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Eight Resolutions to Reduce Cancer Risk in 2022

January 10, 2022
Sarah Tucker Price, M.D.

What resolutions are you making this year? Whether you aim to get in more steps, drink more water, get more sleep, or eat more greens, any and every step to a healthier you has the power to lead you to a long, healthy, cancer-free life. Now that’s a resolution worth making.

While cancer is often linked to genes, many cancers are directly related to lifestyle choices and our environment — i.e., things we can change. Last year, almost 1.9 million new cancer cases were diagnosed. Nearly half of these cases could have been avoided through preventive measures – the same preventive measures you can begin implementing today for a healthier you in the new year.

Here are a few preventive actions you can commit to in 2022 that can decrease the likelihood you’ll develop cancer:

  1. Quit smoking tobacco. This is the most impactful change a smoker can make. Quit now and, over time, your risk of mouth, throat, larynx, lung, and other cancers will lower. The sooner you stop, the sooner you can begin distancing yourself from the high-risk category. Your circulation improves within only three months, and your lung function also increases! And that’s only the beginning.

  2. Commit to a healthier diet. A more nutritious diet can mean anything from increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables to substituting sugar and red meat with fish, chicken, and interesting spices. Why? Because a poor diet can lead to obesity and diabetes, which can increase the risk of colorectal, kidney, and pancreatic cancers. And you’ll simply feel better and function more efficiently with the right amount of healthy foods in your diet.

  3. Be active — move every day. Committing to some form of moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week, can help stave off chronic disease and give your heart a healthy boost. Regular exercise also reduces stress, increases productivity, and can improve your mood in general.

  4. Curb your drinking. The less alcohol you drink, the lower your risk of many kinds of cancers: mouth and throat, larynx, esophagus, colon and rectum, liver, and breast. You don’t have to give up that glass of wine you love at the end of a Friday to reduce your cancer risk, but the more you drink, whether it’s beer, wine, or liquor, the higher the risk — so commit to consuming less today. Please note that people with certain health conditions that require medicine that interact with alcohol should avoid drinking entirely. When in doubt, consult your doctor.

  5. Get to and stay at a healthy weight. Getting to and staying at a healthy weight is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your risk of cancer and other chronic diseases. Follow a realistic eating pattern, committing to changing your eating habits long-term. Plan ahead for weekend, vacation, and special occasion eating in order to continue following a healthy-eating pattern.

  6. Protect yourself from the sun. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. While it’s good to get a healthy amount of Vitamin D from the sun, too much of it can lead to basal cell and squamous cell cancers, as well as melanoma. In fact, 85 percent of cancer cases are linked to overexposure to UV rays, which can also be found in tanning beds.

  7. Reduce your risk of HPV associated cancers. Human papilloma virus, or HPV, is linked to six different cancers, including cervical and anal cancers. Vaccination can reduce the risk of HPV associated cancers. If you did not receive your vaccination during childhood, this is recommended for all individuals up until the age of 26. Safe sex not only protects you from STDs and unwanted pregnancies, and but also helps prevent infection by HPV.

  8. Get regular screenings. Be proactive with your health by seeing your doctor regularly and scheduling all recommended screenings, like mammograms, pap smears, and colorectal cancer screening.

You can begin some of these preventive measures today. If you need professional support and further resources, MUSC Health is here to help.

Dr. Sarah Tucker Price is a family physician who seeks to provide high-quality primary care to individuals and families of all ages, including cancer survivorship care. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Price by calling 843-792-3451 or schedule an appointment online.