How can you reduce your risk of developing cancer?
You can reduce your risk of developing cancer by staying away from certain hazards. For example, the use of tanning beds can lead to skin cancer.
Preventing Noninfectious Diseases
Noninfectious diseases can't be passed from one person to another. Instead, these types of diseases are caused by factors such as the environment, genetics, and lifestyle. Examples of inherited noninfectious conditions include cystic fibrosis and Down syndrome. If you're born with these conditions, you must learn how to manage the symptoms. Examples of conditions caused by environmental or lifestyle factors include heart disease and skin cancer. We can't change our genetic codes, but there are plenty of ways to prevent other noninfectious diseases. For example, cutting down on exposure to cigarette smoke and the sun's rays will prevent certain types of cancer.
It is a fact that most chronic noninfectious diseases can be prevented. The chronic noninfectious diseases that cause the most deaths in many developed countries are largely preventable. These diseases are heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer, and though they do have some genetic components, they also many lifestyle components. For example, some cancers have genetic risks, but people at high risk for cancers can have screening examinations to catch them early or sometimes can take other steps to prevent the cancers. Heart disease, stroke and diabetes are mostly linked to lifestyle choices, even when family history puts a person at higher risk for the diseases.
Most allergies can be prevented by avoiding the substances that cause them. For example, you can avoid pollens by staying indoors as much as possible. You can learn to recognize plants like poison ivy and not touch them. A good way to remember how to avoid poison ivy is "leaves of three, let it be." Some people receive allergy shots to help prevent allergic reactions. The shots contain tiny amounts of allergens, which are the substances that cause an allergic reaction. After many months or years of shots, the immune system gets used to the allergens and no longer responds to them.
Type 1 diabetes and other autoimmune diseases cannot be prevented. But choosing a healthy lifestyle can help prevent type 2 diabetes. Getting plenty of exercise, avoiding high-fat foods, and staying at a healthy weight can reduce the risk of developing this type of diabetes. This is especially important for people who have family members with the disease.
Making these healthy lifestyle choices can also help prevent some types of cancer. In addition, you can lower the risk of cancer by avoiding carcinogens, which are substances that cause cancer. For example, you can reduce your risk of lung cancer by not smoking. You can reduce your risk of skin cancer by using sunscreen. How to choose a sunscreen that offers the most protection is explained below (Figure below). Some people think that tanning beds are a safe way to get a tan. This is a myth. Tanning beds expose the skin to UV radiation. Any exposure to UV radiation increases the risk of skin cancer. It doesn’t matter whether the radiation comes from tanning lamps or the sun.
Overall, people in many developed countries are contributing to higher rates of noninfectious diseases (heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer) by taking advantage of technology and social environments that encourage a less active lifestyle, and also encourages faster and cheaper meals. For example, many children now spend more time on their computer or watching TV then playing outdoors. The "faster and cheaper" meals are usually less healthy than other meals. Even though many people are living longer, they can choose to live more healthily by adopting regular exercise routines and healthy eating habits.
When you choose a sunscreen, select one with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or higher. Also, choose a sunscreen that protects against both UVB and UVA radiation.
carcinogen: Substance that can cause cancer.
- A healthy lifestyle can help reduce your risk of developing many noninfectious diseases.
- You can lower your risk of cancer by avoiding habits that expose you to carcinogens, such as smoking and tanning beds.
Use the resource below to answer the questions that follow.
- How does knowledge of a patient's genome help doctors treat patients? Be sure to consider all the ways this information can be used.
- Why is individualizing medicine particularly important with noninfectious diseases?
- Do you think knowing your grandparents' genome could be beneficial to your health? Why or why not?
- How can you reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes?
- How can you reduce your risk of developing skin cancer?