By Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, Dec. 6, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- A healthy lifestyle might be your best defense against cancer, an expert says.
About 42% of cancer cases and 45% of cancer deaths are attributable to modifiable risk factors, according to the American Cancer Society.
"Modifiable risk factors are behaviors within one's control, such as eating right, not smoking, and being physically active," said Dr. Michael Hall, chair of the Department of Clinical Genetics at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.
"However, some risk factors cannot be controlled, such as family history or getting older. That's why getting regular recommended cancer screenings may be just as important as living a healthy lifestyle," he said in a center news release.
Screening increases the chance of detecting certain cancers early, when they are most curable and before any symptoms appear.
"Men and women should discuss screening options with their doctor to determine when and how frequently they should be tested for certain types of cancer," Hall said.
In terms of lifestyle factors, one of the main ways to reduce the risk of developing and dying from cancer is to avoid tobacco. It's believed that smoking causes about 30% of all cancer deaths in the United States.
Life expectancy for smokers is at least 10 years shorter than that of nonsmokers, according to the American Cancer Society.
"Quitting smoking, or not starting, is the best thing you can do to help prevent cancer -- no matter your age and even if you've smoked for years," Hall said.
Secondhand smoke is also known to cause cancer, so try to avoid it as much as possible.
Other lifestyle habits that can reduce cancer risk include protecting yourself from the sun's harmful UV rays, eating a healthy diet and being physically active.
Also, parents should have their children vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes cancers in more than 33,000 U.S. women and men each year. The HPV vaccine helps prevent six types of cancer, and is recommended for boys and girls ages 11 to 12.
"The HPV vaccine can protect children from developing certain cancers in their adulthood," Hall said.