Easy, fun ways to prevent cancer

As a cancer patient/survivor, I am passionate about telling people about cancer and how to prevent it. I thought I would summarize in a few quick bullet points. Please go down the checklist and make sure you are maximizing your chances of catching cancer early by checking your own body for signs of changes. You can find more resources about screening services available through your medical doctor here. Lastly, to assess your own cancer-specific risk, fill out this simple screening tool and read up about the cancers you may be most at risk for.

  • Thyroid cancer is the most rapidly increasing cancer in women in the U.S. Your thyroid gland should be felt by a skilled care provider at least once a year. You should also perform a monthly neck self-exam along with your monthly breast or testicular self-exam. For instructions and a downloadable card to place on your bathroom mirror, click here.
  • To prevent thyroid cancer, avoid using iodized salt if you eat plenty of store-bought canned food and salty foods like soy sauce, store-bought condiments, and cured meats. Excess iodine in your diet can lead to thyroid abnormalities.
  • 1 in 8 American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. It is most commonly discovered during a monthly self-exam by the woman herself. Breast cancer can also occur in men, although it is rare.
  • Breast cancer risk factors include advancing age; family history (especially among sisters or mother/daughter); over/underweight; a diet laden with hormones, such as those that can be found in mass-produced red meat and dairy products; excessive alcohol use and smoking; oral contraceptive use; no or few pregnancies; early onset of periods; and DES exposure.
  • To reduce your risk, know your family history! Maintain a healthy weight (>22 and <35>
  • 1 in 300 men will develop testicular cancer. However, the rates are rising, especially in the U.S. and in young men under 30, whose relative risk is now 1 in 100. Testicular cancer is most often diagnosed when abnormalities are noticed during a monthly self-exam of the scrotum.
  • Risk factors include undescended testicle; HIV or other sexually transmitted disease infection; young age; and tall height (about 6'2"). To reduce your risk, be sure to perform self-exams, especially if you are tall and young! Practicing celibacy or monogamy will also reduce your risk somewhat, although testicular cancer can occur in men who have always been celibate.
  • Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon. 1 in 5 Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime. Do a monthly head-to-toe self-check of your skin so that you are familiar with your birthmarks, moles, and variations in skin tone.
  • Watch for changes, especially irregularity of borders of a mole, bleeding or flaking of a mole or freckle, difference in color from one side to the other of a single mole, or tenderness, irritation or redness. If you notice any of these signs, check with your doctor.
  • To reduce your risk, avoid excess sun exposure, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Wear sun-blocking clothing (fact: light cotton has an SPF rating of 16-34. However, it loses 50% of it's sun-blocking ability if wet. Choose polyester or other tightly woven fabrics if you plan to get wet). Sun-blocking lotions have also been linked to skin cancer, so use clothing and hats whenever possible. If you plan a trip to the beach, be sure to eat lots of dark green leafy vegetables, berries and red wine! Antioxidants actually prove effective in preventing sunburn when consumed in high amounts within 24 hours before sun exposure!
Now, here is my short list of how to prevent cancer:
  • Touch yourself - at least enough so that you recognize changes when they happen.
  • Only have sex with one person - ever.
  • Eat really good food - but not too much!
  • Drink some wine - but not too much!
  • Never, ever smoke. Not even when you're stressed. Or angry. Or depressed. (because, believe me!, cancer will make you more stressed, angry and depressed than you currently think you are)
  • Go to the doctor once a year, like it or not. Make sure they check your neck, sex organs, and skin. Ask about other screening tests if you think they apply to you.
  • Smile and laugh a lot. Go to church. Have faith. Be optimistic. Have lots of friends. Live slowly and simply. Relax. Go on vacations.
  • Have sex (but only with one person, remember!) and make lots of babies. Lots and lots of them! Then nurse your babies, for a good long time.
  • If you have a lump or a bump, tell someone. Don't succumb to embarrassment, fear or denial.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Take your vitamins (or eat them in your food - even better!).
  • Eat whole foods, and avoid refined grain and sugar if you can. Eat yogurt and other cultured foods that promote intestinal health. Don't eat hormones, preservatives, or unnatural ingredients (if it has a chemical name, it's probably not good for you).
  • Don't put iodized salt in your shaker at home.
  • Don't use contraceptives. (how else are you going to be barefoot, pregnant, and cancer-free?)
Hope that helps...it should have made you laugh a bit, if nothing else!