Recent research on the genetics of cancer may give an impression that some are fated for the disease, but that’s not necessarily true. Healthy behaviours could prevent about half of all cancer deaths. Here are seven dos and don’ts to reduce your risk of the dreaded disease. EXERCISE REGULARLY: Be physically fit. Research shows active people have a lower risk of developing colon and breast cancers than people who don’t exercise.

You don’t need to be a superathlete to get the benefits of exercise. Any exercise that raises your heartrate and makes you sweat like brisk walking, biking, dancing or aerobics is beneficial. While at it, ensure that your weight is in the normal range for your height. Keep to a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or less. Increases in BMI are linked to endometrial, gall bladder, esophageal, renal, thyroid and colon cancers. Medical experts advise, stay within five to 10 kilos of what you weighed at 18.

CUT DOWN ON ALCOHOL: Alcohol does not only put a load on your liver and slows vitamin absorption, but is also a contributing factor to oral cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, oral cancer is six times more common in alcohol users than in people who don’t drink. Limit your alcohol consumption. This means no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. And steer clear of weekend binge drinking. You tend to consume more alcohol than you would have set out to. NO SMOKING: The graphic packet makes it amply clear that ‘cigarette smoking is injurious to health’.

Smoking causes a host of cancers, including that of the lung, esophagus, mouth, throat, stomach and pancreas, according to the National Cancer Institute. It’s also the leading cause of premature, preventable death. Is this relevant reason enough for smokers to quit the stub? GET SUN SCREENED: Protect your skin from the sun. Its ultraviolet rays damage the skin’s DNA and can cause genetic mutations that lead to skin cancer. Use sunscreen every time you go outdoors (preferably one with an SPF of 30 or higher that protects against both UVA and UVB rays). Keep covered with a broad hat and sunglasses.

Also, stay away from radiation. Avoid exposures to cancercausing substances. Radiation exposures and some chemicals are known to cause cancer. For example, ionizing radiation that comes from gamma rays, high-energy UV rays and X-rays is linked to cancers of the lung, skin, thyroid, breast and stomach. NO HRT: Women, as far as you can, avoid taking hormone replacement therapy to treat symptoms of menopause. A number of studies have linked hormone use to an increased risk of uterine cancer. If you need to take hormones, limit the use to less than five years, your gynaecologist would advise.

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FOLLOW A HEALTHY DIET: Eat a colourful diet rich in green leafy vegetables, pink carrots, and red tomatoes. It reduces the risk of cancer. Research suggests that a plant-based diet is associated with reduced risks for several cancers, especially colon cancer. The recommendations include keeping your intake of red meat to no more than four ounces per day. Avoid processed meats, eat at least five servings of a variety of non-starchy vegetables and fruits every day, and minimise your intake of sugary drinks, juices, desserts and candies, refined breads and chips.

GO FOR SCREENING: Get screened for cancer regularly. Screening tests can detect cancers of the colon, breast, prostate, cervix and skin (ask your doctor how often to get them and at what age you should start). Even if you don’t have any symptoms, finding cancer early greatly increases your chances of treatment and even cure. Screening tests can include physical exams, blood tests, imaging and X-rays and genetic tests.

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