Cancer is a global health issue that, unfortunately, is not going away anytime soon. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that, by 2035, there will be 24 million new cases of cancer and 14.5 million cancer-related deaths per annum worldwide.
Still, there's good news behind all this: According to recently published research from Australia, at least 40 percent of cancer deaths can be prevented by adjusting eight things in your lifestyle.
Three of the eight things noted – smoking, diet, and alcohol – account for over 8.2 million deaths per year, which makes up around 30 percent of the total number of deaths worldwide. The remaining factors – which include excessive UV (ultraviolet) radiation, obesity, and lack of exercise – make up 1.2 million deaths or 14.4 percent of the total rate.
The factors, which researchers called "modifiable risk factors," come from data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and the Australian Bureau of Statistics. From the information, researchers identified that lung, bowel, melanoma, liver, and stomach cancers produced the highest number of potentially preventable deaths.
Dodge cancer with lifestyle changes
"While in many cases cancer is tragically unavoidable, this study highlights what we've known for years: cancer isn't always a matter of genetics or bad luck," according to David Whiteman, one of the researchers of the study from the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research. In fact, the findings highlight how a person's lifestyle can ultimately play a role in preventing cancer. Here are the risks pointed out by the study, and how you can protect yourself against them:
Tobacco smoking – The National Cancer Institute lists smoking as the leading cause of cancer for the lung, larynx, mouth, bladder, liver, and pancreas, among others. Not only that, tobacco smoke is harmful to people who are exposed to it since secondhand smoke contains chemicals that are likely to damage DNA. Quitting smoking will not only have immediate benefits – people who stop smoking improve their circulation in a matter of weeks – but will have a longer life expectancy.
Alcohol consumption – According to researchers, alcohol has surprisingly different risk factors for men and women. For men, increased alcohol consumption leads to bowel cancer, while women are more likely to have breast cancer from it. Cut back on drinking, and you may very well be doing your body a huge favor.
Dietary factors – Studies have shown that our diet plays a vital role in cancer prevention. For example, a recent study has revealed a correlation between sugar consumption and cancer, called the Warburg effect. Changing what we put in our bodies may very well be the key to being cancer-free. Some recommendations include adding vegetables like broccoli and carrots, beans, berries and fruits, fiber, and spices to a person's diet.
Physical inactivity – A sedentary lifestyle leads to many illnesses, including heart disease. Improve your diet to include healthier food, and couple it with at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week, according to the CDC.
UV exposure – The U.K. think tank Cancer Research UK states that at least eight out of 10 cases of skin cancer could have been prevented through "enjoying the sun safely" and avoiding the use of sunbeds. When skin is not adequately protected, UV rays seep in and damage the skin. A visible indicator is a sunburn, which means that the skin has been damaged by too much UV radiation. Some simple ways to reduce this risk is through clothes that protect from the sun's rays (like hats and sunglasses), spending time in the shade, and regularly using sunscreen with a protection level of at least SPF 15.
Infections – Exposure to certain viruses, bacteria, and parasites increase the risk of cancer in different ways. Improving your hygiene are the first steps in protecting yourself from infections.
Hormonal factors – The use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), especially for women, can lead to an increased likelihood of developing breast cancer. While HRT is used to improve the quality of life, there are natural options available that have the same effect, if not better, at no added risk.
Being overweight or obese – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists at least 13 different types of cancer resulting from obesity and being overweight; what's worse is most people are not aware of the link between obesity and cancer. Decrease your risk by eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and observing the other lifestyle changes mentioned above.