The Richmond Register

November 23, 2013

Lower cancer risk with these steps

By Dr. Jack Rutherford
Register Columnist

RICHMOND — Cancer is second only to heart disease among the leading causes of death. In as much as cancer is the result of errors in the DNA code that occur by chance, the interesting realization is that we have enormous power over whether or not we will develop cancer in our lifetime. Based on the evidence, roughly 60 percent of all cancers could be prevented through diet and healthy lifestyles. Here are some of the most effective ways to lower your cancer risk.

Avoid tobacco exposure. Tobacco use and exposure (second hand and sidestream smoke) represent the single greatest cause of preventable cancer.

Maintain a healthy body fat. For non-smokers, a healthy body fat level is the single most powerful means to lower cancer risk. A healthy body fat for males is less than 20 percent of total weight. For females, less than 28 percent of total weight represents a healthy body fat. If you are unable to test your body fat level, you can use body mass index (BMI) instead, although it is not quite as accurate.  A BMI of 25 or less is optimal. Waist size is also a consideration as higher amounts of body fat deposited in and around the waist signifies higher risk. Males’ waist size should be less than 36 inches (females’ waist size less than 32.5 inches) for lowest risk.

Exercise most days of the week for the rest of your life. Regular physical activity lowers cancer risk through several powerful and synergistic mechanisms. Strive for at least 30 minutes of moderate or vigorous aerobic exercise daily. Sixty minutes or more is optimal. Supplement the aerobic exercise with at least two resistance exercise workouts per week. Perform some light stretching exercises often. Look for ways to increase physical activity throughout the day such as taking the stairs and walking instead of driving.

Eat real food. Limit the consumption of energy dense, processed foods, especially fast foods, sugary beverages, and junk foods. These are the foods that contribute to weight gain. Instead, eat lower on the food chain namely, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish and other healthy protein sources as well as healthy fats. Limit saturated fat and strictly avoid trans fats. Becoming a “defensive eater” is particularly appropriate here. This means controlling portion sizes and carefully scrutinizing the quality of the foods consumed.

Cancer is not only a leading killer, it is the cause of much suffering. You can reduce your risk of getting cancer by following these four key lifestyle behaviors.