Healthy Lifestyle Factors for Cancer Prevention

  • Published
  • By Capt. Sydney Sloan
  • 39th OMRS Health Promotion element chief

Cancer is among the leading causes of death worldwide (International Agency for Research on Cancer). Of the many types of cancer, female breast cancer is the most common diagnosis. In 2021 alone, there will be an estimated 281,550 new diagnoses of female breast cancer, totaling 14.8% of all new cancer cases. Nutrition and lifestyle factors play a major role in cancer prevention, treatment, and recovery. Below are helpful tips to reduce your risk:

1. EAT THE RAINBOW - CHOOSE FOODS FIRST: Whole, plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes are rich in phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are chemical compounds (there’s over 4,000 kinds!) that serve as natural defense mechanisms in our bodies and help protect cells from damage that could lead to cancer. Phytonutrients also reduce inflammation, regulate hormones, and strengthen our immune systems.

Researchers are studying specific phytonutrient compounds for application in cancer research. You might even find individual phytonutrients sold as supplements or in power bars. However, the scientific evidence still suggests we gain more health benefits from eating foods in combinations vs. in isolated groups.

2. AVOID OR LIMIT ALCOHOL: Alcohol has no nutritional value other than being empty calories. A recent study published in the Lancet Oncology found even light to moderate (2 drinks per day) alcohol consumption was associated with higher risk of developing breast, colon, and oral cancers. Alcohol consumption impairs DNA repair and alters the metabolic processes for hormone regulation.

3. ACHIEVE A HEALTHY BODY WEIGHT: Body Mass Index (BMI) has been used for years to study the associations between body weight and risk for first-time
breast cancer diagnosis and recurrence of cancer. Research indicates that women who are overweight [25.0-29.9 BMI] or obese [>/= 30.0 BMI] are at increased risk for developing breast cancer.

To achieve a healthy weight, consider adding more whole foods (nutrient-dense) to your diet and reducing the intake of added sugars and processed (calorie-
dense) foods. Also, increase physical activity with joyful movement every day (or 3-4 hours per week), i.e. hiking, walking, cycling, Pilates, yoga, dancing, etc.