Aside from your weight, smoking, and drinking, the Harvard study found other lifestyle factors that can increase your risk of developing cancer. Here are some other ones that are likely to affect your health here in North America:
- low intake of fruits and vegetables
- "unsafe" sex
- air pollution
Just as with the three main factors, there are ways you can reduce the risk posed by these factors as well. Here are some tips.
- Get at least 7 to 10 servings of fruits and non-starchy fruits and vegetables per day (e.g., green leafy veggies, broccoli, carrots), as recommended by Canada's Food Guide. Keep fresh fruit and veggies washed, cut, and ready to eat. You're more likely to grab them as a quick snack if there's not a lot of preparation.
- Start meals off with a salad, or top your cereal with fresh fruit.
- Keep frozen fruits and veggies on hand. Vegetables maintain their nutrient content through the commercial freezing process and can easily be incorporated into a pasta or stir-fry. Fruits can be a great addition to milk, juice, or yogurt for a quick smoothie.
- You've probably heard this before, but it's worth repeating: stay away from sugary drinks, fast foods, and processed foods! Just remember – lots of fruit, veggies, and fibre, very little sugar and fat!
- Limit your salt and red meats – the World Cancer Research Fund suggests aiming for no more than 2.4 g of sodium a day and 500 g of red meat a week. Also limit the amount of processed meat that you consume.
Practice "safe" sex.
- Use condoms until you and your partner have been in the relationship exclusively for 6 months and have tested negative for any sexually transmitted infections.
- Learn how to use condoms properly. They are the only form of contraception that, when used properly, can decrease your risk of sexually transmitted infections.
- Don't store condoms in your wallet unless you plan to use them within a few hours.
- Use a water-based lubricant. Oil-based lubricants can cause condoms to break down.
- For women, have Pap smears as recommended by your doctor in order to check for early signs of cervical cancer.
- Speak to your doctor about the vaccine available to help prevent HPV (human papillomavirus) – this virus has been linked to cervical cancer.
Reduce your exposure to air pollution.
- Check the air quality index in your area before spending time outside. Limit your time outdoors during smog advisories, particularly if you have a respiratory condition.
- Make your home and car smoke-free.
- Prevent fumes from lingering in your living space by regularly checking exhaust systems and flues for home furnaces, fireplaces, hot water heaters, and other possible sources of indoor pollutants.
- Make sure air filters in your home are cleaned or replaced as often as recommended.
Do your part to reduce air pollution: when possible, walk, take the bus, or ride a bike instead of driving your car.
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