Americans are expected to spend billions of dollars on flowers, chocolates, jewelry and other gifts this Valentine’s Day to express their love to family and friends. But there is a more cost-effective and longer lasting way you can show your loved ones you care: share your knowledge of cancer prevention during February—National Cancer Prevention Month—and throughout the year.
An estimated 600,920 men and women in the United States will die from cancer this year with 14,830 deaths expected in Tennessee alone. But up to 50 percent of cancer diagnoses and 50 percent of cancer deaths could be prevented with the knowledge we have right now. Exercising, avoiding tobacco, getting recommended screenings and eating a healthy diet are just some of the ways you can incorporate cancer prevention into your daily life.
One-third of all new cancer diagnoses in the United States are related to being overweight or obese, being physically inactive or having poor dietary habits. Exercise can lower your risk for breast and colorectal cancers—and some research shows physical inactivity may be linked to lung, prostate, endometrial and pancreatic cancers. Dedicate 30 minutes at least five days a week to exercise.
If you smoke, quit.
Cigarette smoking is linked to 80 to 90 percent of all lung cancer cases in the United States, and is also associated with as many as 13 other cancers, including colorectal, breast, cervical, bladder, oral and esophageal cancers. A smoke-free environment also benefits the health of your loved ones—including your pets! No matter when you quit—and it may take several attempts—you reduce your risk of cancer. Talk to your health care professional to determine the best smoking cessation method for you.
Getting screened can help detect cancer early, when it’s easiest to treat. Screenings have been shown to reduce death rates for breast, cervical, colon and lung (for those at high risk) cancers. Visit your health care professional to find out which screenings are recommended for you, based on your health, age and family history.
Eat a healthy diet.
A diet rich in a variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains may reduce your risk of cancer. Add more berries, leafy greens or cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli and cauliflower) and nuts to your meals. Limit your consumption of alcohol and red and processed meats, which have been linked to increased cancer risk. If you find it difficult to commit to healthy eating, it is helpful to plan your meals and buy groceries ahead of time to avoid last-minute fast food or takeout.
Share this with your loved ones and support them in making healthy choices. Turn your knowledge into action and make cancer prevention a priority for yourself and your family. Learn more at www.preventcancer.org.
Brenda Fleischmann is the spouse of Representative Chuck Fleischmann and is a member of the Prevent Cancer Foundation’s Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program. Statistics provided by the Prevent Cancer Foundation®, American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.