Healthy Living Choices

Healthy Living Choices

People who live healthful lives have a better chance of avoiding cancer. Research shows that many cancers may be prevented with healthy lifestyle choices that should begin as early as childhood. These healthy lifestyle choices may reduce your risk of getting cancer during your lifetime.

Avoid Tobacco

Research shows that people who begin smoking as teenagers suffer more damage than those who begin smoking as adults. Model responsible behavior for your children. The best idea is to never smoke. View more information about lung cancer early detection and prevention. Keep these important tips in mind:

  • If you do smoke, please quit.
  • SCCA's Smoke-Free Life Program is designed to help our patients, caregivers, and family members quit smoking.
  • If you're not affiliated with SCCA, call the Tobacco Quit line for help at 1-877-270-STOP (7867) or in Spanish, 1-877-2NO-FUME (266-3863).
  • Smokeless tobacco can cause cancer of the mouth. Avoid all tobacco products.
  • Children and infants should not be exposed to secondhand smoke. Smokers should smoke outdoors and away from children.

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Exercise Regularly

All it takes is 30 minutes a day, three to four times a week. Regular exercise may help decrease the risk of several types of cancer, including colorectal and prostate cancer. Here are some exercise ideas to get you started:

  • Encourage your family to get involved in activities. Turn off the TV and get them outside and doing something physical.
  • Choose activities that you can do together, like bike riding, walking, hiking, or swimming. Play tag with your kids, toss a football, play soccer, or jump rope.
  • Schedule evening family walks after dinner.

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Eat Fruits and Vegetables Daily

Research shows that eating at least five servings of fruit and vegetables every day can reduce your risk of bladder, colorectal, esophageal, lung, prostate, and stomach cancers. Consider these suggestions to help you and your family eat more fruits and vegetables every day:

  • Generally, a serving is about ½-cup; this may be somewhat smaller for children.
  • Plan your meals in advance to include fruits and veggies.
  • Keep washed, pre-cut fruits and veggies on hand for a healthy snack, such as:
    • Apple and orange slices
    • Broccoli
    • Carrots
    • Celery
    • Cherry tomatos 
  • Pre-cut veggies can also be added to salads, soups, or sandwiches. Try adding fruit to breakfast cereal or yogurt.
  • Involve your children in meal planning and ask them to choose a favorite vegetable or fruit for each meal.
  • Eat a balanced, low fat, high-fiber diet.

Read our complete Nutrition Guidelines.

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Maintain a Healthy Weight

By now most people have heard the statistic that two out of every three Americans are overweight, which causes heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. But it’s also associated with certain cancers.

Healthcare professionals are concerned that so many of today’s children are obese that they will actually have a shorter life span than their parents. By incorporating a healthy diet and a regular exercise program into your life, you can lose weight, improve your overall health, and decrease the chances of getting certain cancers.

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Limit Time in the Sun

Skin damage occurs over time and studies show that children tend to get 80 percent of their lifetime sun exposure by age 18. We suggest using safe sun practices:

  • Limit the amount of time you and your children are in the sun, especially between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. when the sun’s UV rays, which cause sunburn and skin cancer, are the strongest.
  • Use sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. *SPF indicates how long skin can be in the sun and maintain a low risk for sunburn. The higher the SPF number, the longer it protects a person from burning rays. SPF of 8 protects twice as long as an SPF of 4. Most sunburn can be prevented by using a sunscreen with an SPF of 15.)
  • Wear sunglasses or a hat with a visor to avoid damaging your eyes.
  • Consider wearing a hat that shades your face, ears, and neck.

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Limit Alcohol Consumption

One drink a day has been found to reduce some health risks, such as heart disease. But even one drink a day can increase the risk of other types of cancer, such as breast cancer. Smoking, combined with alcohol, has proven to greatly increase the risk for oral, esophageal, lung, and some other types of cancer. Model responsible behavior for your children by limiting the amount of alcohol you drink and by not smoking.

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Protect Yourself from Sexually Transmitted Diseases

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a vaccine to prevent infection from four types of human papillomavirus (HPV): HPV-16 and HPV-18, which cause nearly 70 percent of cases of cervical cancer worldwide, and HPV-6 and HPV-11, which cause about 90 percent of cases of genital warts. This vaccine is recommended for women who have not yet become sexually active.

Because neither of the vaccines provide complete protection against other HPV types, some of which cause cervical cancer, about 30 percent of cervical cancers and 10 percent of genital warts will not be prevented by these vaccines. In these instances, practice safe sex or abstain from intercourse.

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Get an Annual Check-up and Recommended Screening Tests

Annual check-ups are a great way to catch diseases like cancer early. Cancers that can be found early with screening tests include:

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Learn Your Family’s History of Cancer and Disease

Some types of cancer tend to run in families, such as breast, colorectal, ovarian, and prostate cancers. Talk with your doctor about your family history of cancer and other diseases.

It's also important to learn more about what types of cancer your child may be at risk for. If there are proven prevention steps to minimize risk for those cancers, including some of the healthy choices shared on this page, consider implementing those lifestyle changes and having your child participate in recommended screenings.

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Nutrition Guidelines

People who live healthful lives have a better chance of avoiding cancer. Research shows that the majority of all cancers may be prevented with healthy lifestyle choices that should begin as early as childhood.