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How to reduce your risk of cancer

October is usually marked in Kenya as a cancer awareness month, with a specific focus on some cancers. This is for good reason, as cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, Kenya being no exception. We all have certain predispositions to cancer. Some risks are genetic and hardly modifiable, but many risk factors for cancer are related to our lifestyles.

The realization that we can reduce our lifetime risk of cancer has led many healthcare authorities to come up with some advisories on cancer reduction strategies.

Such advice is based on solid scientific evidence. You need to be aware of it, and practice it to keep your risks of cancer at bay.

First and foremost do not smoke, or use any form of tobacco. Tobacco use is the single most important risk factor for cancer causing about 22% of global cancer deaths and about 71% of global lung cancer deaths. You must protect others by making your home smoke-free. And be the first one to support smoke-free policies at work and in other public places like restaurants.

If you drink alcohol of any type, limit your weekly intake to recommended levels. Cutting down on alcohol is better for cancer prevention.

Next take action to maintain a healthy weight for your height, so called body mass index (BMI). Individuals with high BMIs are more predisposed to certain cancers.

Keep your BMI in check by eating right; plenty of whole grains, vegetables and fruits. Limit the intake of high-calorie foods laden with fats and sugar, you know the lot. Avoid processed and red meats and lots of salt.

Eating right must be coupled with being physically active, sitting idle even after health eating will do you no good.

Avoid too much sun, this is especially so for children. Excessive sun exposure is associated with certain skin cancers. Sun protection creams help, and sunbeds should be used with caution for those of lighter skin looking for a tempting tan.

Some occupations can raise your cancer risk, for example those who work in radiation-prone environments. Follow all recommended health and safety precautions in your work place.

Ensure your children get all the recommended vaccines. Vaccination against Hepatitis B reduces the risk of chronic liver disease and cancer. Girls (and boys) should be vaccinated against Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which is a major cause of cancer of the cervix and some anal cancers.

If you are a woman, breast-feeding your newborn will protect you against some gynecological cancers. Make sure you also participate in screening programs for breast and cervical cancer. There are also screening programs for bowel cancer (both men and women).

Be on the look-out for other screening programs that may be suitable for your specific profile, like prostate and ovarian cancer.

Go on and take steps to reduce your risks of cancer. Don’t just sit about and hope for the best.

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October is usually marked in Kenya as a cancer awareness month, with a specific focus on some cancers. This is for good reason, as cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, Kenya being no exception. We all have certain predispositions to cancer. Some risks are genetic and hardly modifiable, but many risk factors for cancer are related to our lifestyles.

The realization that we can reduce our lifetime risk of cancer has led many healthcare authorities to come up with some advisories on cancer reduction strategies.

Such advice is based on solid scientific evidence. You need to be aware of it, and practice it to keep your risks of cancer at bay.

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