Exercise, Diet and Alcohol: How to Reduce Your Cancer Risk

By Sara Bondell - June 16, 2020

If you want to reduce your cancer risk, get ready to hit the gym more often and skip the alcoholic beverage.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) has updated its diet and physical activity guidelines for cancer prevention to emphasize increased exercising and healthy eating habits.

Physical Activity

New guidelines recommend an increased amount of physical activity, with 150 to 300 minutes of moderate to intense exercise or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous exercise each week.

Exceeding 300 minutes of activity each week is optional.

“For cancer prevention, the more exercise you do the greater the benefit,” said Diane Riccardi, a registered dietitian at Moffitt Cancer Center. “Physical activity not only helps with maintaining a healthy weight, but also improves insulin sensitivity and strengthens the immune system.”  

Diet

While previous guidelines recommended limited consumption of processed meat and red meat, the new guidelines say to avoid them.

“Processed meat, such as hot dogs, luncheon meat, sausage and bacon are preserved by smoking, curing, salting or adding chemical preservatives,” said Riccardi. “Red meat promotes the creation of carcinogenic compounds in our digestive tract. These carcinogenic compounds are also formed from nitrates used to preserve meat.”

The ACS says to also avoid sugar sweetened beverages, refined grains and highly processed foods. Instead, try to establish a healthy eating pattern that includes foods high in nutrients, including a variety of vegetables, fiber-rich legumes, fruits and whole grains.

“There is convincing evidence that the consumption of sugar sweetened drinks and processed foods is linked to weight gain, overweight and obesity in both children and adults, and a higher body fat is the cause of many cancers,” said Riccardi.

Alcohol

The ACS says it’s best not to drink alcohol, but if you do, you should limit your consumption to no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.

“Strong evidence points to a direct link between alcohol and six different cancers and the more you drink, the greater your risk,” said Riccardi. “That cancer risk is consistent, whether you are drinking beer, wine or distilled liquor.”

If you want to make some changes to your lifestyle, you don’t have to quit bad habits cold turkey. Riccardi says it’s best to make gradual changes that you can live with by starting simply and taking one day at a time.

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Sara Bondell Medical Science Writer 813-745-1353 More Articles

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