According to the American Cancer Society, there will be an estimated 1,658,370 new cancer cases diagnosed and 589,430 cancer deaths in the U.S. in 2015. The odds are good that cancer will touch your life directly or indirectly this year.
There are many forms of cancer. Some are easily detectable while others require extensive testing to discover. Many men — including me — live with the good ole “when it’s my time, it’s my time” theme in life. However, some simple lifestyle changes can possibly prolong your time on this earth to enjoy your family or your favorite fishing spot.
The healthcare community has been effective in reducing the use of cigarettes, cigars, etc. over the years. The latest data shows that just over 20 percent of men and 15 percent of women smoke. The most striking statistic is that smoking and tobacco use accounts for 30 percent of ALL cancer deaths. This is despite lung cancer being the most preventable form of cancer in the world.
Consider taking measures to quit if you or a loved one still smoke. For long-time smokers, breaking the cycle of smoking is tough. Mark Twain once quipped that, “Quitting smoking is easy, I have done it thousands of times.”
The sooner you grab the bull by the horns, the sooner you will see the noticeable health advantages of being tobacco free. Gone are the days of yellow teeth and smelly clothes. You will notice that food tastes better. Most of all, your lung tissue begins to recover.
Most smokers with children don’t want their children smoking. Yet, children around smokers are more likely to start smoking. Ask those that smoke around your children or grandchildren to refrain from smoking. If it is you that is smoking, you can be a better role model by quitting now.
Protection from the Sun
Ultraviolet rays place people at greater risk for skin cancer. In plain and simple terms — my favorite kind of terms — people are most often exposed to UV rays by being in sunlight.
Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. Basal and squamous cell skin cancers are diagnosed almost 3.5 million times per year. Melanomas — which one of my doctor friends described to me as the worst of all cancers — are diagnosed more than 73,000 times.
How do you stay out of sunlight? Walk around completely covered? Stay inside all day and only go out at night? Come on, let’s not get all extreme. If you do, you are likely to (a) not get skin cancer; and (b) get your own reality show on some obscure cable television channel.
If you are like me, you only think about sun protection when you are at the beach, golf course or pool. But exposure to sun adds up every day. Every time you are in the sun your body adds another notch to its UV ray exposure.
The American Cancer Society has a unique slogan for dealing with the sun. The slogan helps you remember the important steps you can take to protect yourself. Whenever in the sun, you should “Slip! Slop! Slap!® and Wrap.”
- Slip on a shirt.
- Slop on sunscreen.
- Slap on a hat.
- Wrap on sunglasses to protect the eyes and skin around them.
Exercise and Healthy Eating
I will be the first to admit that I am horrible at both exercising regularly and eating healthy. The strain on time puts most of us in the mindset that these essential activities cannot be done. A little bit of both goes a long way in preventing cancer.
About one-third of all cancer deaths are attributed to poor diet, physical inactivity, and carrying too much weight. This alone should challenge you to lose extra pounds, increase your physical activity, make healthy food choices and limit alcohol use.
What is a healthy weight? Most of the scientific studies suggest that keeping your Body Mass Index below 25 is effective in reducing cancer risk. Ask your doctor to discuss your Body Mass Index with you and what actions he or she suggests to reduce the number.
As emergency responders, I understand that food is a big part of your job. Without food (i.e. energy), you would not have the necessary energy to do your jobs. However, making healthy food choices can not only provide you longer lasting energy, but also reduce your chances of cancer.
Limiting alcohol consumption is another key component. I can hear you laughing now about a lawyer telling you to reduce alcohol consumption. However, the latest guidelines recommend two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. The guidelines do not take in to account the type of alcohol that you are consuming. A drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine, or one and one-half ounces of distilled spirit (i.e. hard liquor).
Finally, it goes without saying that physical exercise greatly reduces your chances of getting cancer. An added benefit is it also reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Long hours of exercise are not even recommended. Just 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or 75 minutes of heavy intensity exercise are recommended each week. Did you read that right? That amount of exercise is for the whole week!
Get Checked Inside and Out
Guys like to joke about doctor’s fingers. I admit it. It is an uncomfortable situation. It is a necessary one though.
One of the best preventative measures that you can take against cancer — and any other health issues for that matter — is getting regular checkups. I get a yearly physical from a primary care physician (fingers included) and from a dermatologist. Why? So that I can have as complete a medical history as possible.
The American Cancer Society has recommended guidelines for checking various parts of your body. I encourage you to go to www.cancer.org to explore the entire site. It is full of great information about behaviors that increase your risk of cancer. Take notes.
Make Every Day a Great Day
Cancer is not picky. It can attack anyone at any moment. With that said, there is no need to wait around on cancer to arrive. Live life. Do things you enjoy. Remain focused on living your life to its fullest.
I am a firm believer that “attitude is everything.” From the moment your feet hit the floor, be thankful that you can open your eyes. Be attentive to the day ahead. Be mindful of what you do to and with your body. With a solid focus on being your best, you can fight away cancer.
September is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. You see pink ribbons everywhere. I hope that you will consider with me to make every month of the year as Cancer Awareness Month.
Why do I write this article? I lost a very close friend in August 2015 to pancreatic cancer. It opened my eyes. A young life was lost. However, I can make changes in mine that reduce my chances of getting cancer. I hope you make changes with me.