Genetics and lifestyle factors have been linked to many types of cancer. While men cannot change their genes, they can change behavior. Lifestyle choices can play a key role in preventing or detecting cancer early, when it is most treatable. Following are eight healthy habits for men to help reduce the risk of cancer:
01 Eat Healthy
A diet filled with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats can help reduce many cancer risks. Conversely, a diet high in red meats, as well as other risk factors including obesity, diabetes, and a family history of the disease raise the likelihood of developing colon cancer, which is the second-leading cancer killer in the U.S. Colon cancer lacks early symptoms and is among the most difficult cancers to detect. Fortunately, even fast-food restaurants today offer many healthy options. Substitute fruits and veggies for chips and fries. Try grilled chicken and fish over a steady intake of red or processed meats. Intentional healthy choices will help reduce both the waistline and cancer risk.
02 Drink Water
Drinking water might sound boring, but it is essential to healthy living. The human body is 60 percent water, which helps with digestion, nutrients, saliva, and body temperature. Water hydrates the body, moisturizes the skin, and helps control calories. Order water rather than soft drinks or alcohol at restaurants to improve nutrition, lose weight and save money.
03 Exercise Regularly
In addition to improving hormone levels and immune system function, being active can help reduce cancer risk and aid in weight control. Unfortunately, only about half of Americans routinely exercise. Data indicate that even moderate exercise – 75 to 150 minutes a week – can help reduce cancer risk. That’s only 15 to 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Mild exercise doesn’t require a gym membership. Take the stairs rather than the elevator, park further from the door, or take a brisk walk while listening to music or an audio book.
04 Don’t Smoke
Tobacco smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer and is one of the primary causes of 18 other types of cancer. Nearly one in five deaths in the United States is linked to smoking. Despite decades of warnings about the dangers of tobacco, research surveys reveal that nearly one-fifth of those aged 25 to 44 smokes — mostly men. Nicotine is addictive, so quitting can be difficult. The American Cancer Society offers free counseling, information, and support to help smokers kick their bad habit. Additionally, the Texas Department of State Health Services has a hotline to help smokers quit. Call the “Quitline” at 1-877-937-7848 for support.
“I’m proud of our proclamation of Blue Tie Day in Cameron County on the Friday before Father’s Day,” stated Eddie Trevino, Jr, Cameron County Judge. “It is an official acknowledgment of the importance of men’s health issues and a reminder that receiving a health screening should be a priority for them and their loved ones who depend on them.”
05 Reduce Alcohol Consumption
Excessive alcohol can cause numerous short-term and long-term dangers, including cancer. Alcohol, especially when combined with tobacco is associated with increased risk for at least head and neck, esophageal and liver cancers. Because of alcoholism, drunk driving, and the stigma of being associated with “that guy” who ruins events by excessive drinking, it is now socially acceptable to abstain from alcohol at functions. Men who choose to drink alcohol should limit consumption to the equivalent of two beers a day.
06 Avoid Unsafe Sexual Practices
Abstinence and safe sex not only protect against sexually transmitted diseases, but they also help prevent human papillomavirus (HPV)-related cancers. A research study indicates that nearly half of all American men under 60 have HPV, which causes warts, some forms of head and neck cancer, penile cancer, and anal cancer. HPV is linked to 91 percent of anal cancers. Although HPV-related cancers are increasing, they are highly treatable if diagnosed early. In addition, HPV vaccines in young men are a very effective way to prevent infection.
07 Protect Against UV Exposure
Skin cancer is the most common cancer. It is caused by exposure to ultraviolet, or UV, rays, by the sun or tanning lamps. By applying SPF 30 or higher sunscreen and reapplying as directed, wearing hats and, when possible, long sleeves and long pants, men can reduce their risk of this highly preventable cancer. Additionally, men should check their skin monthly for changes and point out any suspicious spots to their doctor. Early detection is vital to help treat skin cancer and prevent it from spreading.
08 Schedule Regular Physical Examinations and Screenings
It is important for men to identify a preferred doctor and keep appointments for regular physical examinations and regular screenings. Early detection – finding cancer before symptoms are apparent, and when it is most treatable – is paramount. Men can fight cancer by staying current on their screenings, and by self-checking for any notable changes.
Although men tend to be less inclined to visit a physician in person, technology is making it easier – and to access highly specialized care throughout the Texas Oncology network of more than 175 sites of service. For example, Texas Oncology uses telehealth to help connect patients in the Valley region with the renowned neuro-oncologists at the Austin Brain Tumor Center, and for consultations with Texas Center for Proton Therapy in Irving.
Everyone can be at risk for cancer, and there is no miracle cancer prevention solution. That is why it is important for men to develop healthy habits and behaviors that are known to help prevent cancer. Clean living does not result in a boring life. To the contrary, it increases a man’s chances of living longer with a higher quality of life.
Drs. Araneda and Sarhill are medical oncologists at Texas Oncology–Harlingen, 2121 Pease, Suite 101, in Harlingen, Texas. To learn more, visit www.TexasOncology.com.