6 Factors That Raise Your Cancer Risk and How To Avoid Them

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Some causes of cancer may seem harmless, but it’s good to take preventative measures against them

Cancer is a devastating disease that affects millions of people worldwide. While there are many factors that can contribute to a person’s risk of developing cancer, some habits may increase that risk without them even realizing it.

The habits we engage in on a daily basis can have a significant impact on our health. Some of these habits may seem harmless. But they can contribute to chronic inflammation, oxidative stress, and other processes that may lead to the development of cancer. Be aware of these habits and take steps to mitigate their effects — you can help protect yourself and reduce your risk of developing cancer.

1. Second-Hand Smoke

Secondhand smoke, also known as passive smoking, is the smoke that is exhaled by smokers or released from the burning end of a cigarette, cigar, or pipe. This smoke contains toxic chemicals that can cause cancer and other health problems. In fact, the American Cancer Society reports that non-smokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work increase their risk of developing lung cancer by 20-30%. 

Secondhand smoke can also increase the risk of other cancers, such as breast and nasal cavity cancer. If you live with a smoker, encourage them to quit smoking or at least smoke outside. If you are in a public place where smoking is allowed, try to stay away from smokers or choose a smoke-free environment.

2. Obesity

Obesity rates have been increasing in many parts of the world, and it’s been linked to an increased risk of several types of cancer. One reason for this is that excess fat tissue can cause inflammation, which can damage DNA and increase the risk of cancer. Obesity has been particularly linked to an increased risk of 13 types of cancer including breast, colorectal, and pancreatic cancer. 

To reduce your risk of cancer, aim for a healthy weight by eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise. This may also help prevent other chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.

3. Sun Exposure

While sunlight is essential for our health, too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause skin damage and increase the risk of skin cancer. There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer and can spread to other parts of the body. 

To protect yourself, the American Cancer Society recommends wearing protective clothing and sunscreen, seeking shade during peak sun hours (usually from 10 am to 4 pm), and avoiding tanning beds. Be sure to choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays and has an SPF of 30 or higher. Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or more often if you are swimming or sweating.

4. Sitting Too Much

Prolonged sitting has been linked to an increased risk of several types of cancer, including breast, colon, and endometrial cancer. This may be because sitting for long periods of time can lead to obesity and inflammation, which can increase the risk of cancer. To reduce your risk, try to break up long periods of sitting with short bursts of activity, such as walking or stretching. You can also try using a standing desk or taking frequent breaks to move around.

Even people who exercise regularly are subject to the risks of sitting too much — it’s best to try to live an active lifestyle and find ways to reduce your sitting time. 

5. Alcohol

Drinking alcohol has been linked to an increased risk of several types of cancer, including breast, liver, and colorectal cancer. The risk increases with the amount of alcohol consumed, so it’s important to drink in moderation or not at all. 

According to the American Cancer Society, moderate drinking is defined as up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. If you choose to drink, do so in moderation and be aware of the potential risks.

6. Not Walking Enough

Walking regularly can help reduce your risk of several types of cancer, including breast and colon cancer. One study found that women who walked at least seven hours per week had a 14% lower risk of breast cancer compared to women who walked three hours or less per week. 

Walking can also help improve cardiovascular health, reduce stress, and increase overall physical activity levels. If you’re not already walking regularly, consider adding it to your routine by taking a daily walk or walking instead of driving for short trips.

Bottom Line

While there are many factors that can increase your risk of cancer, there are also steps you can take to reduce your risk. By avoiding secondhand smoke, maintaining a healthy weight, protecting yourself from the sun, staying active, drinking in moderation, and walking regularly, you can help reduce your risk and stay healthy. Remember to also get regular cancer screenings and talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about your health.