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Reduce Your Cancer Risk

When it comes to preventing cancer, two things come to mind immediately: Quit smoking. Wear sunscreen.

But doctors say there's much more we can do:

Limit salted, pickled and smoked foods

Lindi Finke, acting director of nurses for Sandusky County Health Department, said eating a healthy diet can help reduce the risk of cancer.

Finke said by limiting fat intake and eating lots of fruits and vegetables, people can more likely maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight, she said, increases a person's risk for cancer.

"Being healthy is important," she said. "Increasing your physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight."

Marlys Olson, a registered and licensed dietitian at MedCentral/Mansfield Hospital, said avoiding certain foods also can work to prevent some cancers.

Although salty and pickled foods are always best to minimize, Olson said it's the smoked foods that can actually pose a risk of stomach and colon cancer.

"Whenever you're grilling muscle proteins or anything like beef, pork or chicken, it creates carcinogenic compounds called heterocyclic amines," she said. "They can damage the DNA of your genes and that's the beginning process to cancer."

Olson said some evidence suggests these carcinogenic compounds travel through the bloodstream to other tissues, which is why HCAs even could be a factor in breast and other cancers.

"A simple way to decrease the formations of HCAs is to cook meat at lower temperatures by roasting or stewing," Olson said. "If someone still wants to grill, they could turn the gas down or wait until the charcoals become low-burning embers and raise the grilling surface from your heat source."

Olson noted that black char has very high carcinogenic contents, so anything burned, including burnt popcorn, is not good to consume.

Get a colonoscopy

Dr. P.K. Raman, a gastroenterologist in Mansfield, said the colon is the body's only organ where pre-cancerous cells can be removed before they develop into a full-blown cancer.

"Nowhere else in the body can you do it," Raman said. "When we find it in the pre-cancerous stage, we can fully remove it."

Raman said African-American men and women should begin getting a colonoscopy after the age of 45. For everyone else, after the age of 50.

"If they have a family history of colon cancer, they should get one every five years," he said. "If they have no family history, they can get one every seven to 10 years."

This procedure can be done in a day.

"If cells are found and removed, that person has a higher-than-average chance of getting them again, so doctors may recommend you be tested every three years," Raman said.

Protect against infection

Viruses also have been linked to cancer, specifically viruses developed from sexually transmitted diseases.

Dr. Michael Para, a professor of infectious disease at the Ohio State University Medical Center, in Columbus, said a human papillomavirus (HPV), which produces infections in the stratified epithelium of the skin, has different reactions to different people.

Some can lead to cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina and anus in women or cancers of the anus and penis in men.

"Viruses that have been most linked to cancers are ones caused by HPVs," Para said. "Many people carry it. Maybe over 50 percent of people. HPVs cause warts and cells to grow. The ones that aren't supposed to grow are the ones that develop into cancer. But usually the body has ways to stop HPVs from growing. Most warts will just go away by themselves. It's the high-risk forms of HPVs that find their way around that."

Some oral cancers are also associated with HPV.

Para said the one thing people can do to prevent HPVs is to get vaccinated annually.

Finke added that immunization for Hepatitis B can help prevent cancer, since people with the disease are more likely to contract liver cancer.

"Talk to your doctor about immunizations," she advised.

Say no to smoking

While it may seem commonplace, choosing to not smoke can't be stressed enough.

"Avoid tobacco, smoking and chewing," Finke said. "They are linked to cancer of the mouth, lung and pancreas."

Anyone who is a tobacco user, she said, should consider stopping and those who are not should never start using tobacco.

Limit exposure to radiation

Regular tanning is another habit people must cut down on.

Finke said many may not want to hear it, but tanning beds do increase the risk for someone to contract skin cancer, but so does over-exposure to the sun.

"Avoid the mid-day sun," she said. "Between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. the sun's rays are the strongest."

Staying in the shade, using sunscreen, wearing hats, sunglasses and covering up with clothing can all help reduce the chance of overexposure, which can lead to skin cancer, Finke said.

Rid your home of radon

However, testing your home for radon could also help prevent risks of lung cancer.

According to the Ohio Department of Health, millions of homes have elevated radon levels and all should be tested for radon. Breathing air with elevated radon levels over long periods of time could lead to health problems, as radon is a class A carcinogen, and the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers.

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas, which is colorless, odorless and tasteless. It occurs naturally by the decay of Uranium present in rock and soil.

Curb alcohol consumption

In addition to smoking, adults should also strive to limit their alcohol intake.

The UAB Health Systems, of Alabama, claims alcohol causes cancer of the breast, liver, colon, rectum, pharynx, larynx, mouth, throat and esophagus. Alcohol combined with tobacco use dramatically increases cancer risk.

Fink said the more someone drinks and the longer period of time the drink, the greater the risk they will contract cancer as a result.

Early detection saves lives

Finke stressed the importance of regular doctor visits and cancer screenings. Some exams can even be done as a self-exam, by the patient at home, she said.

"Getting checked regularly increase the chance of catching cancer early-on," Finke said. "That makes treatment much more successful."

To view this article, visit http://www.thenews-messenger.com/article/20100925/NEWS01/9250316.