How women can reduce their risk of developing cancer

Cancer is a disease that touches many of us at some stage in our lives. If we don’t suffer from the illness ourselves than it’s highly likely that a friend or a loved one will. If diagnosed early, cancer is often curable, however, it can still have a devastating, life changing impact on an individual.

Science continues to research the causes of cancer, with the aim of preventing it and hopefully one day coming up with a cure for all types of the disease. In the meantime, there is plenty that we can do as individual women to reduce the cancer risk factors in our daily lives. Some causes, such as family history and genetics, we can’t change- but being aware of them can help us to be alert for early signs of cancer developing, and with the latest treatments many cancers are survivable. It is now an accepted fact that many of the factors that lead to cancer are lifestyle related, and we can do something about that, starting now!

Give up smoking

Giving up smoking is the big one, and surely everyone knows by now that it causes cancer. What’s less well known is that female smokers are twice as likely to develop lung cancer as are males, even if they smoke less. On the other hand, women have a better survival rate than men, and when they give up smoking their lungs seem to recover faster.

Lung cancer rates are actually dropping in men as more give up smoking, but that is not the case with women. In fact, lung cancer has overtaken breast cancer as the leading cause of cancer death among women in the US and other developed countries. Scientists also think that women find it harder to give up smoking than men, because they are behaviorally addicted. If you are trying to give up smoking, then you’re twice as likely to succeed if you attempt it during the second half of your menstrual cycle, as high levels of progesterone in your body will flush out the nicotine, easing the withdrawal symptoms.

Exercise regularly

One of the main causes of breast cancer in women is obesity, especially after the menopause. Doctors recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise a week to control weight and to look after your heart and lungs.

Eat a healthy diet

Eating well can help you to maintain a healthy weight, but diet can help reduce the risk of cancer in other ways too. Avoid eating too much red meat, especially processed meats like bacon or sausages. Charred or well-done meat can also produce carcinogens, however, they can be reduced by up to 87% by soaking the meat for an hour before grilling in a marinade containing rosemary and thyme which are rich in antioxidants.

Other foods to avoid or cut down on include white bread, white pasta, and anything with a high sugar level. Swap these for high fiber or wholegrain alternatives, plus plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Always wash those thoroughly before use, as pesticides are known to contain at least forty human carcinogens. Better still, buy organic produce.

Super foods

There are some foods that seem to contain particular anti-cancer benefits for women. Dark green leafy vegetables contain magnesium that can lower the cancer risk in women. Magnesium affects the signaling in cells, and scientists have linked defective signaling to cancer development. Mikhail Blagosklonny, a cancer specialist at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute and editor-in-chief of Oncotarget magazine has pioneered connections between TOR signaling and the development of the disease.

Brazil nuts contain selenium, which is thought to lower the risk of bladder cancer in women, as well as the risk of lung cancer and colorectal cancer generally. Selenium is an antioxidant that protects cells from free radical damage and enhances the immune function, suppressing the formation of blood vessels that nourish tumors.

Watch your drinking

Reduce your alcohol intake. You don’t have to give it up altogether, but the more alcohol you drink the greater the risks. Remember too that the recommended daily limits are lower for women than they are for men. Instead, drink plenty of filtered tap water. Drinking a lot of water helps to flush out cancer-causing agents, but unfiltered tap water can contain suspected carcinogens. Bottled water is often no better, so a home filtration system is your safest bet.

There’s also evidence that caffeine can cut the risk of brain, oral and throat cancer, based on studies showing those who drank five or more cups of coffee a day were less susceptible to those diseases than those who drank significantly less.

We may not be able to avoid cancer risks altogether but there’s a lot we can do to reduce them. Up to 70% of known cancer causes are lifestyle related, and it’s never too late to change your lifestyle to enjoy a longer, healthier life.