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How to Prevent Cancer and Detect It Early

According to the National Cancer Institute, approximately 39.5% of Americans will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetimes. This statistic indicates that over 1.5 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer and over half a million Americans will die from cancer just this year. Despite these dismal projections, research has shown that up to half of cancer cases and deaths are preventable if detected early.

At Ascend Medical, we believe in providing effective strategies to mitigate any risks to our patients' health. Read on to learn about early detection tips and how you can reduce your risk of cancer.

Sexually Transmitted Infections

Certain viruses—most notably, sexually transmitted viruses such as HPV, HIV, and hepatitis—have been linked to cancer. Roughly one-third of liver cancers have been linked to the hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV). Similarly, many strains of the human papillomavirus, known as HPV, have been found to cause certain types of cancer, such as cervical and other genital cancers like cancer of the anus, penis, throat, vulva and vagina. In addition, individuals who have HIV or AIDS may have a higher risk of developing cancer of the anus, liver, and lung.

"Vaccines are available both for hepatitis B and HPV," stated Dr. Michael Smith, Chief Medical Officer at Ascend Medical. "However, because these viruses are sexually transmitted, one of the best ways to reduce your risk of contracting them is to practice safe sex."

Limiting your number of sexual partners and using a condom when you have sex can both greatly reduce your risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection and, by default, developing cancer from these viruses.

Avoid Tobacco Use and Alcohol Abuse

Many types of cancer (including lung, colorectal, breast, throat, cervical, bladder, mouth, and esophageal) have been linked to the use of tobacco products. In fact, the CDC asserts that about 90% of all lung cancers are related to smoking tobacco—even non-smokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke are at risk of developing lung cancer and other respiratory conditions. Therefore, avoiding tobacco products—or deciding to stop using them—is an important part of cancer prevention.

In addition, limiting alcohol consumption can decrease your risk of developing cancer as alcohol has been linked to liver, colorectal, and breast cancers. If you drink alcohol, limit consumption to no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.

Maintain a Healthy Diet

"Maintaining a healthy weight and a diet rich in healthy foods rich in antioxidants is one of the most important ways to help prevent cancer shared Dr. Michael Smith, Chief Medical Officer at Ascend Medical.

At Ascend Medical, we recommend the following three tips to ensure a healthy diet:

  1. Fill your plate with a variety of fruits and vegetables. Basing your diet on foods from plant sources, such as whole grains and beans can improve health.
  2. Eat lighter and leaner by choosing fewer high-calorie foods. Refined sugars and fat from highly processed foods can lead to weight gain, which has been linked to breast and colorectal cancer.
  3. Limit processed meats. A report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the cancer agency of the World Health Organization, concluded that eating large amounts of processed meat increases the risk of certain types of cancer.

Exercise Regularly

In addition to helping you control your weight, physical activity can lower the risk of breast cancer and colon cancer. Studies have shown that adults who participate in any amount of physical activity can:

  • Lower the levels of sex hormones, such as estrogen, and growth factors that have been associated with the development and progression of breast and colon cancer
  • Prevent high blood levels of insulin, which has been linked to breast and colon cancer
  • Alter the metabolism of bile acids, decreasing exposure of the gastrointestinal tract to these suspected carcinogens that may increase the risk of colon cancer
  • Help prevent obesity, which is a risk factor for many cancers

As a general goal, work up to 30 minutes of physical activity at least 5 days a week to reduce the risk of cancer and improve overall well-being. 30 minutes of exercise could be: a walk around the neighborhood, yoga, or a HIIT workout. There are plenty of resources online to help inspire you to move!

Protect Your Skin from Overexposure to the Sun

According to the American Cancer Society, over 100,000 people are diagnosed with melanoma (skin cancer) annually. This makes melanoma one of the most common cancers in America. Skin cancer is also one of the most preventable types of cancer. To avoid skin cancer, try these tips:

  • Avoid direct sunlight between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun's rays are strongest. If you must be in direct sunlight during this time, wear sunscreen and other skin protection products at all times.
  • When outdoors, stay in the shade as much as possible or create your own shade with sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Cover exposed skin with tightly woven, loose fitting clothing.
  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, even on cloudy days. Remember to reapply every two hours, or more often if you are swimming or sweating heavily.
  • Avoid artificial sunlight, such as tanning beds and sunlamps, as these are just as damaging as natural sunlight.

Avoid Exposure to Radiation or Harmful Toxins

There are many studies linking exposure to industrial and environmental toxins such as asbestos fibers, benzene, aromatic amines, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) to cancer. Therefore, while it is important to avoid these harmful toxins, they are often carefully monitored to help you avoid exposure.

Many people do not know about other environmental toxins, such as radiation, that might be more common than you think. Medical imaging technology, like x-rays, can give your body a minimal dose of radiation. To limit your risk of developing cancer avoid medical imaging studies unless absolutely necessary.

Get Enough Sleep

Evidence linking sleep to cancer is not strong. Poor and insufficient sleep has been proven to contribute to weight gain, which is a cancer risk factor. Disruptions in the body's "biological clock," may raise the odds of cancers of the breast, colon, ovaries and prostate. Therefore, make sure you are getting the recommended amount of sleep—between seven and nine hours—each night.

Know the Warning Signs

Approximately one out of every three Americans will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime. Diagnosis and treatment have greatly improved in recent years. Protect yourself early by taking the appropriate precautions. Look for early warning signs can help mitigate your risk of developing cancer. To recognize symptoms of the disease early, the American Cancer Society recommends using C.A.U.T.I.O.N:

C: Change in bowel or bladder habits

A: A sore that does not heal

U: Unusual bleeding or discharge

T: Thickening or lump in the breast or elsewhere

I: Indigestion or difficulty in swallowing

O: Obvious change in a wart or mole

N: Nagging cough or hoarseness

Scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health estimate that up to 75% of American cancer deaths can be prevented. Ascend Medical is here to make sure you have the tools you need to recognize the early signs of cancer. As a primary care system that revolves around you, we're proud to offer membership-based healthcare services, mobile diagnostics, and 24/7, on-demand virtual visits to address all of your health concerns - exactly when and where it's convenient for you. Book your same day appointment today!

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