30 to 50% of the cancers can be found in our living habits: smoking, being overweight, wrong eating habits, lack of exercise, harmful substances in the (working) environment, excessive alcohol consumption, too much exposure to sunlight … These are all known factors that they (can) play a role in the development of certain cancers. Although many questions remain about the precise influence of all these risk factors and the interaction with a genetic predisposition, it is increasingly clear that we can reduce the chance of getting cancer through a change in lifestyle. That is no guarantee that you will not get cancer, but to reduce the risk. Conversely, you do not have to blame yourself if you get cancer: it is certainly not the case that someone with cancer has lived unhealthily.
1. Stop smoking
Tobacco is the leading cause of cancer and responsible for more than 25% of all cancer deaths. This is not just about lung cancer, but also about many other cancers. In combination with alcohol, smoking is extra dangerous. Tobacco even causes 10% of all deaths in adults.
2. Avoid being overweight
Being overweight is a relatively strong risk factor for uterine, kidney cancer. A link is likely for ovarian, pancreas and gall bladder cancer. It also increases the risk of breast cancer in women during and after the transition. The risk of colon cancer also increases due to obesity, especially in men.
It is advisable to maintain weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise.
• Body Mass Index: best between 18.5 and 24.
3. Avoid high-energy foods and sweetened drinks
Energy-rich food means mainly processed food that contains a lot of fat and sugar and relatively few nutrients and fibres. Examples are hamburgers, fries, pizza, chocolate, cookies …
Some energy-rich food products such as nuts, seeds and some vegetable oils do contain valuable nutrients and do not contribute to an increased risk of cancer.
According to the recommendations, high-energy food contains 225-275 kcal per 100 g. A maximum of 125 kcal per 100 g must be sought.
Fat has been mentioned for years as a possible culprit in the development of cancer. However, research in humans cannot find a link between the total amount of fat in the diet and the risk of cancer. Fat is one of the important causes of obesity.
Soft drinks with added sugar and fruit juices should also be avoided as far as possible.
4. Choose a varied diet with lots of fruit and vegetables.
By eating mainly vegetable food, we can lower our risk of cancer.
Eat at least 5 servings (500 g) of fruit and vegetables per day: they are rich in vitamins and minerals, are generally low in calories and are excellent fibre sources. Frozen vegetables also count, as well as canned and dried fruit and vegetables.
Fruit and vegetables mainly protect against cancer in the mouth and throat, stomach and lungs. The beneficial effect is probably achieved by an interaction between different substances found in fruit and vegetables.
1 portion of fruit corresponds to, for example:
• a medium-sized apple
• two mandarins
• a dessert bowl of grapes, apple sauce or strawberries
• a glass of citrus juice.
To keep about 200 grams (3 to 4 serving spoons) of vegetables after cleaning and cooking, use the following of fresh vegetables:
• leafy vegetables, such as spinach and endive, ± 350 grams
• non-shrinking vegetables, such as cauliflower and green beans, ± 250 grams
Frozen vegetables and vegetables from cans or glass have no cutting waste and do not shrink. Count on 200 grams per person. One large can is sufficient for 2 to 3 people, and one large glass jar is enough for 2 people. A bowl of raw vegetables contains ± 50 grams of vegetables.
Frozen vegetables are just as healthy as fresh vegetables. Canned or glassed vegetables are great substitutes if fresh or frozen vegetables are not available.
5. Eat more bread, rice and pasta
Foods with a lot of dietary fibre (such as whole-grain products, vegetables, fruit and legumes) reduce the risk of colon cancer. One of the benefits of fibre is that they make our digestive system work faster. We should consume at least 25 grams of dietary fibre every day.
It is recommended to eat 600 to 800 g (whole-grain) bread, rice, pasta and legumes daily that are high in dietary fibre.
6. Eat less red meat and prefer no processed meat
Although there is still a lot of controversy about the relationship between meat and cancer, there is more and more evidence that red meat and processed meats increase the risk of colon and rectal cancer. According to a report from the Supreme Health Council, the number of colon cancers could decrease by 10 to 20 percent if we eat less red meat and processed meats. The Superior Health Council advises a maximum of 500 g of red meat (and processed meats) per week.
Red meat is all meat except poultry. So not only beef and pork, but also sheep, lamb and so on. Charcuterie means all red meat that has undergone one or more additional treatments for storage.
Poultry such as chicken and turkey is not covered by red meat.
7. Be careful with specific preparation methods
• Prevent black edges or black crusts from forming during meat preparation (e.g. on the barbecue). When fat burns, polycyclic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are formed, when proteins are burned, so-called protein burning products are produced, which can be carcinogenic.
• When frying or roasting red meat, it is recommended to use spices and aromatic herbs that naturally contain antioxidants such as garlic and rosemary.
• When frying, carcinogenic substances can form if oil or fat is heated for longer than 200 ° C. The best temperature for frying is 175 ° C. Furthermore, it is good to change the frying fat in its entirety regularly and to bake potato products and fries not brown, but golden yellow.
Eat deep fried once a week.
• Smoked foods such as fish and meat would increase the risk of certain cancers such as stomach cancer.
8. Eat less salt
Too much salt doubles the risk of stomach cancer (and high blood pressure). Five grams of salt per day is the maximum. Remember that many ready-made products can contain a lot of salt.
9. Be moderate with alcohol
Alcohol increases the chance of various types of cancer, including mouth cancer, breast cancer, liver cancer and colon cancer. This applies to both beers, wine and spirits. In combination with smoking, the harmful effect of alcohol is even greater. The risk increases as someone drinks more alcohol. A maximum of two glasses per day applies to men and 1 glass to women.
10. Breastfeed babies only for the first six months
That’s the best for mom and baby. Breastfeeding would protect the mother against cancer.
Children who have been breastfed may be better protected against obesity and obesity. This is important since overweight children often suffer from obesity throughout their lives.
11. Do not rely on dietary supplements to protect you against cancer.
To lower the risk of cancer, it is better to opt for a balanced and varied diet than for dietary supplements. No vitamin, antioxidant or mineral has so far been scientifically proven to reduce the risk of developing cancer.
Some vitamins and minerals can even be harmful if you take too many of them. Therefore, when using supplements, ensure that you do not exceed the daily recommended amount of these substances.
12. Move at least 30 minutes a day
Exercise, in whatever form, lowers the risk of cancer. For optimal health, scientists advise at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day or more with moderate exercise (walking, swimming, dancing, cycling, climbing stairs, household tasks such as vacuuming, gardening) or at least 30 minutes of training with heavy effort (jogging , reliable cycling, aerobics, fitness, team sports such as football, basketball, …).
Also, limit the time you spend sitting down.
13. Protect your skin
Avoid excessive sun exposure and burning. Baking in the sun raises the risk of skin cancer, especially if you are under 30.
14. Get vaccinated
In 15 to 20% of all cancer patients, infection with a virus is the reason for the development of cancer. Best-known examples are the hepatitis B virus that can cause liver cancer and the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) that causes cervical cancer, among other things. There may be even more viruses that can cause cancer.
You can be vaccinated against Hepatitis B and HPV.
15. Participate in cancer screening
There are methods to detect several cancers at an early stage, which increases the chance of a cure.
Flanders is currently organizing three population screening programs for cancer: cervical, breast and colon cancer.
• Breast cancer: women between 50 and 69 years old are invited every two years for free mammography.
• Cervical cancer: women from 25 to 64 years old are invited every three years for a free smear.
• Colon cancer: all men and women from 56 to 74 years are invited for a free test.