Lowering Your Risk of Cancer

Are you looking for ways to stay healthy and lower your risk of cancer? Sometimes cancer occurs for reasons outside our control, but you can also take steps to help decrease your risk.  Read on to get tips to lower your risk of cancer and boost your overall health.   

Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight to lower your risk of cancer

This may be one of the most important ways to protect against cancer as well as other chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Are you looking for support to help manage your weight? For more information read Five tips on maintaining your weight as you age and Checklist for Choosing a Weight Loss Program.

Eat well to lower your risk of cancer 

Eating a healthy diet is important to lower your risk of cancer.  Start by following Canada’s Food Guide.  Below are more nutrition tips to help you lower your cancer risk: 

Eat a variety of plant foods

Plant foods include vegetables, fruit, whole grains and legumes. Plant foods provide vitamins, minerals, fibre and phytochemicals that protect against cancer. They also help you feel full, which can help you maintain a healthy weight. Make plant foods the focus of your meals:

Limit foods high in fat, sugar and salt 

Choose lower fat foods whenever possible, like lower fat milk and cheeses, leaner cuts of meat and chicken without the skin.  When adding fat to foods, choose healthier alternatives like a non-hydrogenated oil or margarine instead of butter. Limit high fat convenience foods. Limit pop, juice, sports drinks, energy drinks and sweetened milk or soy products. Save sugary foods like chocolate, cakes, cookies and pastries for special occasions and choose a smaller portion. Limit salty foods like packaged snack foods, frozen entrees, canned vegetables, soups and stews. Instead of adding salt to foods prepared at home, try herbs and spices.

Eat less red meat and avoid processed meats

Red meat includes beef, pork, lamb and goat. If you eat red meat, have no more than 500 g or 18 oz per week. Keep portions of red meat and other meat like turkey and chicken to about 75 g or 2 ½ oz. This is about the size of a deck of cards. Save processed meats like sausages, bacon, hotdogs and deli meat for special occasions.

Limit alcohol to lower your risk of cancer

If you drink alcohol, limit the amount to 2 drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.   One drink is equal to:

  • 360 mL (12 oz) bottle of beer
  • 150 mL (5 oz) of table wine
  • 45 mL (1 ½ oz) of liquor (vodka, whisky, rum or gin etc.) 

Use dietary supplements cautiously for cancer prevention

Choose whole foods over dietary supplements for cancer prevention.  Dietary supplements do not provide the same cancer protection benefits as whole foods and may be harmful.  Taking dietary supplements should be discussed with your doctor or health care provider.

Be physically active every day to lower your risk of cancer

Start with 30 minutes of physical activity a day, like walking. As you feel your fitness level improving, aim for 60 minutes or more of moderate activity every day. This includes walking briskly, cycling, dancing or swimming.  Choose the activities you enjoy. Limit sedentary activities like watching television, playing video games or sitting at your computer. If you are new to physical activity, speak to your doctor before getting started.

Quit smoking to lower your risk of cancer

If you smoke, consider getting help to quit.  For more information read, Smoking and Nutrition

Be sun safe to lower your risk of cancer

Skin cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer.  Cover your body and head with light loose clothing and a hat. Wear sunglasses and use sunscreen properly.  For more information visit Canadian Cancer Society: Being safe in the sun.

Be aware 

There are other factors in our environments that may increase our risk for cancer like some cookware, food packaging, pesticides and hormones used in food products. Learn about the latest evidence in Lowering your risk of cancer: You and your environment.

Get screened

Getting screened for breast, cervical and colorectal cancer saves lives.  Cancer screening can detect changes in your body that may lead to cancer or find cancer at an early stage when there is a better chance of treating it successfully. In Ontario, there are screening programs available for colon cancer, breast cancer and cervical cancer. Talk to your doctor or health care provider about getting screened for cancer.

Bottom line 

To lower your risk of cancer, aim to make healthy food choices, get physically active and manage your weight. Other choices you can make include quitting smoking, limiting alcohol, wearing sunscreen and going for routine screening as recommended by your doctor.

You may also be interested in 

My Cancer IQ, Cancer Care Ontario – Complete a cancer risk assessment and get your personalized action plan to help lower your risk of cancer.

Last Update – October 13, 2020

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