Healthy lifestyle, cancer prevention go hand in hand

No one is immune, but eating right, exercising play important role in lowering risk

The United Nations estimates the world is home to 7.6 billion people. None of them — regardless of their ethnicity, race or gender — are immune to cancer.

It is a formidable foe, the second-leading cause of death across the globe, causing nearly 9 million deaths in 2015.

Louisiana will have an estimated 25,080 new cancer cases this year. It has the fifth highest cancer incidence rate and the fourth highest mortality rate in the U.S., according to the LSU Health Louisiana Tumor Registry.

Some of those cancer deaths were linked to lifestyle, according to Lisa Royer, a certified tumor registrar and local registered nurse who has worked with oncology patients.

“No one is immune, but research has shown that nearly half of all cancers can be avoided by adopting a healthy lifestyle,” said Aimee Allen, ANP, Christus St. Patrick Hematology and Oncology Clinic. “This includes incorporating moderate amounts of exercise, diets that are rich in fruits and vegetables, limiting red meat and processed food consumption, avoiding smoking, and limiting alcohol intake.”

Adopting a healthy lifestyle can reduce colon cancer risk by 40 percent, Allen said.

The best preventative measure is not to smoke, Allen said. Smoking is known to contain chemicals/carcinogens responsible for the development of lung cancer. Tobacco use also increases the risk for pharynx, pancreas, bladder, nasal cavity, larynx, uterine, cervix, stomach, lip, lung, ovary, colorectal, oral cavity, esophagus, kidney and liver cancers, as well as acute myeloid leukemia. Second-hand smoke can harm an adult or child.

Louisiana, in general, has a significantly higher incidence and mortality rate for tobacco-related lung cancer when compared to the national average, with Southwest Louisiana having some of the highest lung cancer death rates in the state.

“Lung cancer is the most deadly cancer, causing one third of all cancer-related deaths in the state,” Allen said.

Diets that are high in fat, alcohol and red meat consumption have also been associated with the development of endometrial, breast, ovarian and colon cancer.

The World Health Organization notes that many countries have implemented programs encouraging people to eat five or more portions of fruits and vegetables per day. Those programs are a result of studies showing the potential relationship between a healthy diet and a reduced risk of cancer. For example, the National Cancer Institute says studies conducted on animals have shown that antioxidants, which can be found in various fruits and vegetables, can prevent the type of cell damage associated with cancer development.

More people in the U.S. are diagnosed annually with skin cancer than all other cancers combined, the American Cancer Society noted this year. While overexposure to the sun is not the only way people can develop skin cancer, protecting skin from the sun is a great way to significantly reduce their risk.

The Mayo Clinic recommends people avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when its rays are strongest. They also should apply and reapply generous amounts of sunscreen when spending time outdoors.

“Those who vaccinate for HPV and hepatitis, and maintain preventive screenings like mammograms, PSA testing, PAP screening, and colonoscopy are examples of proactive steps in detecting pre-cancerous or early stage disease,” Allen said. “People who combine preventative screening with healthy lifestyle living dramatically reduce their chance of being diagnosed with cancer.”

Genetics, exposure to other carcinogens, stressors, amount of tobacco usage, inflammation and immune suppression may help answer the question about why someone who engages in unhealthy lifestyle choices lives longer than someone who exercises, eats right and drinks only moderately or not at all, Allen said.

“You increase your chances of dying in a car accident when you don’t wear your seatbelt,” Allen said. “There are instances where people die wearing their seatbelt just like there are instances where people survive when they don’t wear their seatbelt. Regardless, the probability of dying in a car accident increases when you do not wear your seatbelt.”

Louisiana will have an estimated 25,080 new cancer cases this year.

LSU Health Louisiana Tumor Registry

‘People who combine preventative screening with healthy lifestyle living dramatically reduce their chance of being diagnosed with cancer.’

Aimee Allen

Christus St. Patrick Hematology and Oncology Clinic

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A woman and her dog take a brisk morning walk along the Prien Lake Park boardwalk. (Donna Price / American Press )

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