When it comes to lowering your cancer risk, there's no shortage of confusing information -- in our everyday lives, we're surrounded by items like coffee, soy and bottled water that are linked to cancer one day and then shown to help prevent it the next. But for all our medical breakthroughs, we're still being bogged down by misconceptions about what causes cancer and how we can protect ourselves against it.
Based on studies of nearly 300 white and south Asian British cancer patients, researchers from the University of Leicester in England discovered many people even believe religion and fate play a role in your chances of getting cancer. What's more, 25 per cent believed cancer could be caused by an injury and 20 per cent were certain surgery could help spread the disease.
"It is clear there is a continual need for education into the causes of cancer," lead researcher Professor Paul Symonds from the Department for Cancer Studies and Molecular Medicine told Science Daily. "The good news is the majority of the sample believed cancer was curable and screening effective, while 84 per cent appreciated smoking could cause cancer."
One of the biggest surprises from the research was the general lack of awareness about how lifestyle factors affect your cancer risk. In other words, people were more likely to believe God gave them cancer than admit their poor diets and sedentary lifestyles may have played a predominant role. "We clearly have more work to do in educating the public on the effect of diet and obesity," added Symonds.
Whatever your beliefs, it's essential to take personal responsibility for your health. Don't leave it all up to God -- here are some things you can do to lower your cancer risk:
- Eat less meat. Vegetarians are half as likely to develop cancer, so even if you can't stomach the thought of living off plants for the rest of your life, at least make an effort to have one or two meatless days a week.
- Exercise regularly and make sure you get some sleep. Regular exercise and proper rest can reduce your risk of all cancers.
- Drink less. The World Health Organization suggests you cut out alcohol all together to lower your cancer risk, but if that's not something you're willing to do, at least try to limit the amount you drink.
- Quit smoking and always, always wear sunscreen.
- Get regular check-ups at your doctor.