Life expectancy in the United States is about 78 years, though longevity is not without medical concerns. As many as one in three Americans will develop malignant cells in their lifetime. While the scientific community has significantly increased their understanding of cancer in recent years and applied that knowledge to treatment, prevention research remains a top priority; however, since cancer is a series of diseases, the exact cause is not always known. Genetics plays an important role, yet so does diet and lifestyle.
Dr. Kevin Dalby, professor of chemical biology and medicinal chemistry, is studying the mechanisms of cancer cells and currently working on cancer drug discovery. His research primarily focuses on developing targeted therapeutics, but he does acknowledge that specific behavioral changes can help lower a person’s risk for cancer. The Harvard School of Public Health estimates that 75% of American cancer deaths could be prevented if tactics are adopted on a mass scale.
Below, Dr. Kevin Dalby reviews practical behavioral choices that anyone can take up to help prevent cancer, thus reducing the risk of the emotional and the financial burden inflicted by this crippling disease.
The correlation between tobacco use and cancer is staggering. In the United States, one out of every five deaths is related to tobacco. Moreover, cigarette smoking accounts for 85-90% of lung cancer deaths and 70% of oral and laryngeal cancer deaths.
Tobacco use (smoking or chewing) is a difficult habit to quit. Still, it could help you as well as those around you (secondhand smoke kills) avoid a future collision with the following cancers: lung, mouth, throat, larynx, pancreas, bladder, cervix, and kidney.
Research has yet to pinpoint exactly how alcohol influences your susceptibility for cancer, but excess use does increase the risk for mouth, throat, liver, colon, rectal, and breast cancer. Men should limit their acholic beverages to two a day and women to one. For context, one drink equates to approximately twelve ounces of beer, five ounces of wine, or one and a half ounces of liquor.
Eat A Healthy Diet
40% of cancers are associated with dietary factors: habits, foods, and nutrients all play a role. The American Cancer Society suggests a daily nutritional regimen consisting of whole grains, fish or poultry, and a variety of vegetables and fruits to lower your risk for cancer. Try to limit red and processed meats, eat fewer sweets, and reduce your intake of saturated fats.
Regular physical activity helps you maintain a healthy weight, control blood pressure, and may lower the risk for several types of cancer such as colon, prostate, and even breast cancer. Obesity is especially of paramount importance since it has been linked to 20% of all cancer-related deaths.
Adults should strive to exercise moderately for 150 minutes each week. Alternatively, you can aim for 75 minutes of vigorous activity if that suits your lifestyle better.
Skin cancer is common but also preventable. To reduce your risk, proportionately apply sunscreen, avoid the sun at midday if possible when its rays are most reliable, cover exposed skin and forgo tanning beds and sunlamps, which are just as dangerous as actual sunlight.
Regular Medical Care
Cancer may not be entirely preventable, but if caught early, your chances of survival improve drastically. Schedule regular checkups with your doctor, be transparent, and ask what tests make sense for you. Depending on your sex, age, and medical history, your doctor may recommend screenings for breast, cervical, colon, lung, or prostate cancer.
About Dr. Kevin Dalby:
Dr. Kevin Dalby has been interested in the “why” of chemical reactions since he was a student at the University of Cambridge, where he graduated with a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Organic Chemistry. This curiosity has led to his interest in the processes of cell signaling, and ultimately to cancer research. Dr. Dalby’s research areas include biochemistry, cancer, cell biology, chemical biology, drug discovery & diagnostics, and enzymology.