Cancer prevention is often associated with older age, but recent research highlights an increased risk of cancer in individuals born after 1990. While genetics play a role, up to half of all cancers are preventable through lifestyle choices. Here are five crucial changes to make in your 20s and 30s to significantly reduce the risk of cancer:
- Avoid Smoking: Smoking remains the leading cause of lung cancer and is linked to 14 other cancer types. Despite a decline in smoking rates, research shows that nine out of 10 regular smokers start before the age of 25. Quitting smoking or avoiding it altogether is vital for reducing the risk of various cancers.
- Practice Safe Sex: Human papillomavirus (HPV), a common sexually transmitted infection, can lead to cancers such as cervical, penile, mouth, and throat cancers. Vaccination against HPV, practicing safe sex, and regular cervical screening for women aged 25-64 are essential for preventing HPV-associated cancers.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight: Being overweight or obese is linked to an increased risk of 13 cancers, including breast, bowel, uterus, and pancreas. Excess fat in the body promotes inflammation, tumor growth, and hormone production, contributing to cancer development. A healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight reduce the risk of various cancers.
- Limit Alcohol Consumption: Alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of liver, breast, and esophageal cancers. Even moderate drinking contributes to the global cancer burden. Cutting down on alcohol intake or abstaining can significantly lower the risk of developing cancer.
- Sun Protection: Skin cancer, one of the most common cancers among those under 40, is primarily caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Consistent sun protection, including wearing hats, covering up, and using sunscreen with at least SPF 15, helps prevent skin cancer. This is crucial, especially for individuals at higher risk, such as those with fair skin.
Making these lifestyle changes not only reduces the risk of cancer but also contributes to overall health and well-being. Additionally, being physically active and avoiding air pollution are other ways to enhance overall health while protecting against cancer. Taking proactive steps in your 20s and 30s can significantly impact long-term health outcomes.