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Seven Things You Can Do Every Day to Lower Your Risk of Cancer

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), cancer is the second leading cause of death in the U.S., claiming more than half a million lives every year. While some cancer risk factors are out of your control -- like ethnicity, gender, age and genetics -- there are lots of factors that you can control. Here are seven things you can do every day to lower your risk of cancer.

1. Protect Your Skin.

Your skin is your largest organ of your body and it’s vulnerable to cancer just like every other organ. To lower your risk of skin cancer, it’s important to apply sunscreen to any exposed skin every day (yes, even in winter months!).

In addition to protecting your skin from UV rays while you’re outdoors, it’s important to avoid tanning indoors, too. Melanoma, the most aggressive form of skin cancer, is now the second most common cancer in women ages 15-29 due to tanning beds. In fact, women under age 30 who use tanning beds are six times as likely to get skin cancer as their counterparts.

2. Eat Fruits and Vegetables.

It’s important to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day because produce contains antioxidants that protect cells against the mutations that can lead to cancer. Also, produce contains lots of fiber, which helps lower your risk of colorectal cancer.

3. Avoid Tobacco.

The National Cancer Institute is very clear about this, warning patients, "There is no safe level of tobacco use."

Whether you chew, smoke or vape it, tobacco contains toxins that damage your DNA, increasing your risk of contracting lung, mouth, kidney, colon, esophageal, stomach, bladder, pancreatic and rectal cancer. Exposure to secondhand smoke increases your risk of cancer, too, so even if you don’t smoke, it’s important to keep a safe distance from people who do.

4. Exercise.

In addition to promoting cardiovascular health and boosting your mood, exercise lowers your risk of cancer, too. Getting 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a week helps decrease your risk of contracting colon, breast, endometrial and liver cancer.

5. Avoid Processed Foods.

A study of more than 100,000 people showed that with every 10% increase in their intake of processed food, their cancer risk went up 12%. Because processed food contains lots of fat, sugar, trans fats and chemicals, it increases your risk of obesity and heart disease, as well as many forms of cancer.

An easy way to limit your consumption of processed foods is to "shop the perimeter" of the grocery store, stocking up on fruits, vegetables and protein, and limiting the amount of sugary cereals, cookies, pastries, white bread and other processed foods you put in your cart.

6. Moderate Your Alcohol Intake.

Drinking alcohol in excess, defined as more than one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men, can increase your risk of developing head and neck cancers, as well as esophageal, breast, liver, stomach and colon cancer. So it’s wise to limit (or eliminate) your use of alcohol to keep your risk of cancer as low as possible.

7. Choose Your Meat Wisely.

To lower your risk of many forms of cancers, it’s wise to eat a plant-based diet, limiting your consumption of meat. But when it comes to the meat you do eat, make sure you choose wisely!

Meat cured with nitrites, nitrates or smoke has been classified as "carcinogenic" by the World Health Organization, so it’s important to check the labels on deli meat, hot dogs, bacon and other processed meat before you buy it.

Also, eating more than 18 ounces of red meat a week increases the risk of stomach and colorectal cancer. And it’s wise to avoid charred meat as well, since it contains cancer-causing heterocyclic amines.

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