By Lindsey Brumm, R.D., L.D.

As many of you know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This seemed like a good opportunity to discuss strategies that may reduce the risk of developing not only breast cancer but other types of cancer as well. There are many healthy habits that may reduce your risk of contracting certain cancers.

We all realize that staying out of the sun and wearing sunscreen will help prevent skin cancer as staying away from tobacco will help prevent lung, throat, and mouth cancers. However, what might come as a surprise is that achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, along with activity, may help prevent several other cancers as well. According to the Mayo Clinic, maintaining a healthy weight could reduce your risk of several different cancers including breast, prostate, colon, lung, and kidney cancers and activity not only helps us maintain a healthy weight but also may reduce the risk of developing colon or breast cancer. For optimal benefits, 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity is recommended.

There are also many foods that we can include in our daily diet that can help fight against cancer. Antioxidants found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains help fight free radicals that can cause damage to the body and lead to cancer. The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) has identified the foods highest in these and other cancer fighting properties. Dark leafy greens, for example, contain antioxidants known as carotenoids that can slow the development of certain breast cancer cells, skin cancer cells, skin cancer and stomach cancer. They also contain fiber, folate, and flavonoids that also aid in cancer prevention. Walnuts have been studied for their cancer preventative effects more than any other nut according to the AICR because they contain high amounts of polyphenols and phytochemicals that have antioxidant properties in addition to the protective effects of other nutrients such as Omega-3 fatty acids.  Other great foods to include in your diet are berries, broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, carrots, tomatoes, flaxseed, garlic, tea, etc.

On the same note, there are several foods that we want to avoid that could have the opposite effect and actually increase our risk of developing cancer. Red meats and processed meats should be limited as they could cause damage to the lining of the colon which could lead to colorectal cancer. Alcohol has been linked to an increase risk in developing several different types of cancer, especially when combined with smoking. Salt could damage the lining of the stomach and increase the risk of stomach cancer. The recommendation for salt intake is to consume no more than 2300 mg/day. If an individual has hypertension, chronic kidney disease, is over 51 years of age, or is African American, the recommendation is no more than 1500 mg/day of salt.

As you can see there are many things we can do in our daily life to help prevent cancer. However, even with these healthy habits, many will still contract this horrible disease. That is why regular doctor checkups are so important for early prevention! And we will still fight to raise money for continued research for a cure!

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Mayo Clinic: “Cancer Preventation: 7 Tips to Reduce Your Risk”

Today’s Dietitian: “Preventing Cancer — Recommendations from the AICR Can Help Clients Lower Risk”
By Jill Weisenberger, MS, RD, CDE.

The American Institute for Cancer Research: