- Public and community support are crucial in promoting healthy habits aimed at reducing the risk of cancer, including access to healthier food choices and safe spaces for physical activities.
- Four main individual actions recommended to decrease cancer risk are maintaining a healthy weight, staying physically active, consuming a healthy diet, preferably plant-based, and limited intake of alcohol.
- Supplementary recommendations include regular physical activity, avoiding high-calorie foods, consuming a minimum of 2.5 cups of vegetables and fruits daily, and opting for whole grain products over refined grains.
- Community actions should incorporate collaboration between public, private, and community-based organizations to facilitate access to affordable, healthy foods and create safe spaces for physical activity.
- The settings where we live, work, and play significantly influence our ability to make and maintain healthy lifestyle choices.
Public cooperation and community endorsement are vital for fostering healthful habits that may decrease the risk of cancer. These statements can be found in the recent update of the guidelines relating to nutrition and physical activity for cancer prevention by the American Cancer Society.
“Our guidelines have consistently emphasized the actions individuals can take to minimize their cancer risk”, one of the report’s authors, Colleen Doyle, director of nutrition and physical activity, remarked.
“Yet, undertaking public initiatives to render those behaviours more feasible for all Americans is also crucial. It’s not enough just to recommend people to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into their diet and increase physical activity, especially considering the numerous challenges preventing them from doing so easily and routinely,” she further elaborated.
“We need to collectively ensure the availability of healthy food options in workplaces and schools; that our neighbourhoods are structured to safely accommodate children bicycling or walking to school; that people are informed enough to make healthier food choices, whether while grocery shopping or eating out,” Doyle explained.
Four Fundamental Guidelines for Individual Action
In addition to recommendations concerning public actions aimed at supporting individual behaviours for cancer prevention, the guidelines also encompass four principal recommendations on how individuals can mitigate their risk. They include maintaining a healthy weight throughout life; staying physically active; consuming a healthy diet, with emphasis on plant-based foods; and limited intake of alcohol.
Each primary recommendation has several supplementary recommendations.
Attempt to stay lean throughout life, but not underweight.
Actively avoid weight gain at all ages.
For overweight or obese individuals, any weight loss, no matter how minimal, is beneficial for health.
Key strategies for maintaining a healthy weight include regular physical activity and reduction in consumption of high-calorie foods and drinks.
Adults should strive for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity per week, or a mixture of the two. Children and teenagers are recommended to engage in moderate or vigorous intensity physical activity for at least an hour daily, with vigorous activity at least three times a week.
Efforts should be made to limit sedentary habits, like sitting, lying down, watching television and other screen-based recreations.
Consume a minimum of 2.5 cups of vegetables and fruits daily.
Avoid processed and red meats.
Choose whole grain products over refined grain items.
Men are recommended to have not more than two drinks per day and women no more than one.
Recommendations for Community Actions
The guidelines also offer suggestions for community action to encourage individual lifestyle behaviours that prevent cancer. Organisations – public, private, and community-based, should collaborate at national, state, and local levels to push for policy and environmental changes that:
Enhance access to affordable, wholesome foods in communities, workplaces, and schools.
Minimize the promotion of, and access to, nutritionally deficient foods and drinks, especially targeted towards youth.
Create safe, enjoyable, and accessible places for physical activity in schools and workplaces, and for recreation and transportation within communities.
“The settings in which we reside, work, physically engage, and recreate have a significant influence on our ability to choose and maintain healthy lifestyle choices. If we’re not devoted to transforming these environments so healthier options become easier options, then we’re not taking full advantage of available opportunities,” concludes Doyle.
Click here to learn more about cancer prevention from the U.S. National Cancer Institute.