In a world full of bad news, here’s a bit of good: A third to a half of all cancers are preventable.
Cancer deaths have been on the decline for more than three decades—and stayed on the decline, even with the pandemic raging, according to a recent report from the American Cancer Society. And they’re reliably dropping by a percentage point or two each year, Karen Knudsen, CEO of the American Cancer Society, tells Fortune.
The positive trend is due in part to advances in treatment, including vaccines that can fight cancer in those who have it and stop it from returning in those who’ve gone into remission. (There are also vaccines that can prevent it from occurring altogether.)
But the steady drop in deaths is also due to the fact that so much of cancer is preventable—and word is getting out.
Almost 610,000 cancer deaths are expected in the U.S. this year, Knudsen says—a little more than 1,670 per day. The silver lining: “18% of new cancer cases—and 16% of cancer deaths—are attributable to things people can modify.”
Here are 5 relatively simple lifestyle changes you can make to significantly reduce your risk of developing cancer—and improve your overall health.
1. Limit your drinking or cut it out altogether.
You read that right: Go dry. Period. Full stop.
Alcohol “has now been associated with five to six types of cancer,” Dr. Ernest Hawk, head of the Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences division at The University of Texas’ MD Anderson Cancer Center, tells Fortune. “We used to think there was a cardiologic benefit, but that’s largely been refuted.”
While the most recent recommendations call for total avoidance of alcohol to squash associated cancer risk, if you’re not ready to cut it out completely, women shouldn’t consume more than one drink a day at most—two a day for men, according to Hawk.
2. Avoid known carcinogens like tobacco (and secondhand smoke, too).
Smoking is bad for your health—especially for your lungs. That’s not news. But despite widespread knowledge of the fact, 14% to 15% of the population still smokes, Dr. Ernest Hawk, head of the Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences division at The University of Texas’ MD Anderson Cancer Center, tells Fortune.
Besides being linked to lung cancer, smoking can also lead to other types of cancer like pancreatic and bladder, Knudsen adds.
Those who are addicted to nicotine “really deserve a lot of attention…
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