7 of the Best Things You Can Do Today To Avoid Cancer

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In 2023, 2 million people in the U.S. were diagnosed with cancer, according to estimates from the National Cancer Institute. Sadly, some 610,000 Americans died from the disease in 2023 as well. Even when someone survives, they can carry lifelong complications — both physical and emotional — from the experience.

All that is reason enough to do whatever you can to avoid this disease. While some causes of cancer are a mystery, research indicates doing the following things can reduce your risk.

1. Cover up

Happy people
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Decades ago, lying in the sun or visiting the tanning salon was considered a way to give skin a seemingly healthy glow. Nowadays, we know better. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun, tanning beds and sunlamps actually damages skin and can lead to cancer.

Instead of basking in the sun, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests staying in the shade and covering up with clothing when the UV index is 3 or higher. The federal agency also notes that UV rays can be present even on cloudy and cool days, and they are strongest from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. standard time.

2. Stop drinking

wine glasses on a table
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You may have heard that having a glass of red wine has health benefits, and there is some indication that red wine can lower the risk of heart disease. But cancer? There’s nothing to prove wine is beneficial there.

In fact, if you want to avoid cancer, it’s best to avoid drinking completely. A 2021 study from the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer found that an estimated 741,000 new cases of cancer in 2020 were linked to alcohol consumption. Of those, 1 in 7 were associated with light to moderate drinking.

3. Exercise regularly

Senior woman exercising
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Of all the things on this list, exercise is the one that gives you the most bang for your buck. Physical activity is linked to healthy hearts, better cognitive function, reduced weight, stronger bones and, yes, less chance of cancer.

In particular, studies have shown strong evidence that exercise can reduce the risk of these cancers:

  • Bladder cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Endometrial cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Kidney (renal cell) cancer
  • Stomach (gastric) cancer

4. Get off your butt

Wealthy businessman or investor walking around the city
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Even if you don’t hit the gym, just standing and moving around more might reduce your risk of cancer. A study from the American Cancer Society found sitting for an extended period of time increases your risk of death from all causes, including cancer.

In their findings, researchers note: “Emerging evidence supports that sitting time is a behavioral risk factor that is distinct from inadequate exercise.”

5. Eat less red meat

eating a meal
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Sorry meat lovers, your beef, pork and lamb could all increase your risk of cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Research is still ongoing, but right now, the institute says red meat consumption is associated with a higher incidence of the following:

  • Colon and rectum cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer

6. Avoid processed meats

Polish Boy Sandwich hot dog with french fries
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Don’t think swapping out your burgers for hot dogs will be an improvement. Processed meats such as hot dogs, bacon and sausage are also linked to higher rates of the following cancers:

  • Colorectal cancer
  • Stomach cancer

That’s according to the National Cancer Institute. The World Health Organization agrees and has categorized processed meat as “carcinogenic to humans.”

7. Get screened

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Screening for cancer won’t help you avoid it, but it can make fighting the disease infinitely easier. An early diagnosis can, in many cases, be the difference between life and death.

The American Cancer Society maintains screening guidelines for the following forms of cancer:

  • Breast cancer
  • Colon and rectal cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Endometrial cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Prostate cancer

While screening for these cancers is most common, testing may be available for other forms of cancer if you have a family history of the disease. Talk to your physician about what cancer screenings are right for you.

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