February 4 might not mean much to you right now, but this date affects everyone at some point. Maybe it will be because of your mother, your cousin, or your child. Maybe it will be because of you. February 4 is World Cancer Day, a chance for all to take a closer look at their health and take steps to help reduce their risk of cancer.
John Sweetenham, MD, executive medical director at Huntsman Cancer Institute, says becoming more aware of three lifestyle habits can greatly reduce the risk of cancer. "If folks were to adopt a healthier lifestyleexercise more, reduce the amount of red meat they eat, and increase the vegetable intake in their dietit would reduce the number of cancer cases worldwide by about a third," he says.
Sweetenham also encourages smokers to reduce their tobacco use (and eventually quit altogether). He says, "The more you smoke, the higher your risk of developing many different types of cancer, not just lung cancer. The earlier you stop, the better it is."
Avoiding or reducing exposure to the sun is another way to decrease cancer risk.
There are also other ways people can help prevent cancer. Getting vaccinated against the human papilloma virus (HPV) offers some major benefits. "We know we could prevent a significant amount of cancer by vaccination against this virus. HPV is responsible for a large number of cancers worldwide," says Dr. Sweetenham.
Dr. Sweetenham says there's no question screening can find some cancers early, when they can be treated most effectively. "There is clear evidence that screening reduces death rates for some types of cancer," he says. "If we can get more people access to screening programs and make sure they have regular screening, we can reduce the burden of cancer."
One in two men and one in three women will receive a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime. There are still many challenges when it comes to reducing cancer's impact, both around the world and here in the United States. People living in rural communities have a harder time gaining access to screening and education programs. But, says Dr. Sweetenham, "People can do simple things that have a huge impact on their chances of developing this disease."
To learn more about World Cancer Day visit www.huntsmancancer.org
Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) is a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, which means it meets the highest standards for cancer research and receives support for its scientific endeavors. HCI is located on the campus of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and is a part of the University of Utah Health Care system. HCI treats patients with all forms of cancer and operates several high-risk clinics that focus on melanoma and breast, colon, and pancreas cancers, among others. HCI also provides academic and clinical training for future physicians and researchers. For more information about HCI, please visit www.huntsmancancer.org