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Lifestyle Changes that can Decrease Your Cancer Risk

Every woman is at risk for breast or ovarian cancer, but for some the risk is greater than for others. The level of each individual's risk depends on many factors. There is family history, genetics, environmental influences, age, lifestyle, and reproductive history. Thanks to recent advances in medical research, it is now possible to find out what your personal risk is for these diseases and what you can do to lessen that risk.

The Cancer Risk Evaluation Program of the University of Pennsylvania (offered by The Women's Specialty Center at The Chester County Hospital) is specifically designed for women who want information about their likelihood for breast and ovarian cancers. The program offers individualized counseling and evaluation of personal and family risk, along with a full explanation of genetic testing and whether it is a reasonable option to pursue. [LEARN MORE]

While family history plays a big part in the development of cancer, your lifestyle can be just as critical. You can reduce your risk of developing cancer, as well as several other diseases, by taking the following steps:

Stop Smoking and/or Chewing Tobacco
Not only will this benefit you, it will help those who live with you. Talk with your doctor about options to help you quit. Or enroll in a smoking cessation class to get the support and tools you need to accomplish what may seem like a daunting - but NOT impossible - task.

Exercising
Fitting in at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily also can help reduce your risk of cancer, while providing other significant health risks. While the options are plentiful, an activity as simple as walking can make a big difference.

Eating Right
A low-fat diet rich in fruits, whole grains and vegetables can help prevent cancers - especially if there is a family history of the disease. It is never too late to start eating right. Arming yourself with the information you need to make the right food choices is half the battle. Then, we recommend that you introduce small changes into your diet, instead of trying to do them all at once.

If you are having trouble knowing what steps to take or to decipher the loads of nutritional information published, then nutritional counseling can help. A registered dietitian can help you develop an individualized nutrition program, which includes strategic meal planning, snack suggestions, shopping guidelines, cooking tips, dining out ideas, and more.

Maintaining Ideal Body Weight
Being overweight can increase your risk of cancer as well as a host of other medical conditions. In an age of "super size," it's easy to put on extra pounds without much effort. By adding in exercise and watching the amount of high-fat foods you consume, you can take off those unwanted pounds. Again, we recommend that you begin slowly, taking one step at a time. If tackling a weight problem seems more than you can do on your own, talk with your doctor about options or consider an organized program that offers counseling, compassion and support.

Protecting Your Skin All Year
Avoiding prolonged exposure to the sun during midday is the best protection against skin cancer. With so many outdoor activities that families enjoy, avoiding the sun altogether can be difficult and unrealistic. We recommend a two-fold approach: dress properly and apply sunscreen liberally. Wear as much clothing as is comfortable, add a wide-brim hat to shade your face, and top your outfit off with a cool pair of sunglasses with UV protection. Apply sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher often, especially when swimming or enjoying other water sports. Don't be fooled by a cloudy day - sunscreen is still needed to protect yourself from the UV rays that can damage your skin.


The Chester County Hospital and Health System offers the Cancer Risk Evaluation Program, as well as courses for smoking cessation, nutrition counseling and weight management. To learn more visit the Programs and Support section at www.chestercountyhospital.org or call 610.738.2300 for program information.

Last Updated: 9/18/2012