The long days and the slower pace of summer makes it the perfect season to jumpstart improving your health, inside and out. By making simple changes to adopt healthy lifestyle habits, women can realize the full range of healthful benefits the season offers. Not only will these changes help you feel confident in that new sun dress, researchers believe many cancers and other diseases may be prevented by adopting healthy habits.
“A woman’s cancer risk is dependent on a variety of factors, but it’s evident that eating better and exercising regularly to maintain a healthy weight, getting routine screenings, and protecting your skin from the sun can lead to fewer cancer diagnoses,” said Guillermo Lazo, M.D., medical oncologist and hematologist at Texas Oncology–McAllen.
With summer months in mind, Texas Oncology–McAllen physicians share suggestions for a prevention-focused lifestyle:
Managing your weight and eating a balanced diet may bolster your body’s defenses against cancer and other illnesses. The summer season is full of fruits and vegetables at their peak, and as an added bonus, buying in-season produce is generally less expensive. Eating certain types of foods is associated with a lower cancer risk. Since studies have shown that obesity can increase cancer risk, maintaining a healthy weight can also help reduce risk. The American Cancer Society recommends:
- substitute whole grains for refined or processed grains;
- limit processed and red meats, foods preserved with salt, and fat;
- have no more than one alcoholic drink daily for women and two for men;
- eat five servings of fruits and vegetables daily;
- drink plenty of water.
Get Check-Ups and Screenings
With summer’s longer days, women often feel like they have more free time. Talk with your doctor to schedule cancer screenings that are due. Screenings can detect cancers at their earliest and most treatable stages.
Discuss with a physician your individual risk factors, including age, menopausal status, and family history to determine your screening needs. Individuals should be aware of their cancer risk, which may be higher for those with a personal or family history of cancer, or certain genetic profiles that have been associated with specific cancer types. Screening may need to occur more often or begin at an earlier age for those with these risk factors. Women with a family history of breast, ovarian, and/or other cancers should consider evaluation by a genetics counselor.
“If detected early and treated appropriately, about one-third of cancers can be cured, according to the World Health Organization,” said Dr. Joseph Litam, M.D., medical oncologist at Texas Oncology– McAllen.
“With screening options available for several cancer types, it is crucial that women take advantage of these lifesaving measures and get screened.”
Whether it’s hiking, swimming, or taking nature walks, summer is an ideal time to increase physical activity. According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 50 percent of the U.S. population fails to routinely exercise. Being overweight increases the risk of many cancers, including, breast, lung, endometrial, esophageal, kidney, pancreas colorectal, thyroid, and gallbladder cancers, among others.
The American Cancer Society recommends that average, healthy adults participate in a minimum of 75 to 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise spread throughout the week to maintain health and reduce the risk of disease, including cancer. Talk to your doctor about your current health condition and the amount of physical activity best for you.
Those who have a relatively inactive lifestyle should increase activity levels slowly. Even small changes that increase the level of daily physical activity may reap health benefits.
Save Your Skin
Many favorite summer activities involve being outdoors in the sun, but Texas Oncology wants Texas women to outsmart the sun and avoid improper exposure to the its harmful ultraviolet rays. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, but it is preventable by taking protective measures. Parents should remember that children also need protection from the sun.
“Anyone, regardless of skin color, may develop skin cancer, though people with fair skin or who are outdoors frequently are at higher risk,” said Suresh Ratnam, M.D., FACP, medical oncologist of Texas Oncology–McAllen. “One can prevent skin cancer by avoiding sun exposure when possible and taking precautions, such as using sunscreen and covering up the skin.”
For the 4.2 million Texans who smoke, this summer is the time to quit. Eighty percent of lung cancer mortalities are smoking related, and half of lifetime smokers will die from tobacco-related disease. Research consistently shows that smoking cessation is paramount to lung health. Smokers who quit are more likely to live healthier, longer lives, while decreasing lung cancer risk.
“Despite the clear link between tobacco and cancer, lung cancer claims the lives of many Texans,” said Nurul Wahid, M.D., medical oncologist at Texas Oncology–McAllen. “Not smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke are some of the most effective ways to reduce risk for lung cancer and several other types of cancer.”
This summer, enjoy outdoor physical activities, take advantage of in-season fruits and vegetables and longer summer days, all while practicing sun safety habits and ditching that cigarette. Turning these suggestions into a habit will allow you to emerge from the season with reinforced health defenses in place.
By Drs. Guillermo Lazo, Joseph Litam, Suresh Ratnam, and Nurul Wahid