Protecting Our Bodies: Prevention Methods for 7 Cancers Impacting Women
Unfortunately, nowadays it’s almost impossible to not know someone who has been affected by cancer. In CHAARG, we focus on living healthy + happy lifestyles — not only do we aim for this lifestyle now, but also in the future. With cancer’s large prominence, it’s never too early to start taking preventative measures. The American Cancer Society [ACS] pinpoints 7 cancers which most often impact women — breast, colon, endometrial//uterine, lung, cervical, skin, + ovarian. Since February is National Cancer Prevention Month, we thought it was important to share information about these cancers + ways to potentially reduce the risk of each —
#1] Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer amongst women. We’ve even had Anna Wassman [a 25 year old who fought breast cancer!] on the CHAARG Podcast — listen here! Although most cancers occur when women are older, breast cancer can occur at any time with an increasing risk with age. As young women, there are a few things we can currently do to lower our risk of it.
To prevent breast cancer, the American Cancer Society [ACS] suggests maintaining a healthy weight + balancing our food intake by staying physically active. Additionally, it warns of too much alcohol consumption recommending women limit daily consumption to one drink a day. Although not applicable to everyone at this point in time, breastfeeding for a long period of time may also reduce your risk of breast cancer. Something to keep in mind if you’re planning on being a mom in the future!
#2] Colon Cancer
Colon cancer usually occurs at an older age, but just like breast cancer, there are steps we can take to reduce our risk now! Two often repeated preventative measures are maintaining a healthy weight + partaking in regular physical activity. Just another reason to love CHAARG, keeping us healthy now ++ for years to come! Another factor in potential prevention is diet. The ACS advises a high intake of fruits, vegetables, + whole grains, ++ a low intake of red + processed meats. For more information, check out the ACS Guidelines on Nutrition + Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention here.
#3] Endometrial//Uterine Cancer
Keeping a healthy weight + participating in physical activity are also predicted to lower the risk of uterine cancer [small groups + studio spotlights are a great way to stay active ; )]. Other preventative measures are more in-depth such as hormone therapy, but these measures should not be taken without speaking to your doctor. Although there isn’t a lot we can currently do, we should be mindful of factors which increase our risk. The ACS mentions an early onset of menstrual periods, late menopause, family history of infertility, + not having children as factors which can increase risk.
#4] Lung Cancer
A very simple method to prevent lung cancer is to not smoke. However, no smoking doesn’t mean no problem! People who don’t smoke also get diagnosed, so it’s important to limit exposure to second-hand smoke. Other factors which can increase the risk of this cancer are exposure to radon [a radioactive gas linked to lung cancer] + cancer-causing chemicals. Today, it seems like everything causes cancer so how do you know what really has the potential to? The ACS provides a list of known human carcinogens here [it’s a bit daunting, but remember carcinogens are not guaranteed to cause cancer].
One carcinogen to be mindful of is formaldehyde. E-cigarettes [vapes, JUULs, + hookah pens] are known to contain this carcinogen as well as acrolein which has been linked to irreversible lung damage. You’ve probably been told before, don’t believe everything you hear. When it comes to these alternatives, that’s super applicable as no evidence has been found to support the belief that e-cigarettes [in any form] are safer than smoking. For more information check out the American Lung Association.
In the prevention of lung cancer, the ACS also suggests a healthy diet full of fruits + vegetables! If you need help incorporating these into your life, we have you covered — check out this awesome veggie bowl + these fruit-infused water recipes!
#5] Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer is often caused by the transmission of the HPV virus during sex. Therefore, it can affect any woman who has been sexually active at any point during life. However, it’s important to note that most women who have HPV do not get cervical cancer. The ACS suggests a few methods to prevent pre-cancers — an HPV vaccine, testing for HPV, not smoking, + using condoms. One way to screen for cervical cancer is a yearly pap smear [recommended to begin after the age of 21]. If you would like more information about testing, it is recommended that you speak to your gynecologist.
#6] Skin Cancer
We all love a good tan, but health always comes first. To prevent skin cancer, it’s important to limit exposure to UV. If you’re going to be in the sun, make sure you apply sunscreen [+ re-apply frequently]!! When you’re planning for a full day of sunshine, make sure you seek some shade throughout the day whether that’s bringing an umbrella to the beach or protecting your face with a hat.
The ACS also warns of the use of tanning lamps + beds. Both have been found to potentially contribute to cancer, especially the use of tanning beds prior to age 30. So when you’re thinking about that summer glow, keep the risks in the mind.
#7] Ovarian Cancer
Also common among women is ovarian cancer. Currently, detecting ovarian cancer early is difficult, but there are some potential preventative measures. The ACS claims taking oral contraceptives can help decrease one’s risk of developing it. While there isn’t a lot that can be done now, there are some known factors which can lead to an increased risk — never having children, unexplained infertility, + first pregnancy after the age of 30.
Keeping our bodies healthy + happy is one of our number one priorities. While some of these potential prevention methods cannot be implemented until we’re older, it’s never too early to become knowledgeable about them. If your family has a history of cancer, you can discuss different options with your parents + doctor. For more information about different types of cancer + prevention methods, check out the American Cancer Society’s website.