It’s no secret that many of us have neglected some of our healthy living habits as we concentrated on protecting ourselves from the COVID-19 virus. It’s time that we step back and return to those healthy habits and what better time than National Cancer Prevention Month.
While some of us may think that getting cancer is just an unlucky turn of events, the fact of the matter is there are many steps we can take that can prevent us from getting this life changing disease. The Prevent Cancer Foundation offers seven steps to prevent cancer. While some of these steps will also improve our overall health, there are some steps that are focused directly on cancer. Unfortunately, the pandemic has hindered some of these cancer preventive actions so now is the time to get back on track.
Seven Steps to Prevent Cancer
Don’t use tobacco – Kind of a no brainer but not an easy step for those of us who are currently using tobacco. If you do just a little googling (yes, it’s a verb in the dictionary but not in the dictionaries I grew up with) you can find out how many years you can add to your life if you give up tobacco. There is overwhelming proof that using tobacco can cause cancer. There are programs available under Medicare that offer counseling, prescription drugs and other tobacco cessation tools. As you get out from under the burden of the pandemic why not also escape the chains of tobacco.
Protect your skin from the sun – We grew up thinking that having a deep tan was great. There are still tanning salons everywhere. Yet, in colonial days having a tan lowered your standing in society since it meant you worked in the fields. In my time in Thailand during the Vietnam war I found that the Thai people found white skin and light complexion to be very favorable and wondered why we wanted to get tans. We now know how harmful the sun’s rays can be. We might have found ourselves outside more as we found that was one of the safest places during the pandemic, but it also exposed us to the sun’s rays. Getting outside is great, but we need to remember our sun block lotions and eye protection.
Eat a healthy diet – It’s no secret that food in the grocery store has more and different ingredients than it did in the 1950s. My son is a keto and a healthy food disciple. He reads food labels and avoids those with the harmful chemicals and additives that have been added to many of our common grocery items. He calls this eating clean. The link between some food additives and fertilizers and some forms of cancer has been established. Unfortunately, I found that it was easy to migrate toward fast food when the pandemic discouraged eating in restaurants. Drive through fast food is not usually found in the definition of a healthy diet. Eating basic, unprocessed clean food will benefit us in a lot of different ways.
Maintain a healthy weight and be physically active – There is no doubt in my mind that the pandemic planted and nurtured a huge crop of couch potatoes. We stayed home, binge watched TV, ate and ate and didn’t move. We don’t have any excuses now – let’s get out and start swimming again, going to exercise classes and get back to our fighting weight. A healthy weight and good physical condition help our bodies avoid cancer and help us fight cancer if we get it.
Practice safer sex and avoid risky behaviors – While rumors of excessive STD cases in some Florida senior living communities have been shown to be exaggerated or even untrue, the fact that sexual activity in older adults is not uncommon does open the gates to some cancer risk if safe sex is not practiced.
Get immunized (HPV & hepatitis vaccines) – While the HPV vaccine is not recommended for those over 18 years old, the hepatitis vaccines may very well be recommended for those over 65. Depending on your health and health history and your travel destinations, hepatitis vaccinations may be an important consideration.
Know your family medical history and get regular cancer screenings – I have a good friend who has had preventative mastectomies and hysterectomy due to a gene mutation and a family history of cancer. The ability to identify or even know about this gene mutation wasn’t available until the 1990s, but now, through a cancer screening that revealed the gene mutation and a definite family history of breast cancer, my friend had these prophylactic procedures that dramatically lowered her risk of cancer. The secret here is to go to the doctor and get the screenings. We might have had an excuse during the pandemic to avoid going to the doctor for checkups and screenings. We don’t have that excuse any more. Science has given us so many more tools to help us avoid cancer, we need to use all of them.
Unfortunately, we all know someone close to us who has cancer or has had cancer. We probably know someone who has died of cancer. Above are seven steps that we can take to help prevent cancer from changing our lives. Not only can we do things to prevent cancer, but we can also urge those around us to take these preventative steps. Now is a good time to decide to be proactive in our fight against cancer.
p.s. Wanted to give everyone a heads up that you’ll have the opportunity to tell us how you feel about drug prices in a survey we will send out in the next few weeks. We will also have a Facebook live fireside discussion with Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich later next month on the survey results and drug pricing. Stay tuned for more details.