Cancer : diet & exercise
How much do daily habits like diet and exercise affect your risk for cancer? More than you might think. Research has shown that a poor diet and not being active are key factors that can increase a person’s cancer risk. The good news is that you can do something about this.
Besides quitting smoking, some of the most important things you can do to help reduce your cancer risk are:
- Get to and stay at a healthy weight throughout life.
- Be physically active on a regular basis.
- Follow a healthy eating pattern at all ages.
- Avoid or limit alcohol.
The evidence for this is strong. The World Cancer Research Fund estimates that at least 18% of all cancers diagnosed in the US are related to body fatness, physical inactivity, alcohol consumption, and/or poor nutrition, and thus could be prevented.
Control your weight.
Getting to and staying at a healthy weight is important to reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of several cancers, including those of the breast (in women past menopause), colon and rectum, endometrium (the lining of the uterus), esophagus, pancreas, liver, and kidney, as well as several others.
Being overweight can increase cancer risk in many ways. One of the main ways is that excess weight causes the body to make and circulate more estrogen and insulin, hormones that can stimulate cancer growth.
What’s a healthy weight?
One of the best ways to get an idea if you are at a healthy weight is to check your body mass index (BMI), a score based on the relationship between your height and weight. Use our easy online BMI calculator to find out your score.
Move more and sit less.
Watching how much you eat will help you control your weight. The other key is to be more physically active. Being active can help reduce your cancer risk by helping with weight control. It can also help improve your hormone levels and the way your immune system works.
More good news – physical activity helps you reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes, too! So grab your athletic shoes and head out the door!
The latest recommendations for adults call for 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity each week, or a combination of these. Getting to or exceeding the upper limit of 300 minutes is ideal. For kids, the recommendation is at least 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous-intensity activity each day.
- Moderate activities are those that make you breathe as hard as you would during a brisk walk. This includes things like walking, biking, or even housework and gardening.
- Vigorous activities make you use large muscle groups and make your heart beat faster, make you breathe faster and deeper, and also make you sweat.
It’s also important to limit sedentary behavior such as sitting, lying down, watching TV, or looking at your phone or computer.
Being more physically active than usual, no matter what your level of activity, can have many health benefits.
Dr. Rakesh Rai. MS, FRCS, MD, CCST, ASTS fellow.