The thought of having cancer can be dreadful, especially if it runs in your family. You literally live each day with the fear of inheriting the disease, hoping today is not the day you discover a lump or any other signs and symptoms.
This is the reality of many Black families as statistics show that Black people are at a higher risk of the disease, with the highest death rate and shortest survival rate than any other race.
But there is hope despite the family’s history. By adopting simple and practical lifestyle changes, you can live a healthier life and reduce your risk of developing cancers, even if it runs in your family.
So in honor of Black History Month, in this article, we will explore some simple ways on how to prevent cancer if it runs in the family.
Are Cancers Hereditary, in Family’s History?
First of all, not all cancers are inherited. Therefore, to avoid fighting an aimless battle, it is vital to know the cancers that can slip through genes and those that are just basically acquired – about 1 out of 3 Americans have cancer in their lifetime with or without inheriting it.
However, some cancers, such as breast, ovarian, prostate, and bowel cancer, are hereditary. Such cancers may be present within a family (Family Cancer Syndrome or lynch syndrome) due to similar lifestyle habits or exposure to cancer-causing factors.
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How to Know If Cancer Runs in the Family
Determining if you’ve a family history of cancer can be a complex process, but several red flags to watch for include:
- Multiple cases of same cancer in the family.
- Early onset of cancer (below age 50).
- Multiple cancers in a family member.
- Bilateral cancers (both sides of an organ).
- The proliferation of cancer in multiple generations, like a grandmother, mother, and daughter.
- Occurrence of childhood cancers in siblings; for example, a brother and sister with Leukemia.
- Sex-related cancer in unexpected sexes; for example, a man with breast cancer.
If you notice any of these occurrences in your family or close relatives, it is likely a Family Cancer Syndrome. In addition, multiple family members may develop more common types of cancer, such as prostate cancer or skin cancer, simply as a matter of probability.
It is crucial to talk to a doctor or have genetic counseling for personalized advice and do a Hereditary Cancer Test. This’s a genetic test that involves checking for inherited genetic variants/ gene mutation that are associated with a high to moderately increased cancer risk and are responsible for inherited cancer susceptibility syndromes.
For some cancers, there is a vaccine. For instance the cervical cancer until the age of 26 years. This cancer is caused by Human Papillomavirus, (HPV).
Read Also: Here’s How To Support a Friend With Cancer
How to Prevent Cancer if it Runs in the Family: 7 Simple Tips
Avoid Foods that Fuel Cancer
What we take into our bodies can either build up or destroy our bodies, and the same goes for cancer. While some foods only fuel cancer growth, others fight them and lower your risk of having the disease.
So if you are at risk of cancer, to keep it at bay, focus on a healthy diet and avoid foods linked to higher cancer risk, such as processed meats, red meat, fried foods, overcooked foods, refined carbs and sugar, and dairy products. Ensure your plate has enough vegetables, they help fight numerous infections.
Eat Healthily Instead
By fueling your body with the right foods, you can give it the best chance to fight off cancer. Eat fresh produce, whole grains, and plant-based proteins. And as you work towards eating healthily, make sure you also watch and work on your weight. Obesity, on its own, is a risk factor for at least thirteen (13) types of cancer. Such as pancreas, kidney and esophagus cancers.
Never underestimate the power of exercise. Regular physical activity, including moderate to intense exercises or aerobics for at least 30 minutes daily, can significantly reduce your risk of cancer. Research shows that individuals who engage in regular physical activities have a lower risk of developing various types of cancer, including bladder, breast, kidney, gastric, and colon cancer, and maintain good health.
Do you know that in a year, more than 8 million people die from cancer and other diseases due to Tobacco use? Tobacco smoke contains about 7000 chemicals, including 69 known carcinogens and 250 more chemicals that are incredibly harmful to your health. Tobacco is one cancer risk you can avoid. Smokers are liable to die young -this is not a joke.
Cut Down your Alcohol Intake
The liver metabolizes alcohol into acetaldehyde, a carcinogenic compound causing oxidative stress and DNA damage and weakens the immune system. Alcohol also raises estrogen levels, which increases the risk of breast cancer, and is a risk factor for various other cancers, including the liver, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, and oral cavity.
To protect your health and lower cancer risks, limit your alcohol consumption.
Don’t Sleep on Regular Medical Care
Early detection is crucial to the successful management and treatment of cancer. So if you are at risk for cancer, hereditary cancer syndrome, do not neglect regular medical care. Ensure you schedule regular check-ups with your doctor to stay on top of your health and catch any potential issues early.
Limit Sun Exposure
Excessive sun exposure increases the risk of skin cancer. For skin cancer prevention, be mindful of how much sun hits your skin and limit your exposure to the sun. Inquire from your health care providers or GP what will suit you. Sunlight and cigarette smoke are some of the known carcinogens.
In conclusion, by making healthy lifestyle choices and practicing these simple tips, you can reduce your risk of developing cancer, even if it runs in your family.
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