
o Sparkling water may be a good substitute for those who like their bubbles. Infuse your water with lemons, limes or other fruit for a refreshing flavor. Try unsweetened tea or coffee, which both have cancer-fighting antioxidants.
7. Limit alcohol
There is strong evidence that alcohol contributes to at least six types of cancers.
o Drink in moderation, if at all. Limit your intake to one drink per day for women and two for men. Try playing around with different mocktail recipes to find a new delicious beverage that you enjoy.
8. Do not use supplements for cancer prevention
Supplements do not offer the same benefit as getting your nutrients from whole foods.
o Eat a diet with plenty of various fruits and vegetables. If you are concerned that you may not be eating enough of a vitamin or mineral, lab work may be done to determine if there are any deficiencies. Many supplements are also not regulated by the FDA and may contain additives that are not disclosed on the label.
9. Mothers, breastfeed your baby, if you can
Evidence suggests that breastfeeding lowers the risk of breast cancer, and that breastfed babies are less likely to become overweight.
10. After a cancer diagnosis, follow these recommendations, if you can
These recommendations are for everyone, whether you have a history of cancer or not. See the AICR’s website for more information and resources.
Other recommendations include avoiding sun exposure and not smoking.
“Remember, these recommendations are meant to help guide you, not restrict you. Life is meant to be enjoyed,” Fink says.
If you have questions or concerns about any of these recommendations, please feel free to reach out to your dietitian team.