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Choose a New Year's resolution that lowers your cancer risk

​The New Year is a natural time to try for a new start and do things better - but any time of year is a good time to resolve to take steps in improve your health.

Some of the most common goals – to lose weight, exercise more, and quit smoking – are healthy habits that can help you lower your cancer risk and benefit you for the rest of your life.

Below is a list of healthy habits recommended by the Society. To be most successful, choose SMART goals. SMART is an acronym coined in the journal "Management Review" in 1981 for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. For instance, instead of saying you want to lose weight, choose how much weight you want to lose by a certain time. Be reasonable, perhaps aiming for one pound a week.

In addition to maintaining a healthy body weight, not smoking, being physically active on a regular basis, eating a healthy diet, and limiting alcohol consumption are the most important ways to reduce cancer risk. Studies estimate that adults who most closely follow the healthy lifestyle recommendations listed below are 10%-20% less likely to be diagnosed with cancer, and 20%-30% less likely to die from the disease.

Adopt a physically active lifestyle
  • Adults should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity each week, or an equivalent combination, preferably spread throughout the week. High levels of moderate-intensity activity (60-75 minutes per day) appear to offset the increased risk of death associated with prolonged sitting. Even low amounts of physical activity appear to reduce cancer mortality compared to no activity at all.
  • Get your kids involved! Children and adolescents should engage in at least 1 hour of moderate- or vigorous-intensity activity each day, with vigorous-intensity activity at least three days each week.
  • Limit sedentary behavior such as sitting, lying down, and watching television and other forms of screen-based entertainment.
  • Doing any intentional physical activity above usual activities can have many health benefits.  
Consume a healthy diet with an emphasis on plant foods
  • Choose foods and beverages in amounts that help achieve and maintain a healthy weight. One SMART goal would be to drink water instead of soda or fruit drinks.
  • Limit consumption of red and processed meat. Replace meat with fish at least once a week. 
  • Eat at least 2½ cups of vegetables and fruits each day.
  • Choose whole grains instead of refined-grain products.
  • Limit alcohol intake to no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. Alcohol consumption is a risk factor for cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, colorectum, and female breast,24 and heavy drinking (3 to 4 drinks daily) may also increase risk of stomach and pancreatic cancer. Cancer risk increases with alcohol volume, and even a few drinks per week may be associated with a slightly increased risk of female breast cancer. Alcohol consumption combined with tobacco use increases the risk of cancers of the mouth, larynx, and esophagus many-fold more than either drinking or smoking alone.

There is strong scientific evidence that healthy dietary patterns, in combination with regular physical activity, are needed to maintain a healthy body weight and reduce cancer risk. Studies show that eating more processed and red meat, potatoes, refined grains, and sugar-sweetened beverages and foods is associated with a higher risk of developing or dying from a variety of cancers, whereas eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fish or poultry and fewer red and processed meats is associated with reduced cancer risk. A review of the evidence found that people who have the healthiest diet have an 11%-24% lower risk of cancer death than those with the least healthy diet. In addition, improving the quality of diet over time is associated with an overall reduced risk of death. 

Good luck!

Source: Cancer Facts & Figures 2018.

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