Holy Name Medical Center Blog

These Seven Steps Can Help You Prevent Cancer

Posted by Paul J. Morris, DO, FACOFP
Family Medicine Specialist
Holy Name Medical Partners on May 11, 2021
Paul J. Morris, DO, FACOFP

In some cases, the disease is unavoidable, but there are factors within our control that generally can help reduce your risk for some cancers. Making healthy lifestyle choices – and avoiding unhealthy environmental factors – can go a long way.

The medical advice is relatively simple and you may have heard much of it before, but a reminder is always helpful since good habits are relatively easy to incorporate into your lifestyle. You can start today:

  1. Do Not Smoke.

    There's no disputing the evidence: Smoking is linked to various types of cancer — including that of the lung, mouth, throat, larynx, pancreas, bladder, cervix and kidney. Chewing tobacco has been associated with cancer of the oral cavity and pancreas.

    Even if you don't use tobacco, exposure to secondhand smoke of any kind might increase your risk of lung cancer. Avoiding tobacco is an important part of cancer prevention. If you or a loved one needs help quitting, ask your doctor about available products and strategies.

  2. Choose a healthy, well-balanced diet.
    • Strive for a fiber-rich, veggie-filled plate.

      Fruits, vegetables and other foods from plant sources — such as whole grains and beans – are your dietary friends. Limit selections from animal sources and those that contain refined sugars.

    • Drink alcohol in moderation.

      The risk of various types of cancer increases with the amount of alcohol you drink and the length of time you've been drinking regularly.

    • Limit or avoid red and processed meats.

      Both can increase cancer risk, and there are plenty of healthier options available. Not so much Taylor ham, Jersey people!

  3. Maintain a healthy weight and stay physically active.

    In addition to diet, physical activity can help maintain a healthy weight and help reduce risk, especially for breast and colon cancers. As a general goal, include at least 30 minutes of physical activity in your daily routine. More time and vigor in those activities is even better.

  4. Protect yourself from the sun.

    Skin cancer is one of the most common and preventable cancers. Avoid the midday sun and otherwise stay in the shade or cover up as much as possible. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, even when the sun isn’t shining. Apply generously, and reapply every two hours or more often if you're swimming or sweating. And, of course, skip the tanning beds and sunlamps.

  5. Avoid exposure to environmental toxins.

    Beyond second-hand smoke of all kinds, our environment is filled with harmful chemicals, such as air pollutants and bi-products of certain plastics. Avoid these to the extent that you can.

  6. Get vaccinated.

    Cancer prevention includes protection from certain viral infections. Talk to your doctor about vaccination against hepatitis B and the human papillomavirus (HPV) - both can be transmitted through unprotected sex and intravenous drug use. (Most people born after 1983 have been vaccinated against hep B.)

  7. Seek regular medical care and cancer screenings.

    Regular self-exams and screenings for various types of cancers — such as cancer of the skin, colon, cervix and breast — can increase your chances of discovering cancer early, when treatment is most likely to be successful. Genetic screening may also be warranted if you have a family history of certain cancers. Ask your doctor about the best cancer screening schedule for you.

  8. Paul J. Morris DO, FACOFP, is board-certified in family medicine and is a fellow of the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians. He can be reached at Carlstadt Family Practice, Holy Name Medical Partners, 446 Hackensack Street in Carlstadt. Call 201 933-2370 to book an in-person or telemedicine appointment.