[This article was written by Anne Lawton, BSN, RN, NCTTP. Community Outreach Nurse, Cancer Care Center, St. Peter’s Health Partners]
We are all aware of the different cancer awareness months for various cancers, but how many are aware that February is National Cancer Prevention Month? The American Cancer Society estimates one in three people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. And while making healthy life style choices may not prevent cancer, they will certainly lessen your risk.
Tobacco use is the most common preventable cause of a cancer diagnosis and death. This includes cigarettes, e-cigarettes, chew and cigars. If you use tobacco, it is never too late to stop. Help can be found with your primary care physician, by calling the NYS Quitline at 1-NY-QUITS (697-8487), or by calling the St. Peter’s Cancer Line at 518-525-1827.
Eating five servings of fruits and vegetables a day is an important cancer prevention activity. While sugar is not a cause of cancer and does not cause cancer to grow, it does play a large role in obesity. Choosing healthy foods and maintaining a healthy weight are vital because obesity plays a role in multiple types of cancer including breast, ovarian, endometrial, colon, and prostate.
Get some exercise. Not only will it help prevent obesity, it will also improve your overall health, improve your mood, and decrease your risk for cancer.
Alcohol use in moderation is another cancer prevention action. Two or more alcoholic drinks a day can increase the cancer risk in men; one or more a day in women. According to the National Cancer Institute, there is strong scientific evidence that alcohol consumption can cause several types of cancer such as head and neck, esophageal, liver, breast, and colorectal.
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer diagnosed. It is caused by UV radiation from sun exposure and the use of tanning beds. Tanned skin is not healthy skin. From babies to the elderly, the use of sunscreen when outdoors is vital. The use of a broad spectrum sunscreen with a SPF of 30 applied every two hours while outside will prevent painful sunburns and the potential of skin cancer in your future.
HPV infections cause a large percentage of cervical, anal, oropharyngeal, vaginal, vulvar, and penile cancers. Protecting children with the HPV vaccine is recommended by all major medical professions including the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Cancer Society, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Finally, take cancer screenings seriously. Screening guidelines for cancer can vary based on your individual risk and genetic factors and should be reviewed with your primary care physician yearly. Early detection of cancer through regular cancer screenings increases the survival rate and the possibility of a cure.
At St. Peter’s Health Partners, we take pride in offering a cancer treatment approach that is patient-centered and supported by a multidisciplinary team. If you have questions, please call 518-525-1827.