Cancer is not just one single disease. A large group of diseases can develop in any organ or tissue. These diseases are characterized by the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells.
Each cancer type has its unique set of symptoms, risk factors, and treatment options. When it comes to prevention, however, there are some common themes.
One of the best things you can do to reduce your risk of developing cancer is to avoid exposure to known carcinogens. A carcinogen is anything that is known to be capable of causing cancer. The less exposure you have to these carcinogens, the lower your risk of developing cancer may be.
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States and is estimated to be responsible for about 1 in 5 deaths yearly.
Tobacco smoke contains more than 70 known carcinogens that you inhale into your lungs every time you take a drag. And not just cigarettes, smokeless forms of tobacco such as vaping or chewing tobacco are also linked to several types of cancer.
If you smoke, the best thing you can do is quit. Quitting smoking has immediate and long-term benefits for your health and can significantly reduce your risk of a cancer diagnosis and other serious health complications.
In addition to liver damage, alcohol consumption has also been linked to an increased risk of developing several types of cancer, including:
- Mouth and throat
The more alcohol you drink, the greater your risk of developing cancer. This includes all types of alcohol, including beer, wine, and hard liquor.
The cancer risk associated with alcohol is due to a Chemical compound called acetaldehyde, which is produced when the body metabolizes alcohol. Acetaldehyde is a known carcinogen that damages your DNA, causing cells to grow and divide abnormally.
Processed meats such as bacon, sausage, pepperoni, deli meats, and hot dogs are known to significantly increase your risk of colon, bowel, and stomach cancer.
The process of curing meats produces carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds, which are formed when meat is preserved with nitrates or nitrites. These compounds can damage the lining of your digestive tract, leading to cancerous tumors.
Red meats (beef, pork, lamb) are also suspected of increasing cancer risk, although the evidence is unclear. The main concern with red meats is that they are often cooked at high temperatures, which can produce carcinogenic compounds such as heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
This doesn’t mean eating one hot dog will give you cancer, but processed meats should not be a regular part of your diet if you want to lower your cancer risk. Instead, focus on eating more plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These contain antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that can help protect your cells and tissues from damage.