- A healthy lifestyle consisting of a predominantly plant-based diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and consistent physical activity can significantly lower the risk of developing cancer, even for those with genetic predisposition.
- Maintaining a Body Mass Index (BMI) between 21 and 23 and avoiding weight gain during adulthood is recommended for cancer prevention.
- Engaging in moderate physical activities for a minimum of 30 minutes a day, along with reducing sedentary activities, contributes to cancer prevention.
- Consuming a diet primarily consisting of plant-based foods and reducing the intake of processed, sugary, fast foods, red meat, salt, and alcohol help prevent cancer.
- Relying on whole foods for nutrients instead of over-dependence on dietary supplements is advised for cancer prevention.
The common preconception that cancer is unavoidable and predetermined for certain individuals is inadequate and incorrect, according to experts.
Even individuals genetically predisposed to certain types of cancer may be able to lower their risk by committing to a healthy lifestyle.
“An estimated 27 to 49 percent of people believe that preventing cancer is either impossible or highly unlikely,” stated Karen Collins, a licensed dietician and nutrition consultant for a renowned institute focusing on Cancer research.
However, according to Collins, the institute suggests three measures that could significantly impact the possibility of developing cancer:
1. A Predominantly Plant-based Diet
2. Healthy Weight Maintenance
3. Regular Physical Activity
“There’s convincing evidence that these three lifestyle modifications can substantially lower the cancer rate,” Collins explains. “Approximately one-third of cancers can be prevented through these alterations. Add to this tobacco prevention, which reduces about 30 percent of cancers, and we could prevent over half of today’s cancers.”
Dr. Virginia Kaklamani, a breast cancer specialist from a major Memorial Hospital in Chicago, concurs that “increased weight raises the risk of cancer, and physical activity, regardless of weight, reduces breast cancer risk.”
The same institute, in collaboration with the World Cancer Research Fund, released a report – a comprehensive study of over 7,000 research papers on cancer. The report offers some key recommendations:
Maintain a Body Mass Index (BMI) between 21 and 23 and avoid weight gain during adulthood. Although a BMI of up to 24.9 is deemed normal, the lower end of normal is preferable for cancer prevention, the report suggests.
Engage in moderate activities, such as brisk walking, for a minimum of 30 minutes a day. Ideal advice is to gradually work up to 60 minutes of moderate exercise per day, or 30 minutes of intense activity. The report also recommends restricting sedentary activities, such as television viewing.
Advocate a healthy diet, primarily consisting of plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The report advises against excessive consumption of sugary, processed foods, and fast foods, advocating for limited intake of red meat to a maximum of 18 ounces per week. Daily salt consumption should also be fewer than 2.4 grams. For alcohol, it recommends a limitation of one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.
Do not over-depend on them. The cancer-preventing benefits derived from nutrients are believed to originate from foods, not from individual supplements. The report advises against taking supplements exclusively.
However, Collins emphasizes that these suggestions should not be seen as “all-or-nothing.”
“Some people may feel discouraged, thinking ‘I’m far from a healthy weight, and it’s impossible to achieve. Why bother trying?’ But any progression towards a healthier weight is beneficial,” Collins argues.
In addition, Collins holds that one healthy modification tends to support another. “When you’re active and at a healthy weight, making better eating choices becomes easier, as nutritious foods tend to provide more energy for physical activity.”
Kaklamani urges people to make these healthy lifestyle changes. However, she notes that the 20% of women with a family history of breast cancer may have to do more.
These women should discuss with their doctors about genetic counseling because, along with leading a healthy lifestyle, they might require to take further aggressive steps to prevent cancer.
Experts emphasize that anyone with a family history of any type of cancer should make their medical practitioner aware of it and inquire whether there are available tests to assess their risk of developing that type of cancer.
The renowned Institute for Cancer Research has additional resources on practicing preventative measures against cancer.