Cancer is one of the diseases that Germans fear most. Everyone knows those affected in their circle of friends or acquaintances. The good news: if you follow a few simple rules, you can significantly reduce your risk of cancer.
Experts from the German Cancer Research Institute (DKFZ) estimate that up to 50 percent of all cancers are caused by an unhealthy lifestyle. That means: everyone can do something to prevent it.
Cancer experts from all over Europe have created the so-called for this purpose . Of course, if you follow these ten anti-cancer rules , there is no guarantee you will not die of a tumor. But you reduce your risk of cancer many times over.
1. Don’t smoke
The number one risk factor is and remains tobacco smoke. He is responsible for 19 percent of all people who were newly diagnosed with cancer in 2018. The innumerable carcinogenic substances not only increase the risk of lung cancer. With every cigarette, the risk of other tumors in the mouth and throat, stomach or esophagus, pancreas, urinary bladder, kidney increases.
Passive smokers are similarly at risk, so a smoke-free environment should be important.
By the way, it is definitely worth becoming a non-smoker: the body can repair damage. For example, the risk of lung cancer drops by half after five years of quitting smoking.
2. Avoid being overweight
The risk factor overweight is almost as serious as smoking. The experts at the DKFZ see it as proven that an increased body fat percentage increases the risk of at least eleven types of cancer. According to their estimates, around seven percent of all new cancer cases in Germany in 2018 will be attributable to obesity.
Obese people increase their risk of colon cancer, esophageal cancer and breast cancer in particular. The reason for this is the increased secretion of the hormones insulin and leptin, which promote tumor cell growth.
3. Exercise daily
Often the extra pounds come from a lack of exercise. Overall, scientists estimate that this caused six percent of new cancer cases in Germany in 2018.
Get up from the couch or office chair – preferably every 30 minutes: physical activity or exercise has been shown to lower the risk of colon cancer, and probably breast and uterine cancer.
The Code recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity. What makes things easier: housework and gardening also count.
4. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables
“Scientists estimate for Germany that around eight percent of all new cancer cases in 2018 can be traced back to unhealthy eating habits,” explain the experts at the DKFZ. Five a day – this recommendation from the German Nutrition Society, which advises us to eat five servings of fruit and vegetables, is also a simple anti-cancer rule.
5. Avoid heavily processed meat and sausage products
Sausage as well as heavily processed and red meat have been on the list of carcinogenic substances since 2015. The scientists at the WHO’s IARC cancer research agency therefore advise eating less of it in order to reduce the risk of cancer. They derive the nutritional recommendations of 300 to 600 grams of meat and sausage per week from observational studies. For orientation: a medium-sized steak weighs 250 grams.
In summary, this means for nutrition:
- Eat at least 400 grams of legumes, fruits and vegetables every day.
- Eat around 30 grams of fiber a day. For example, the German Nutrition Society (DGE) recommends three slices of wholemeal bread, a serving of fruit muesli, about three potatoes, two carrots, two kohlrabi, an apple and a serving of red grits.
- Limit your diet with high calorie foods (high in fat or sugar).
- Avoid sugary drinks and foods rich in salt. They shouldn’t contain more than 1.5 grams of salt per 100 grams. You shouldn’t eat more than five to six grams of salt a day.
- Eat less than 500 grams of red meat per week.
- Avoid processed meat such as sausages.
6. Drink little alcohol
Two drinks a day for men, one drink for women: the European Cancer Code recommends 20 grams or 10 grams of pure alcohol as a guideline for alcohol. Those who drink alcohol regularly not only increase their risk of liver cancer, but also of all types of tumors in the digestive tract . Different breakdown products of alcohol are probably to blame for this.
The German cancer research experts also recommend avoiding alcohol for at least two to three days.
7. Protect yourself from the sun
UV rays, as well as tobacco smoke and heavily processed meat, fall into category 1 of carcinogenic substances. For skin cancer, the sun is the clear main risk factor that you can easily avoid. So always protect yourself with a sufficient sun protection factor. This is especially important for children.
Since all UV rays are equally harmful, you should also avoid the solarium.
8. Avoid carcinogenic substances
Much is in the air. Just like the environmental risk factors radon, fine dust or ionizing radiation such as those generated during medical examinations. Environmental pollutants can cause tumors in the lungs, bladder or skin.
Some factors are not always influenced by the individual. Nevertheless, the following applies: Refrain from long walks if the fine dust values are high in your city and ask critically during X-ray examinations whether they are really necessary.
When it comes to radon, ventilation helps a lot. You can look up the pollution in your region on the radon map .
9. Get yourself and your children vaccinated against hepatitis B and HPV
Liver cell cancer often develops after infection with hepatitis B or C – especially in children. Not least because of this, the Standing Vaccination Commission (STIKO) has recommended vaccination against hepatitis B for all infants and young children since 1995.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) attack cells of the skin or the mucous membrane. This rarely results in tissue changes and cancer. The HPV vaccinations protect against cancer precursors in the cervix, anus, in the genital area and in the oropharynx. Since June 2018, the vaccination recommendation applies not only to girls between the ages of nine and 14, but also to boys, as the viruses are mainly transmitted sexually.
10. Especially for women: breastfeed and be careful with hormonal supplements
If you will become a mother, experts recommend breastfeeding the child – also to reduce your risk of breast cancer. For later, be cautious about hormone replacement therapy during menopause, as it increases the risk of breast cancer. This is especially true for estrogen-progestin combination products.
It is similar with the pill. The hormones estrogen and progestin may increase the risk of developing breast, cervical and liver cancer. At the same time they lower it for cancer of the uterine body and ovarian cancer.
The cancer research experts at the DKFZ therefore advise: Assess your personal risk carefully.
In general, early detection increases the chances of recovery
There is more that anyone can do beyond a sensible lifestyle: You should schedule regular checkups for some types of cancer : colon cancer, skin cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, cervical cancer.
The following applies to all types of tumors: the earlier they are recognized and treated, the greater the chances of recovery.