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ELKTON — Every day, we make choices that affect our health. Some people are physically active and eat less sugar to reduce the risk of obesity and diabetes. Others choose foods that are low in saturated fat and cholesterol to prevent heart disease. But how many of us take action to lower the risk of cancer?
According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 1.7 million new cases of cancer were diagnosed in the United States and an estimated 609,000 people died from the various forms of the disease in 2018. Children are also at risk for developing cancer too. An estimated 15,270 children and adolescents were diagnosed with cancer and 1,790 died of the disease in 2017. February is National Cancer Prevention Month so what better time to make some positive changes to reduce the risk of cancer? The good news is many cancers are preventable. Maintaining a healthy body weight, being physical activity, consuming a healthy diet and avoiding excess amounts of alcohol can prevent nearly half of all cancer diagnoses.
To mark National Cancer Prevention Month this February, the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is leading a campaign on how individuals can reduce their cancer risk with lifestyle changes. The campaign “Cancer Prevention: Together We Can” includes 10 cancer prevention recommendations.
1. Be a healthy weight. Next to not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight is the most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of cancer. Keep your weight within a healthy range and avoid weight gain as much as possible in adult life.
2. Be physically active. Physical activity in any form can lower the risk of cancer. Walk more and sit less and aim for 150 minutes of moderate activity each week. Break up your day by getting up and walking around a few minutes every hour.
3. Eat a diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans. Plan most of your meals with plant foods. Aim to fill at least two-thirds of your plate with vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans. Plant foods contain vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, which are substances that protect body cells from damage that can cause cancer.
4. Limit consuming “fast foods” and other processed foods high in fat, starches or sugars. These foods are high in calories and there is strong evidence that consuming “fast-foods” and a “Western-type” diet causes weight gain and obesity, which are linked to 12 different cancers.
5. Limit consumption of red and processed meat. Eating too much red meat like beef, pork and lamb increases your risk of colorectal cancer. Limiting your intake to 12 to 18 ounces of cooked red meat per week does not increase the risk. Processed meat like ham, bacon, salami, hot dogs, sausages increase the risk of colorectal cancer, even if consumed in small amounts.
6. Limit consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks. Just like processed foods, drinking sugar-sweetened beverages causes weight gain and obesity, which are linked to 12 different cancers. Drinking mostly water and unsweetened drinks are a better choice.
7. Limit alcohol consumption. For cancer prevention, the best advice is not to drink. Alcohol in any form is a carcinogen (cancer causing) and is linked to six different cancers. If you do choose to drink alcohol, limit your consumption to one drink per day for women and two drinks for men per day.
8. Do not use supplements for cancer prevention. Most people don’t need multivitamins or other supplements to reduce their risk of cancer and get the nutrients they need by consuming a healthy diet. Before taking any dietary supplement, it’s always best to discuss it with your doctor or a registered dietitian. For example, consuming high-doses of beta-carotene supplements have been linked to an increased risk for lung cancer in current and former smokers.
9. For mothers, breast feed your baby if you can. Breastfeeding benefits both mother and baby. For mothers, it lowers the levels of some cancer-related hormones in body and babies who are breastfed are less likely to become overweight and obese, which increases the risk of some cancers.
10. After a cancer diagnosis, follow all of these recommendations if you can. If you have cancer, follow the nutritional advice you received from your health care professionals. After treatment is completed, and if you are able, aim to follow these AICR’s cancer prevention recommendations for diet, physical activity and healthy weight maintenance.
Are you ready to take action to reduce your cancer risk? The AICR has put together a 30-day cancer prevention checklist to help you eat smarter and be more active. You can get this free checklist by visiting their website at: http://www.aicr.org/. Click on the tab labeled “Reduce Your Cancer Risk,” then click on the 30 day checklist link on the right side of the page. The checklist has simple things you and your family can do like “Try a new whole grain” or “Swap out a sugary drink.”
If you are looking for delicious and healthy recipes, the AICR has a wide variety of recipes that were developed with cancer prevention in mind including the Winter Berry Smoothie Bowl recipe below.
More than one third of adults (38.4 percent) will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetimes. However, it’s never too late to make some healthy lifestyle changes to prevent cancer.
Winter Berry Smoothie Bowl (Makes 1 large serving)
By: Sharon Palmer, RDN, The Plant-Powered Dietitian
1 cup frozen berries (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries)
1/3 cup plain, unflavored soy milk
1/2 banana, ripe
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1/4 cup frozen berries
1 tablespoon hemp seeds
1 tablespoon cocoa nibs (unsweetened, crushed cocoa beans)
*Note: Try additional toppings, such as unsweetened, dried coconut, slivered almonds, sunflower seeds, chopped walnuts, and pistachios.
1. Place all ingredients in a blender container. Process until smooth.
2. Pour into a bowl and top with additional frozen berries, hemp seeds, and cocoa nibs.
3. Enjoy immediately.
Per Serving: 389 calories, 19 grams total fat, 4.5 grams saturated fat, 52 grams carbohydrate, 17 grams fiber, 13 grams protein, 46 milligrams sodium.