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8 Ways to Lower Your Cancer Risk

These lifestyle choices may make cancer less likely.

2. Don't Weight.

Many people probably know that carrying too much weight around isn’t good for your heart, but did you know that it’s a major risk factor for cancer as well? Obesity is the culprit behind some 14% of cancer deaths, and more than 3% of new cancer cases, every year.

“Our No. 1 recommendation for cancer risk reduction is to stay as lean as possible within a healthy weight range. This may be one of the most important ways to prevent cancer,” says Alice Bender, MS, RD, manager of nutrition communications at the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR).

In November 2007, the AICR put out an expert report summarizing how food, nutrition, and physical activity affect cancer and cancer prevention. Being overweight, according to the AICR report, is linked to a wide variety of cancers, including esophageal, pancreatic, gall bladder, breast, endometrial, and kidney cancers.

3. Bust a Move.

All forms of physical activity help to prevent many forms of cancer, according to the AICR Expert Report. You may not get six-pack abs with 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day, but a number of studies have found evidence that just this much physical activity can cut your risk of many common cancers by 30% to 50%.

“It doesn’t matter that much what kind of exercise you do, or when -- just do it,” Ruffin says. “Let’s correlate it to smoking. If you can cut your weight down to a healthy range, increase your physical activity, and increase your fruit and vegetable intake. That’s the equivalent to stopping smoking if you were a smoker. People don’t understand how important these factors are, because they creep up over your life span.”

4. Plant Your Plate.

There are a number of different foods that may help to prevent certain types of cancer. “For example, tomatoes, watermelon, and other foods containing lycopene have evidence showing that they probably reduce the risk of prostate cancer,” Bender says.

But if you’re aiming to slice your risk of many cancers across the board, load your plate with plants, particularly non-starchy vegetables and fruits. That’s why the AICR report’s No. 4 recommendation is to eat mostly foods that come from plants -- at least 14 ounces every day. The Mediterranean diet, St. Tropez diet, and the green diet all are based on a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Diets that tend to prevent cancer are rich in plant-based foods.

AICR’s “new American plate” plan offers an easy cheat sheet on eating to prevent cancer. Fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains should cover two-thirds of your plate; the other one-third should contain lean meats, fish, and low-fat dairy.

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