We've long known the benefits of a healthy diet and regular physical activity. Keeping up with our health can significantly lower risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Now, a recent study conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School finds simple lifestyle changes may also reduce cancer risk.
More than 1.5 million Americans are expected to be diagnosed with cancer in 2016, according to the American Cancer Society, but a significant number of those diagnoses could be avoided with the adoption of a healthy lifestyle.
Dr. Ranjith Dissanayake, a cancer specialist at Sacred Heart Hospital, said taking preventative measures to reduce cancer is much easier than trying to cure a cancer that is already established.
"Cancer is not only one of the most expensive disorders to manage, it causes a heavy emotional burden on patients and their families," said Dissanayake. "Unfortunately, nobody is immune from the risk of cancer malignancies."
However, Dissanayake said the study brings to light certain lifestyle factors - such as smoking, alcohol consumption and obesity and exercise - that knowingly or unknowingly affect cancer risk. He says simple lifestyle modifications can greatly reduce cancer risk and save many lives.
What sort of "simple lifestyle modifications" does Dissanayake mean? The American Cancer Society offers these guidelines:
- Maintain a healthy weight throughout your life.
- Get active. Adults should get between 75 - 150 minutes of exercise weekly.
- Eat a healthy diet. Limit your red meat intake and try to consume 2 1/2 cups of fruits and veggies each day.
- Drink in moderation. If you drink alcoholic beverages, try to keep it to no more than two a day for men and one a day for women. And don't smoke.
Dr. Dissanayake adds "[The study] shows the benefits that small lifestyle changes can have on all common cancers by showing improvements in cancer incidence and mortality."
Sacred Hearth Hospital's comprehensive community cancer program, approved by the American College of Surgeons, is designed to provide our patients with the highest standard of cancer care and the most advanced technologies available to fight cancer. For more information visit http://www.sacred-heart.org/cancercenter/