How to Lower Your Family’s Cancer Risk

It seems that most of us, at one point or another, have known someone battling cancer or have had to take the disease on ourselves.

There are many factors that can contribute to whether or not a person gets cancer during their lifetime, many of which are outside our realm of control.

The silver lining, however, is that several forms of cancer are preventable when we make the right lifestyle choices. In other words, the decisions you make today can greatly decrease you and your family’s odds of falling ill down the road.

Here are a few tips on how to reduce your family’s risk of cancer:

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Limit your alcohol intake.

While red wine has certain health benefits when enjoyed in moderation, the rule of thumb is to drink conservatively. There is a strong link between regular, high alcohol consumption and several forms of cancer, and this resource from the National Cancer Institute notes that the US Department of Health and Human Services considers alcoholic beverages a known human carcinogen. This doesn’t imply that you have to give up your favorite craft beer brew, but don’t make downing an entire six pack a habit.

Test your home for deadly materials and gases.

Many people have carbon monoxide detectors in their homes to protect them from danger, but radon gas and asbestos – both of which are carcinogenic – can be just as toxic if they go undetected.

Opt for fresh foods over processed meats.

Keck Medicine of USC‘s Mariana Stern, PhD and the World Health Organization (WHO) recently announced that there is a link between certain types of cancers and processed meats such as hot dogs, bacon and lunch meat. The WHO also said that regular red meat consumption may also be risky. The general consensus from the scientific community is similar to the advice given for alcoholic beverages: Including processed and red meat as a moderate dietary addition shouldn’t cause concern, but if either are a substantial part of your daily caloric intake, it may be time to make some adjustments.

Be adamant about SPF.

We’ve all been warned about the dangers of tanning beds, but the unfortunate truth is that we’re putting ourselves at risk just about every time we expose our skin to the sun’s rays without protection. The good news is that taking a few precautions while enjoying the great outdoors can greatly reduce your odds of melanoma. The American Cancer Society suggests reapplying sunscreen of at least SPF 30 every two hours when exposed to direct sunlight and avoiding sunlight between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

These are all excellent tips, but of course, it’s important to remember that all the old standbys — eating healthy, nutritious meals and getting plenty of exercise – still apply.

And although being diagnosed with cancer is a risk many of us face, it’s impractical to live our lives in constant fear of it by giving up life’s little pleasures. (Margaritas poolside? Please don’t take that away from me!) The key is truly to enjoy these things in moderation, get essential testing done on our homes, and of course, stay up-to-date with our annual physicals and necessary screenings. And just as importantly, never think twice about visiting your doctor if your body doesn’t feel or look quite right – it’s much better to know you’re healthy than wonder if you’re not.

Do you want additional recommendations on how to lower the risk of cancer? A primary care physician can help.

If you are in the Los Angeles area and are looking for exceptional care from some of the top physicians in the world, be sure to schedule an appointment by calling (800) USC-CARE (800–872–2273) or by visiting

By Jasmine Dyoco