According to the Health Promotion Board of Singapore (HPB), many cancers develop because of lifestyle habits and environmental risks. But about one-third of all cancers can be prevented from occurring by avoiding these risks. Raffles Medical Group recommends making these nine small changes, which can go a long way in preventing cancers.
Adopting a healthier lifestyle will reduce your cancer risk. (Photo: puhhha / www.123rf.com)
• Maintain a healthy diet and active lifestyle
For starters, cut down on processed meats and fatty foods. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) recently classified processed meats like bacon as carcinogens (in the same grouping as tobacco!), as it increases the risk of colorectal cancer. A high-fat diet (think fatty foods like deep-fried chicken with breadcrumbs) is also linked to cancer and other diseases. Read more anti-cancer diet tips here.
• Don’t smoke
Smoking alone accounts for over 80 per cent of all lung cancers, so get help now to quit smoking. There are several organisations and helplines, like the internationally renowned Allen Carr Method, which has a 90 per cent success rate in quitting or a money-back guarantee. Or download the I Quit mobile app, developed by HPB, to get started (compatible with iOS and Android).
• Limit alcohol intake
HPB states that women should drink only one standard drink a day, or one which contains 10g of alcohol. That’s a 330ml can of regular beer or half glass (175ml) of wine.
• Limit your number of sexual partners and engage in protected sex
Doing these lower the risk of sexually transmitted diseases and venereal diseases.
• Regular health screening and self-examination
While many regularly check themselves for breast cancer (redness or swelling of breast; changes in breast size or shape; swelling or hard lump in armpit etc), mammograms are still the most reliable way to detect and spot lumps that can’t be felt by the hand. Early detection of breast cancer improves the odds of recovery so get your screening done regularly, like at Singapore Cancer Society’s recently opened mammogram facility. It serves as a one-stop cancer screening cancer for breast cancer, colorectal cancer and cervical cancer.
Speak with your doctor about getting screened for cancer. (Photo: Katsiaryna Lenets / www.123rf.com)
• HPV vaccination
HPV refers to human papillomavirus, a common sexually virus which infects about one in four people in the US and is usually sexually transmitted. According to HPB, some types of HPV can infect the cervix and could develop into cervical cancer. The HPB vaccine is recommended for females aged between nine and 26 years, and are most effective if given before the first sexual encounter. That said, regular PAP smears (see below) are still the most effective protection against cervical cancer.
• PAP smear test
This test is used to screen for cervical cancer. The odds of recovery are much higher when detected earlier. It is recommended that women aged 25 to 69 years, who have engaged in sexual intercourse, go for a PAP smear every three years, according to Singapore Cancer Society.
• Avoid exposure to radiation and environmental pollutants
Prolonged outdoor work can lead to unhealthy levels of exposure to ultraviolet rays, while medical imaging methods like CT scans (computed tomography) have high levels of radiation and should only be undertaken when necessary.
• Limit dose and duration of hormone therapy
Some might turn to hormone therapy to manage menopausal symptoms. As combination hormone therapy for more than three years could increase the risk of breast cancer, it is recommended to consider alternative treatments or at least, use the lowest effective dose or period administered.