February is National Cancer Prevention Month, about 1.7 million people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cancer in 2018, with 15,400 diagnoses in Kansas alone. While we have no cure to the disease, many of these cancer cases are preventable. Having been married to a physician for 34 years and gone to nursing school myself, I cannot stress enough how important it is to commit to a healthy lifestyle. Consider the big picture: by making time to exercise more, quitting smoking and eating better you have the power to reduce your risk of cancer.
Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer in the U.S. for both men and women and is the second highest type of cancer diagnosed in Kansas. Please, stop smoking. Smoking is responsible for 80 to 90 percent of all lung cancers. If you smoke, the sooner you quit, the better.
Also, talk with your physician and make sure you are up-to-date on screenings and vaccinations. Breast cancer is the leading diagnosed cancer in Kansas, so it is critical that you get regularly screened for breast, cervical and colorectal (and lung for those at high risk) cancers. These screenings have been shown to reduce cancer deaths.
You should check in with your doctor as soon as possible to make sure you are current on all of your vaccinations. Human papilomavirus (HPV) can cause six types of cancer, including more than 90 percent of cervical cancer. HPV infection can be prevented with a vaccine for preteen girls and boys, and there are “catch-up” vaccines for teens and young adults. Most Americans are vaccinated against hepatitis B (a leading cause of liver cancer) as babies; children who aren’t vaccinated earlier and adults who are at risk of hepatitis B infection can also get the vaccine.
Now I know it may be tricky to avoid the summer Kansas sun, but it is important that you don’t overdo it. Skin cancer is one of the most preventable cancers. It is simple, try to avoid excessive sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and make sure if you are outside to wear sunglasses and a hat. And of course, use sunscreen with at least SPF 30 that has both UVA and UVB protection. Even if it’s cloudy, you are still exposing your skin to harmful sunrays, so take these precautious daily.
The benefits of regular exercise cannot be understated. Besides reducing stress and improving mental health and brain function, research shows that regular exercise can also reduce your risk of colorectal, breast and endometrial cancers. And the latest evidence links exercise to reduced risk of additional cancers, including liver and kidney cancers. Adults should get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week, and children should get at least an hour daily.
Exercising goes hand-in-hand with my last tip on cancer prevention - maintain a healthy weight. Obesity has been linked to at least 13 types of cancer, including post-menopausal breast, colorectal and liver cancers. Eating a balanced diet and committing to regular exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight.
For nearly 30 years my husband advised thousands of patients. As an Obstetrician-Gynecologist, he regularly stressed these same tips to the people he treated. In our personal life we taught our four kids to take these same precautions. It is critical that we think beyond short-term goals for a lifetime of health. To learn more about cancer prevention and early detection, visit www.preventcancer.org.
Laina Marshall is the spouse of Representative Roger Marshall, M.D. and a member of the Prevent Cancer Foundation’s Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program. Statistics provided by the American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.