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Cancer-Causing Habits

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A cancer diagnosis is many people’s worst fear. The pain, the treatments, the unknowns, and the prognosis make cancer a dreaded disease. Some people go to great lengths to avoid cancer, and while not all cancers can be prevented, eating healthy foods, getting regular exercise, avoiding unhealthy lifestyle choices, and getting recommended screenings can go a long way in cancer prevention.

Whether it’s an addiction, plain ignorance, or a lack of concern, many people find themselves keeping five cancer-causing habits despite the risk.

Cause 1: Smoking

Topping the list of cancer-causing habits is smoking. Whether cigarettes, pipes, cigars, or chewing tobacco, all tobacco products are harmful. Clearly linked to 15 types of cancer, cigarette smoking is also the cause of 90 percent of lung cancers, the leading cause of cancer deaths. And don’t think you’re safe if you’re not the one doing the smoking. Second-hand smoke is filled with hundreds of toxic chemicals, many of which cause cancer. Even small amounts of cigarette smoke damage the lungs, so stay away—far away—from cigarettes.

Cause 2: Sitting All Day

Not doing anything at all is one of the biggest risks for cancer. You sit on your commute, you sit all day at work, and you sit all evening on the couch. Even if you fit in a half-hour workout each day, if you’re sedentary for the other 23 and a-half hours, then you’re at increased risk for cancer.

An active lifestyle helps protect you from cancer in three main ways. Exercise helps you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, regulates and balances hormone levels, and improves the function of your immune system. The more you weigh, the more estrogen and insulin (hormones that fuel cancer growth) the body produces. Excess fat cells contribute to chronic inflammation, one cause of DNA damage and cancer.

Cause 3: Drinking Alcohol

Unless you stick to the recommended one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men, you’re putting yourself at risk for cancer. The more alcohol you drink, the greater your risk. Cancers of the liver, colon, breast, esophagus, neck, and head are all associated with high alcohol consumption. Despite the benefits of drinking on occasion, alcohol is a known carcinogen and is responsible for thousands of cancer deaths each year.

Cause 4: Forgetting Sunscreen

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. Anyone at any age, regardless of gender or race is at risk for skin cancer. One way to help prevent skin cancer is by wearing sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Use a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.

A few minutes in the sun may help you get your needed vitamin D, but any longer than that, you should be sure to wear sunscreen. Stay in the shade when possible, wear protective clothing, and stay away from tanning beds. When detected early, skin cancer is highly treatable, so check your skin on a regular basis for new or changing moles or unusual spots.

Cause 5: Eating Grilled or Processed Meats

Cooking meat using high temperatures forms chemicals that may increase your risk of colon or prostate cancer. Grilling and pan-frying may be easy, yummy ways to cook your dinner, but don’t plan to prepare your meals this way frequently.

Grilling isn’t the only risk. Eating a diet high in processed meat is shown to put you at risk for colon and stomach cancer. Bacon, hot dogs, sausage, and deli meats should be an occasional treat rather than a daily diet staple. To get your recommended amounts of protein eat poultry, fish, beans, or eggs instead.

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