"When you have your health, you have everything. When you do not have your health, nothing else matters at all." — Augusten Burroughs
As an oncologist, I see a lot of people fight for their health. One in eight people will develop cancer. We try to raise awareness to catch cancer early, but it is even better to prevent it altogether. Here is a short list of things we all can do to prevent cancer:
■ Don't use tobacco. Smoking cigarettes is thought to be responsible for 1 in 5 deaths, including about 30 percent of all cancer-related deaths and 70 to 87 percent of lung cancer deaths. Smokeless tobacco products increase risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus and pancreas. If you smoke, ask your doctor for help with quitting.
■ Get screened. Ask your doctor how you can stay up-to-date with recommended cancer screenings. For women, discuss breast and reproductive health. For men, discuss prostate health. Men and women both should ask about colon cancer screening.
■ Watch your skin. Keep out of the sun (especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.) and never use tanning beds. Use of tanning beds before age 30 increases lifetime risk of melanoma, a particularly deadly skin cancer, by 75 percent. Use clothing to cover up and wear a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher every day.
■ Eat a healthy diet, stay active and maintain a healthy weight. Get plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and consume fat in moderation. If you drink alcohol, don't consume more than two drinks per day for men or one drink per day for women. Exercise for at least 150 minutes (moderate intensity) or 75 minutes (vigorous intensity) a week.
■ Know your family history. Share this information with your doctor. Research the cancer history of your first-degree relatives (parents, children and full siblings) and second-degree relatives (grandparents, aunts/uncles, nieces/nephews, grandchildren and half-siblings). For each relative who has had cancer, document the type of cancer and their age at the time they were diagnosed.
■ Vaccinate. Make sure your children (11 to 12-year-old girls and boys) get a human papilloma vaccine (HPV) to prevent future cancers of the anogenital tract as well as cancers of the mouth and throat.
Stay informed and take care of your health. Oncologists are always here to help you in the fight against cancer, but the best way to win the fight is to never have to face the fight at all.