February is National Cancer Prevention Month. While you are likely well aware of things you should do to prevent cancer –avoiding smoking and wearing sunscreen, and getting regular screenings for colon, breast and prostate cancer, for example– there are other steps you can start taking now to up your odds of remaining cancer-free. In fact, many are surprisingly simple to tackle.
1. Drink Filtered Water
Sipping enough water every day is essential to overall health, but it is important to make sure the water you drink is clean and safe. Find out what contaminates are in your tap water (you can check the EWG’s Tap Water Database)
If carcinogens are present, you may wish to buy a filter for your home or filtered water from the store.
2. Eat a Rainbow
The more colorful your diet is, the more likely that it is packed with the nutrients your body needs to fight cancer. Load your plate with minimally-processed foods in a variety of hues, such as fruits, vegetables, herbs and whole grains.
3. Get on Your Feet
Studies suggest that spending too much time sitting can make you likelier to develop cancer. Find opportunities to stand throughout each day, whether you invest in a special desk that enables you to work while on your feet or you opt to stand while making phone calls, doing chores or even watching television.
4. Have a Cup of Joe
Java lovers rejoice! Drinking coffee regularly could protect against multiple types of cancer. The beans, a rich source of antioxidants, may have other positive effects on your health, as well.
5. Start Moving
Physical activity has been linked to a reduced risk of 13 types of cancer. You don’t have to hit the gym or exercise strenuously, either. Walking just 30 minutes at 3 mph 5 days per week can be enough to protect you.
6. Be Picky about Meat
Processed meats, such as hot dogs, bacon and lunch meat, has been classified as a carcinogen. Red meat has been labeled a possible carcinogen, as well. Make more meals using poultry and fish or create meatless dishes using beans, eggs and other protein sources instead.
7. Shed (Just a Few) Pounds
If you are overweight or obese, you are at a higher risk for cancer. Fortunately, you can begin lowering that risk by losing a minimal amount of weight. Shedding as little as five percent of your body weight can make a major difference.
8. Get Vaccinated
The human papillomavirus can cause cervical, vaginal, vulvar, anal and oral cancer. The HPV vaccine protects against the virus. Another immunization to consider is hepatitis B virus, as a long-lasting hepatitis B virus can cause liver cancer.
9. Up Vitamin D Intake
Studies have shown a correlation between low levels of vitamin D and certain types of cancer. Your primary care provider can test to see if you are deficient in this vitamin and give recommendations for getting more from sun exposure or supplements.
While there is no hard proof that stress can cause cancer, chronic stress can weaken your immune system and potentially speed the development of tumors. Find healthy, positive ways to release the strains of daily life, such as prayer and meditation, exercise or venting to a friend.
Lucretia Hurley-Browning, MDiv, MS, is a guest writer whose recent background includes Chaplain of Abramson Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital and the Director of Juniper Tree Counseling Center. She is a therapist and ordained United Methodist Minister. Currently she is a writer by day, a reader by night, and is passionate about living life meaningfully with a good dose of fun.