One of the most common questions people have about cancer is, "How can I prevent it?" The American Cancer Society estimates that at least 42% of cancers are potentially avoidable. How? By modifying certain lifestyle factors that are within your control: Nutrition, body weight, physical activity, smoking, and alcohol consumption. But those aren't the only parts of your daily routine that might increase your cancer risk. Read on to find out more, including some surprising habits that can lead to cancer—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You May Have Already Had COVID.
Not Getting Enough Sleep
A growing body of research indicates that poor-quality sleep can raise the risk of serious diseases, including cancer and heart disease. "Insufficient sleep may indirectly heighten cancer risk," says the National Sleep Foundation. "Insufficient sleep has been strongly linked to obesity, which is an established risk factor for many types of cancer. Lack of sleep is related to immune system issues like persistent inflammation, which is believed to raise cancer risk." For optimum health, experts recommend that adults get seven to nine hours of quality shut-eye every night.
Studies have found that loneliness seems to cause an inflammatory stress response throughout the body. Over time, that may raise your cancer risk. According to a study published in the journal Antioxidants and Redox Signaling, the long-term inflammation caused by loneliness "may represent a key mechanism in the development of loneliness-associated chronic diseases such as atherosclerosis, cancer, and neurodegeneration." Last spring, Finnish researchers reported that middle-aged men who reported feeling lonely were more likely to be diagnosed with cancer—and face a worse prognosis.
Americans are drinking more alcohol these days. It seems to be everywhere you look: Over-imbibing has been normalized by wine-tasting stations in supermarkets, jokes about boozy playdates and the advent of "hard seltzer." But alcohol hasn't become healthier. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, alcohol use raises your risk of at least seven types of cancer, including mouth, throat, breast, colorectal and esophageal. A study published in Lancet Oncology earlier this month found that last year, 4% of those seven cancers diagnosed worldwide—741,300 cases—can be attributed to drinking alcohol. If you drink, do it moderately—no more than two drinks a day for men and one for women.
Taking These Supplements
Earlier this spring, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) officially recommended against taking vitamin E or beta-carotene supplements, saying they may increase the risk of cancer or poor outcomes from heart disease. "The evidence shows there is no benefit to taking vitamin E and that beta-carotene can be harmful because it increases the risk of lung cancer in people already at risk, such as those who smoke, and also increases the risk of dying from heart disease or stroke," said task force member John Wong, MD, of Tufts Medical Center.
Being a couch potato doesn't just impact your weight and heart health. A 2019 study found that people who spent more than two hours a day sitting and watching TV had a 70 percent increased risk of developing colorectal cancer at a young age. "Being active can help improve your hormone levels and the way your immune system works," says the American Cancer Society, which recommends that all adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (or 75 minutes of vigorous activity) weekly, preferably spread throughout the week. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.