Here are 12 diet and activity recommendations that may reduce the risk of cancer.
- Avoid smoking and limit drinking:
Refraining from tobacco use provides other health benefits besides lowering cancer risk. Limit your daily intake of alcohol to two drinks for men and one drink for women.
- Exercise regularly:
Exercise helps combat obesity, a risk factor for cancer. Aim to be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day, and aim to be as lean as possible without becoming underweight.
- Eat a low fat diet:
Try to limit your total fat intake to less than 30 percent of daily calories. Avoid saturated fats, and try to consume Omega-3 fats.
- Consume fresh fruits and vegetables:
Aim to eat at least one-third of your food raw. Balance your intake of red, green, yellow, and orange fruits and vegetables to cover the full range of phytochemicals. Besides being high in fibre, fruits and vegetables are natural sources of antioxidants that protect cells from potential damage caused by carcinogens.
- Increase your daily fibre intake:
35 grams of fibre a day is recommended in the daily diet. Eat more of a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes.
- Avoid red meat:
Avoid consumption of red meats, including beef, pork and lamb, and avoid processed meats.
- Avoid processed, sugary and salty foods:
Avoid sugary snacks or drinks. Sugary foods and beverages tend to be high in calories and low in fibre.
- Cook healthy:
Avoid microwaving or frying your food. Boil, poach or steam your foods instead. As far as possible, aim to eat freshly cooked food, and avoid reheating frozen or refrigerated food.
- Optimize your vitamin D levels:
Studies suggest that exposure to high levels of vitamin D during childhood and early adulthood is associated with a reduced incidence of breast cancer. Exposure to sunlight is the most efficient way of generating vitamin D, but there must be enough awareness of the risk of over exposure to the harmful effects of sun’s rays. Dietary intake of vitamin D could be improved through fortification of foods.
It is best for mothers to exclusively breastfeed their babies for at least six months. This lowers breast cancer risk.
- Self-examination and diagnostic screening:
Early detection and treatment is your best bet to beat cancer. Women above 20 years should start with breast self-examination, and women above 40 should also have an annual mammogram. Other annual checks for women include the Pap smear.
Watch out for signs and symptoms of cancer
Though cancer does not exhibit any obvious signs, it is worthwhile checking out some symptoms with your doctor. These include:
- Persistent cough or blood-tinged saliva.
- A change in bowel habits.
- Blood in your stool.
- Unexplained anaemia/weight loss.
- Breast lump or discharge.
- Enlarged testicles and painless testicles.
- A change in urination or voiding.
- Blood in the urine.
- Hoarseness of voice.
- Persistent ulcer or swollen glands.
- Obvious change in wart or mole.
- Indigestion or difficulty in swallowing.
- Unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge.
- Unexpected night sweats or fever.
- Continued itching in the anus or genitals.
- Noticeable change in skin colour.
- Sores that don’t heal.
- Persistent back pain, pelvic pain, bloating or indigestion.