This year, we’ll see an estimated 1.6 million new cancer cases diagnosed, and more than 500,000 deaths from the disease in the United States. While there are many factors involved in who is the most at risk, there are lifestyle factors that can certainly play a role.
To help reduce your risk, you can:
- Quit smoking, limit alcohol
- Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight. The World Cancer Research Fund estimates that one-third of cancer cases related to being overweight or obese, physical inactivity, and/or poor nutrition can be prevented.
- Avoid excessive sun exposure and wear sunscreen.
- Get screened, especially for cervical and colorectal cancers. Work with your primary care doctor to create a calendar for the appropriate screenings. For example, see a dermatologist for your skin check, the gastroenterologist for your colonoscopy and the gynecologist for a cervical screening.
And in the kitchen, here are three simple swaps that can help reduce your overall risk.
Instead of adding granola to yogurt, sprinkle in pomegranate seeds
Pomegranate seeds are chock-full of polyphenols (like tannins, flavonols, anthocyanins and ellagic acid), which may inhibit cancer-cell growth and deactivate cancer-causing compounds. Preclinical studies indicate the anticarcinogenic effects of ellagic acid against liver, esophageal, prostate, and colorectal cancer cell lines.
Instead of grilling plain meat, marinate it first in a flavorful seasoning blend
Cooking meat at high temperatures produces chemicals called heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which have been linked to many cancers, including those of the colon, pancreas, bladder, prostate, and breast. However, studies have shown that marinating your meat before grilling can reduce HCA formation by up to 96 percent.
Marinating meat in a flavorful liquid with plenty of herbs and spices has been shown to dramatically cut back on HCA formation, perhaps because the antioxidants in seasonings block the creation of HCAs. And, you get bonus points for using turmeric as a seasoning because it contains curcumin, an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant that may help prevent cancer by interfering with aspects of cellular signaling.
Instead of a baked potato with butter and sour cream, top it with warm marinara sauce and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese
Lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that is concentrated in cooked tomatoes, has been linked to reducing the risk of certain cancers like skin and prostate. Cooked tomatoes contain more bioavailable lycopene than fresh ones.
More evidence: Tomato consumption can reduce the risk of prostate cancer; a study found that men who ate more than 10 portions of tomato products per week were 18 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer. This case-control study highlights an association, not a causal relationship.