February is Cancer Prevention Month — the ideal time to test your cancer IQ. You may be surprised to learn that some common “cancer facts” are not actually facts at all, but pervasive myths. The American Institute for Cancer Research reports that about one-third of the most common cancers in the United States could be preventable. That’s a fact! Many myths about cancer prevention can actually harm your health. Do you know the difference?
If You Want to Prevent Cancer, Move More
This is true. Physical activity of any kind lowers your cancer risk. Specifically, researchers recommend you aim for 60 minutes of moderate activity or 30 minutes of vigorous activity each day. Note: the recommendation is for “activity” not “exercise!” Exercise (going to the gym, running, cycling, swimming, etc.) absolutely counts. But so do activities like walking, shoveling snow, washing your car and mowing the lawn. So get up and do something!
A “Base Tan” Will Prevent Skin Cancer
This is a myth. A tan of any kind is a sign of ultraviolet radiation damage to your skin, which increases your risk of developing skin cancer. If you really want to reduce your risk of developing this increasingly common cancer, shun the sun, especially between the hours of 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. when its rays are strongest; wear protective clothing and apply sunscreen of at least SPF 15 liberally, then reapply at least every two hours.
Getting Vaccinated Can Prevent Cancer
Fortunately, this is true – for some cancers. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved three human papillomavirus vaccines (HPV) for use in patients up to age 26. The vaccines protect individuals from contracting HPV, which can cause cervical cancer, anal cancer, oropharyngeal cancer, vaginal cancer, vulvar cancer and penile cancer. Several vaccines are also available to prevent people from contracting hepatitis B, which can cause liver cancer. Researchers are conducting additional clinical trials
Become a Regular at Your Doctor’s Office
This is true. Most people visit their doctor only when they’re ill or experience a worrisome symptom. There’s good reason to visit your doctor on a regular basis even when you’re feeling just fine. Doctor’s don’t only diagnose and treat illnesses, they can also screen you for cancers including melanoma, colon cancer, cervical cancer, and breast cancer. These screenings may help detect precancerous cells or risk factors for a particular cancer, so you can take preventive measures before you actually develop cancer.
Loading Up on Nutritional Supplements Will Prevent Cancer
Not true! Despite studies suggesting otherwise, cancer researchers recommend against consuming nutritional supplements in an attempt to prevent cancer. There is no conclusive evidence that supplements are effective in preventing cancer – but there is evidence that high doses of supplements can be harmful to your health. Consuming a well-balanced diet that includes fiber, vitamins and minerals
Removing Sugar From Your Diet Will Prevent Cancer
Another myth. According to cancer researchers, sugar does not cause cancer or cause it to spread. However, being overweight may increase your risks of developing cancer, and consuming too much sugar can cause you to gain weight. Removing sugar from your diet won’t prevent cancer, but consuming it in moderation should help keep your weight in check. The American Heart Association recommends that women limit their daily sugar consumption to six teaspoons (approximately 100 calories) and men to nine teaspoons (approximately 150 calories.)