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Half of Americans Misunderstand Cancer Risks

Woman diagnosed with cancer
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Less than 50 percent of Americans realize that certain key lifestyle habits can raise their cancer risks, according to a new survey. Instead of focusing on proven factors, people are worrying about unsubstantiated cancer causes. Researchers and other experts provide scientific facts and recommendations that can help you and your loved ones lower your malignancy chances. Save up to 90 percent when you shop for prescription drugs that treat numerous illnesses including various cancers.

Survey Respondents Believe Myths

Healthy lifestyle choices including following a nutritious diet, restricting alcohol consumption, exercising regularly, sustaining an ideal weight, and not smoking could prevent around half of all U.S. cancer deaths, says dietitian nutritionist Alice Bender. But a found that public awareness of those advantages is greatly lacking. A minority of the 1,108 adults surveyed was aware of cancer’s major lifestyle risk factors including obesity, eating too many red meats or not enough vegetables and fruits, high alcohol use, and physical inactivity. Some 54 to 62 percent of respondents expressed concerns over alleged risk factors with little or no corroborating research. They believe that emotional stress, pesticide residues on foods, genetically modified foods, food additives, and hormones in beef can raise their cancer risks. Instead of honing in on questionable aspects that may be beyond personal control, Bender wants Americans to recognize and appreciate factors that they can regulate on a daily basis. A little more than half of the survey pool thinks that artificial sweeteners can cause cancer. That result went up 11 percentage points from the 2013 survey. Such replies reflect popular myths most likely, explains dietician Colleen Doyle. No credible evidence shows that sugar substitutes increase cancer risks, but people keep spreading that rumor. So Americans avoid sweeteners while ignoring convincing evidence that links red meat with colon cancer. From the 2009 survey to the 2015 one, around 10 percent less respondents realized that low vegetable and fruit consumption elevates certain cancer chances. That’s alarming, says Bender, because plant-based diets offer plenty of health benefits. All personal efforts that decrease cancer risks boast wide-ranging advantages like also reducing your heart disease and Type 2 diabetes odds while helping you feel much better. Making healthy lifestyle choices every day can have significant bearings on colon, kidney, pancreatic, lung, breast, and other cancers, adds Doyle. Realizing that your cancer risk isn’t totally beyond your control is empowering, adds Bender.

Experts Rely on Comprehensive Evidence

This survey didn’t ask where Americans get their cancer information, but Bender says that likely sources include news media. Doyle agrees that headlines can be confusing. People may take an individual study that did or didn’t associate a certain lifestyle factor with a specific cancer type as the definitive answer. But just one study isn’t conclusive, Doyle explains. To complicate this situation, cancer encompasses multiple diseases with differing risk factors. And numerous studies’ mixed messages could baffle average people. Various health organizations and government agencies base their advice and guidelines on scientific conclusions from a substantial body of validating findings.

Researchers Analyze Anti-Cancer Lifestyle Guidelines

Lose weight to reduce cancer risk include:
  • Keep your body as slim as you can without being underweight.
  • Engage in physical activities for 30 or more minutes per day. Limit any sedentary habits.
  • Reduce or skip sugary beverages. Control your intake of foods that have high calorie concentrations per bite.
  • Focus on a greater variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes like beans, and whole grains.
  • Restrict red meats including beef, lamb, and pork to 18-ounce cooked weights per week. Forgo processed meats like bacon, ham, salami, sausages, and hot dogs.
  • If you drink alcohol, restrict your daily consumption to one drink for women and two for men.
  • Curtail your intake of salty and sodium-processed foods.
  • Don’t chew or smoke tobacco.
  • Stick to a balanced eating plan that emphasizes food variety instead of counting on dietary supplements to shield you from getting cancer.
  • New mothers should breastfeed babies exclusively for no more than six months before adding more beverages and solid foods.
  • Following cancer treatments, survivors should adhere to these cancer prevention recommendations to avoid recurrences.
To determine if prevailing cancer prevention guidelines can decrease the risks of developing specific cancers, analyzed long-term dietary and medical data on almost 3,000 American adults. They found that eating plant-based foods and rationing your alcohol consumption might help lower obesity-related cancer odds. The scientists note that excess fat contributes to around a third of all cancers including ones involving the bones, thyroid, spleen, blood, gastrointestinal tract, urinary tract, and reproductive organs. Doctors diagnosed 480 subjects with obesity-related cancers during the 1991 to 2008 study period. The research team associated greater fruit, vegetable, and legume intakes with lower colon cancer chances. After taking cancer risk factors like age and smoking into account, the investigators found that limiting alcohol consumption to two daily drinks for men and just one for women protected them against overall obesity-related cancers. It also safeguarded subjects from colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers specifically.

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