February is National Cancer Prevention Month

The World Health Organization estimates that between 30-50% of all cancer cases are preventable and that prevention along with early detection are proven, effective strategies toward improved health.  We make choices every day that affect our health.

Scientists tell us we can reduce our cancer risk by taking the following actions:

  1. Avoid tobacco and nicotine in all its forms, including exposure to secondhand smoke and vapor. The Bedford Board of Health webpage has information on nicotine, vaping and/or how to quit.
  2. Eat to optimize health. Reduce consumption of saturated fat and red meat and increase consumption of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Eat at least 30 grams of fiber (from food sources) a day. Add whole grains (like brown rice, oats, barley and rye), non-starchy veggies (something other than potatoes and corn), fruits and legumes like beans and lentils, into your meals. Aim for at least five daily portions/servings of veggies and fruit.  To make healthy dining easier when eating away from home, Bedford has partnered with several town restaurants to provide healthy dining options.  These partner restaurants have agreed to provide diners with more healthful options, including the substitution of salad, vegetable or fruit for fried potatoes (e.g. French fries) at no extra cost, offer some dishes in smaller portion size (e.g., half portion sizes) for a reduced price, entrée sharing at no additional cost, and/or offers a half-meal to go option upon customer request.  See more at the Healthy Bedford webpage.
  3. Be physically active. Physical activity has been linked to a reduced risk of several types of cancer.  Exercise will help protect you even if you don’t lose weight.  Experts recommend at least (if not more than) 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise (walking, cycling, household chores, swimming, dancing) or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise (running, team sports, fast cycling). Kids ages 5 to 17 need at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity every day.  www.bedfordma.gov/healthy-bedford/pages/being-active-in-bedford
  4. Stay lean. Obesity increases the risk of many forms of cancer. Calories count: if you need to slim down, take in fewer calories and burn more with exercise.  Body Mass Index, (BMI) is one method of checking weight category.  Check your BMI here: www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/adult_bmi/english_bmi_calculator/bmi_calculator.html
  5. Limit alcohol intake. If you choose to drink, limit yourself to an average of one drink a day. If you aren’t sure if your alcohol consumption is healthy for you, take a free, confidential online screening and find out quickly and easily whether professional consultation would be helpful for you.
  6. Protect yourself from ultraviolet radiation in sunlight, which increases the risk of melanomas and other skin cancers. Sunscreen is an important part of a complete sun protection strategy and the Town has two sunscreen dispensers available for residents during the spring and summer seasons.  One is located at Springs Brook Park and another at the Mudge Way playground.
  7. Avoid infections that contribute to cancer, including hepatitis viruses, HIV, and the Human papillomavirus (HPV).  Vaccines can reduce the risk of diseases that can lead to serious illness including cancer.
  8. Get enough vitamin D. Many experts now recommend 800 to 1,000 IU a day, a goal that is nearly impossible to attain without taking a supplement. Although protection is far from proven, evidence suggests that vitamin D may help reduce some cancer risk.

Want to learn more or take a quiz to see if you are doing all you can to reduce your risk? American Institute for Cancer Research has more information and a personalized quiz at www.aicr.org.

Keep our journalism strong! Support The Citizen Journalism Fund today. Contact The Bedford Citizen: editor@thebedfordcitizen.org or 781-325-8606

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