Northwestern Medicine Recognizes National Cancer Prevention Month
By Kasmer K. QuinnCancer Care/Oncology February 01, 2017
February is National Cancer Prevention Month. It's a disease that more than a million Americans are diagnosed with each year, according to the National Cancer Institute. Reducing cancer risk is something that must take place on a daily basis, with each and every decision that a person makes.
Shikha Jain, MD, Hematologist and Oncologist at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, shares her top 8 cancer prevention and screening tips:
- Avoid All Tobacco Products: All types of tobacco products can cause cancer including second hand smoke. According to the American Cancer Society, smoking accounts for approximately 30 percent of all deaths from cancer in the United States. This includes approximately 80 percent of all deaths from lung cancer. Smoking also increases the risk of many other cancers, including, but not limited to: mouth, larynx and pharynx, esophagus, kidney, liver, bladder, pancreas, stomach, colon and rectal. Within 20 minutes of quitting smoking your heart rate and blood pressure drop.Twelve hours after quitting the carbon monoxide levels in your blood drops.Two weeks to three months after quitting your circulation improves and your lung function improves.Five years after quitting, your risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus and bladder decreases by 50 percent. In women, the risk of cervical cancer falls to that of a nonsmoker. Ten years after quitting, your risk of laryngeal and pancreatic cancer decrease. At that time, the risk of dying from lung cancer is approximately 50 percent compared to that of an active smoker.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight: It is important to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day. Obesity has been associated with an increased risk of several cancer types including, but not limited to, esophageal, pancreatic, breast (after menopause), kidney, thyroid, gallbladder, endometrial (uterine lining), colon and rectal cancer. Limit your intake of processed foods, eat a well-balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, and limit alcohol intake.
- Use Sunscreen: Most skin cancers are a direct result of UV exposure. For protection, when in the sun, limit exposure by minimizing the amount of time outdoors in direct sunlight (typically between 10 am and 4 pm). When in the sun, wear clothing that covers as much skin as possible. Use sunscreen and reapply often. Avoid tanning beds and sun lamps.
- Limit Alcohol Intake: Alcohol can increase the risk of liver, breast, colon and rectal, esophageal, mouth, pharyngeal (throat) and laryngeal (voice box) cancers. Limit alcohol intake to no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. A drink is defined as the following: 12 oz. of beer, 5 oz. of wine, or 1.5 oz. of 80 proof distilled spirits (hard liquor). The combination of tobacco and alcohol increases the risks of some cancers more than either tobacco or alcohol alone.
- Know Your Family History: It is important to know the medical history of your immediate and extended family. There are certain ancestral cancer syndromes due to genetic mutations that can increase your risk of certain cancers. Knowing your family’s history can help your physician determine if you will need more specialized testing and if there are specific preventative steps you can take.
- Vaccines: Both the HPV vaccine and vaccination against hepatitis B have been found to prevent cancers. The HPV vaccine can prevent cervical cancer, and the hepatitis B vaccine reduces the risk of liver cancer.
- Cancer Screening: The advent of different cancer screening modalities have decreased the incidence of a variety of cancers and it is important to stay up to date on screening as indicated by your physician. Screening helps in both the prevention of certain cancers such as removing precancerous polyps with colonoscopies, and can also help in the early detection of certain malignancies. Screening mammograms are recommended for most women starting at age 40. Colon cancer screening with colonoscopy, or other intervention, is recommended starting at age 50. Lung cancer screening with low-dose CT scan is recommended for certain patients with a significant smoking history. Prostate cancer screening with regular PSAs is something that should be discussed with your physician, and if you are at higher risk, can be considered. Prostate cancer screening may not be necessary for everyone and should only be initiated after discussion with your physician. Some of these screening tests may be recommended earlier than standard guidelines depending on your personal and family history. Regular pap smears in women for cervical cancer screening is recommended starting at age 21, regardless of whether you have received the HPV vaccine or not.
- Avoid high risk behaviors: There are certain viruses that can put you at high risk for developing certain types of cancers. It is important to practice safe sexual activity by limiting the number of sexual partners and by regularly using a condom. Viral infections such as HIV and HPV are sexually transmitted and put people at a higher risk of anal, liver and lung cancer. Sharing needles with an infected drug user can also result in transmission of HIV, hepatitis B and C. Both hepatitis B and C can increase risk of liver cancer. HIV infection also increases the risk of certain lymphomas among other cancers. We also recommend addiction counseling and professional help if you are concerned about drug abuse or addiction. We recommend speaking to your physician and finding professional assistance.