April is Cancer Control Month. That means we need to find ways to reduce our risk of cancer as well as the chances that we’ll die from the disease. We have a tough job ahead. Before the year is over, nearly 1.7 million Americans will be newly diagnosed with cancer. It’s a sobering statistic and one that we can impact in a big way by taking steps now to help prevent the second leading cause of death in the United States.
If you’re a smoker, find a way quit. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking cigarettes can cause cancer in almost any part of the body and is responsible for some of the most deadly types of the disease. As an oncologist, I would recommend that you stay away from all tobacco products and byproducts, including second hand smoke.
It is estimated that one in three Americans is now obese. Obesity is proven to be a major risk factor for breast, colon, esophageal and kidney cancers. It’s more important than ever that you maintain a healthy weight by eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Pay attention to portion size and cut down on alcohol consumption. While you’re at it, get off the couch and get some regular exercise. It will not only help you watch your weight, but studies show staying physically active can lower your risk of certain cancers.
As the summer months approach, be sure to protect your skin from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation by wearing sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher. Cover up or better yet, stay out of the sun during the peak hours of 10am to 2pm and stay away from tanning beds and sun lamps.
Finally, some cancers are hereditary. Know your family history of cancer and learn about the importance of early detection through screening. If you’re a woman at average risk for breast cancer, be sure to have a clinical breast exam and mammogram every year starting at age 40. Women ages 30-65 should also be screened every five years for cervical cancer. Colorectal cancer screening for women and men should begin in those 50 and older. Your health care provider can give you more information about the benefits of a colonoscopy.
For advice on locating cancer-screening opportunities, contact Emory Health Connection at 404-778-7777 to learn more from a registered nurse.
About Dr. Jillella
Anand Jillella, MD, is a national leader in bone marrow transplantation and has led the development of a strategy to decrease induction mortality for acute promyelocytic leukemia. He leads the efforts of the Winship Cancer Network and is expanding Winship’s role in bringing clinical and population-based cancer research to communities throughout Georgia and surrounding states.
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Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University