Cancer affects one in four South Africans, through the diagnosis of family, friends, colleagues or yourself, according to Cansa, a non-profit organisation that enables research, educates the public and provides support to all people affected by cancer. An alarming statistic no doubt, and compounded further by the fact that the worldwide incidence of cancer has increased by over 50% since the 1950’s, and that global cancer rates are expected to increase by 50% by the year 2020, according to the latest report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a branch of the World Health Organization (WHO). Here, we’ll discuss 13 easy-to-apply practices you can use in your daily life to avoid cancer.

  1. Remove Harmful Chemicals From Your Environment –¬†One of the most effective ways to avoid cancer is to use home care, kitchen, cooking and toiletry products that are free of chemicals and toxins, many of which are carcinogenic and in the long term detrimental to your health. It is interesting to note that this is often one of the first things that people diagnosed with cancer are told to do.
  2. Quit Smoking – Research data published by the National Cancer Institute states that quitting smoking reduces the risk of cancer and many other diseases caused by smoking. Data from the U.S. National Health Interview Survey show that people who quit smoking, regardless of their age, are less likely to die from smoking-related illnesses such as cancer than those who continue to smoke, and people who quit smoking, regardless of their age, have substantial gains in life expectancy compared with those who continue to smoke.
  3. Lose Excess Weight – The National Cancer Institute states that there is consistent evidence that associates a higher cancer risk with higher amounts of body fat. Many observational studies have provided reliable evidence that people who have lower weight gain during adulthood have lower risks of colon and kidney cancer, and for postmenopausal women, breast, endometrial, and ovarian cancers.
  4. Eat a Healthy Diet – Eating a healthy, balanced diet is an important way to avoid cancer as it can help maintain a healthy body weight, which is important because obesity is the second most preventable cause of cancer after smoking. Also, processed and salt-preserved foods can increase the risk of developing cancer, while fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of cancer.
  5. Minimise Alcohol Consumption – Alcohol is a Group 1 carcinogen (cancer-causing agent) according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The Americal Cancer Society in their analysis of alcohol as a cause of cancer states that in fact, alcohol use is thought to account for about 3% to 4% of all cancer deaths each year in the United States.
  6. Buy Organic, GMO and Hormone-Free – Buy meat free of antibiotics and added hormones and organic produce is grown without pesticides and other unwanted chemicals and toxins. This will reduce your exposure to the myriad of carcinogens that have been found in various pesticides, and mitigate much of the cancer risk associated with hormone-loaded meat and GMO’s in produce.
  7. Filter Your Tap Water – This will reduce your exposure to various chemical carcinogens commonly used to purify potable water. This is often far cheaper and more reliable than consuming bottled water, the quality of which is at times not higher than that of even municipal sources. Use stainless steel or glass containers to avoid chemical contaminants such as BPA which can leach from plastic bottles.
  8. Exercise at Least 3 Times a Week – Multiple studies have shown that women who exercise regularly have up to 40% lower risk of breast cancer. Other research has revealed that walking, hiking or running 3 times a week reduced the risk of pancreatic cancer by around 50%.
  9. Spend 15 Minutes a Day in the Sun – According to research, around 90% of vitamin D in your body comes from exposure to sunlight. Studies show that a vitamin D deficiency can lead to a higher risk of various types of cancer. Vitamin D may also reduce improper cell reproduction that can lead to cancer growth. About 15 minutes a day of sunlight allows the body to produce adequate vitamin D levels, however, one must take care to avoid overexposure, which can cause skin cancer.
  10. Marinate Meat Before Braaing it – Charred or well-cooked meat can contain heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, carcinogens which form when people cook meat at high temperatures. If you do braai or prefer your meat well-done, add fresh rosemary and thyme to your marinade and marinate your meat for at least an hour before cooking. The herbs contain antioxidants which can reduce HCAs by almost 90%, according to research at Kansas State University.
  11. Drink Coffee Every Day – A Study conducted in Britain in 2010 found that people who drank 5 or more cups of caffeinated coffee per day decreased their risk of brain, oral and throat cancer by as much as 40%, whereas decaffeinated had no such effect. Researchers found that coffee was even more effective at preventing these cancers than tea.
  12. Drink 8 Glasses of Water a Day – According to the American Cancer Society, drinking plenty of water and other liquids may reduce the risk of bladder cancer by diluting the concentration of cancer-causing agents in urine and helping to flush them through the bladder faster.
  13. Avoid Radiation Exposure – Ensure that you only get medical X-Ray, CAT and PET imaging when you absolutely need it. Protect yourself from excessive UV radiation from sunlight, which increases the risk of skin cancers such as melanomas.