7 cancer prevention goals for the new year

January 18, 2024 | by Endeavor Health

While not all cancers are preventable, making healthy lifestyle choices can significantly reduce your risk for many cancers.

As we move forward into the new year, many of us are resolving to adopt healthier habits, and for good reason: diet and exercise are often among the most popular goals.

Consider these cancer prevention goals for the year ahead:

  1. Maintaining a healthy weight with a body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9 is one of the most important things people can do to help reduce their risk of many cancers, including breast, prostate, colon, lung and endometrial,” said Rand Naffouje, MD, oncologist with Endeavor Health Edward Hospital. BMI is calculated by dividing your weight in pounds by the square of your height in feet. BMI calculators can be found online at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

  2. Adopting a healthy diet including lots of fruits and vegetables, plant-based nutrients including leafy greens and beans, and plenty of high-fiber foods. Avoiding processed meats and sugary drinks and limiting red meat to just three servings a week are keys to a healthy diet, said Dr. Naffouje, who recommends that people consume 30 grams of fiber and five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

  3. Limiting alcohol is another important approach to cancer prevention,” said Dr. Naffouje. “Really, the less, the better. The more you drink, the more your risk increases. For the best prevention, don’t drink at all.” Support groups and other online resources can help people who are working to limit or eliminate alcohol for their overall health, she added.

  4. Being physically active is also shown to be an essential aspect of reducing risks for cancer and other chronic diseases. Dr. Naffouje counsels her patients to get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week. Moderate activity includes everything from walking and gardening to dancing and easy cycling. Vigorous activity is intense aerobic activity like running, swimming or cardio-based exercise classes. “It’s a good idea to limit long periods of sitting,” said Dr. Naffouje. “People sitting on the couch or staring at screens for prolonged sessions are likely to eat and drink more. Too much time in sedentary activities like video games typically promotes weight gain.”

  5. Quitting smoking is another absolute when it comes to cancer prevention. “There is absolutely no question that smoking is highly associated with increased risks for cancers including lung, head and neck, bladder, pancreas and cervical,” said Dr. Naffouje. Secondhand smoke and chewing tobacco are also linked to higher cancer risks. “We know that it often takes many attempts at quitting for people to be successful, and there is no one way to approach it; everyone is different,” said Dr. Naffouje, who urges people to take advantage of the many tools available to help them break a smoking habit. Support groups, family and friends, hospital clinics, medications, and behavioral therapy can all play a role in helping smokers kick the habit.

  6. Limiting stress. "While stress itself is not a direct cause of cancer, research suggests that chronic or long-term stress may contribute to an increased risk of developing certain types of cancer. Prolonged stress can weaken the immune system, impair DNA repair mechanisms, and promote inflammation, all of which can potentially increase the risk of cancer development,” said Dr. Naffouje. Leading a healthy lifestyle, including managing stress, is beneficial for overall well-being and Dr. Naffouje suggests that people consider relaxation techniques like meditation or yoga, aiming for at least 20 minutes a day. “Engage in enjoyable activities and find hobbies that bring you joy and help you unwind. Seek emotional support and consider professional help if stress becomes overwhelming,” she said. “Everyone's stress management journey is unique, so find what works best for you."

  7. Staying on top of routine medical care and age-appropriate cancer screenings like skin exams, colonoscopies, mammograms, Pap smears, and lung screenings for select patients who qualify as high-risk are all critical to reducing cancer risks.

“The new year is a great time for people to reassess their lifestyles and double down on healthy habits to optimize their overall wellness and reduce their risks for cancer,” said Dr. Naffouje.

Learn more about cancer services at Endeavor Health Cancer Institute.

NorthShore University HealthSystem, Swedish Hospital, Northwest Community Healthcare and Edward-Elmhurst Health are now united under one name, Endeavor Health. We’re setting a new standard for healthcare that’s focused on you, because your best health is our endeavor. Learn more.

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