7 Uncommon Tips to Prevent Breast Cancer
16 Ways to Prevent Cancer
1. Create a cancer family tree.Gather everyone around the picnic table and map out an extended family cancer history. "This will help you and your loved ones get a better picture of your risk," explains Gwendolyn Quinn, PhD, associate professor of health outcomes and behaviors at the University of South Florida and Moffitt Cancer Center. Red flags: cancers among first-degree relatives (that means Mom, Dad, siblings or grandparents), or several family members with one type of cancer. Encourage everyone to bring the family tree to their next doctor appointment. Knowing your family history can help your doctor decide whether you need screenings earlier and more often, and/or if you should get tested for genetic mutations linked to certain cancers.
2. Don't burn your leaves.Sure, there's nothing better than the smell, but it produces potentially carcinogenic particles (plus it's illegal in some places), says Norman Edelman, MD, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association. Bag them instead.
3. Test your home for radon.This natural product of decaying uranium found in soil and rock is the number-two cause of lung cancer, resulting in about 21,000 lung cancer deaths a year. You can buy test kits starting at at NSC.org/issues/radon
In Your Neighborhood
4. Frequent farmers' markets.You're more likely to find inexpensive fruits and veggies, often grown without pesticide. But organic or not, "you're eating fresh produce, not something that has already lost valuable nutrients after a week spent in transit from Florida or California," says Karen Collins, MS, RD, nutrition advisor for the American Institute for Cancer Research in Washington, DC.
5. Make over the block party.Instead of the usual burgers, nachos and beer, offer to organize the festivities and ask everyone to contribute healthy dishes and snacks. A few ideas: a cold whole-wheat pasta salad with vinaigrette and all the veggies you can fit; potato salad made with Italian dressing, chopped celery, carrots and scallions; whole-wheat pretzels instead of chips; and water, water, water. "Go one step further and bring your recipe to swap, so everyone ends up with 10 or 15 new ones to try at home," suggests Collins.
6. Organize a neighborhood walking club."Exercising with other people increases the odds that you'll stick with it," says Collins. If you make a commitment to walk with someone, say, on Mondays and Wednesdays after dinner, you're more likely to do it. Walking at least 20 or 30 minutes twice a week will go a long way to keep your weight down, which in turn will help reduce your cancer risk.
7. Host a weekly playdate."Being overweight and sedentary are both risk factors for developing cancer—especially colon and breast—so it's crucial to encourage your kids to be as active as possible," says Collins. Bring back the old tradition of running around the neighborhood by organizing a game of volleyball or dodgeball for the kids who live on your street, or offer your backyard as a play space. Once cooler weather hits, suggest a rotating indoor playdate. Kids should ideally get 60 minutes of active play daily.
8. Share your screenings.Going for a mammogram or a colonoscopy? Tell everyone you know. "So many people shy away from these tests because they're embarrassed or afraid they'll hurt. Being open about your experiences takes away the mystery and fear," says Georgia Robins Sadler, PhD, clinical professor of surgery and associate director for community outreach at the Moores UCSD Cancer Center in La Jolla, California.
9. Arrange for skin cancer checks.A 2008 study found that a workplace program that taught employees how to do self-exams and offered on-site skin screenings resulted in a 69% reduction of high-risk melanomas. Contact the American Academy of Dermatology for participating dermatologists in your area. Also ask your children's school to hold a workshop to show parents how to do skin cancer screenings on themselves and their family members, suggests Arielle N.B. Kauvar, MD, director of New York Laser & Skin Care and clinical associate professor of dermatology at New York University School of Medicine. Urge everyone to set a monthly date for "family" skin checks: Another recent study found you're much more likely to stick to self-exams if you do them with your partner.
10. Make mammograms more accessible.Only 67% of women over the age of 40 reported having a mammogram within the past two years, says the American Cancer Society. Why? Barriers like no health insurance or not realizing the importance of mammograms, says Carol Kurzig, president of the Avon Foundation for Women, a nonprofit breast cancer advocacy group. Get involved by volunteering at a free screening program held at a local clinic or hospital for uninsured or low-income women. Go to AvonBreastCare.org to find a program in your area.
11. Fight for a smoke-free environment.Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation banning smoking in all public places and workplaces. Not sure if your state is one of them? Visit the American Lung Association's website at StateofTobaccoControl.org. From there, link to your state's ALA webpage to find out how you can take action (for example, writing letters to your congresspeople to support bills that prohibit smoking in cars with kids or that increase cigarette taxes).
At Your Child's School
12. Have a healthy bake sale.A high-fat, high-calorie diet can cause obesity, which raises your chances of developing cancer, says Collins. Problem is, fattening foods are so much a part of our culture. Help turn the tide on one tradition: The next time you're asked to contribute to your kids' school bake sale, suggest a healthy spin on the whole event. Bake healthier cookies, for example, by substituting fruit purée for sugar, and canola oil for butter. Other nutritious choices: mini–PB&J sandwiches, trail mix, fruit kebabs, lowfat fruit muffins baked with whole-wheat flour.
13. Set up sunscreen stands at sporting events.Protection against skin cancer should start young. Lobby your school board to make sun protection mandatory as part of school-sponsored outdoor team sports, suggests Therese Bevers, MD, medical director of the Cancer Prevention Center at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. At games, have a booth where you can sell hats and sunscreen to spectators.
14. Organize a talk about tanning beds.Nearly 70% of tanning salon users in the U.S. are 16- to 29-year-old women and girls, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, and 90% of pediatric melanoma cases occur in girls ages 10 to 19. Invite a local dermatologist to discuss the dangers of tanning, and bring a slide projector. "In my experience, the most effective deterrent for teenage girls is seeing photos of actual skin damage," says Dr. Kauvar. "If scary statistics about skin cancer don't stop them, being told they'll look like the wrinkled women in the pictures will."
15. Get ASPIRE into the curriculum. Most school smoking prevention programs are geared to elementary- or middle-schoolers, says Alexander Prokhorov, MD, PhD, professor and director of the tobacco outreach education program at M.D. Anderson. But ASPIRE (A Smoking Prevention Interactive Experience), M.D. Anderson's new tobacco smoking prevention and cessation website, is for high school students and can easily be adapted for the classroom. A study found that nonsmoking students who used it were much less likely to start lighting up. Access ASPIRE at MDAnderson.org/ASPIRE
16. Stand up for PE.This is the one class you don't want to see cut. "It sends a message to kids that being active isn't important," says Collins. "It's also the ideal time to learn sports that can become a lifelong hobby." Voice your concerns at PTA meetings and lobby the school board. Get a group of parents to sign a "keep phys ed in school" petition. While you're at it, find out what's really going on at after-school programs. Are kids active or just sitting doing their homework? Also find out what intramural programs the school offers. Even if your kid isn't varsity material, encourage her to participate in some sort of sports program.
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