4 Ways to Reduce Your Cancer Risk [Part 1]

4 Ways to Reduce Your Cancer Risk Part 1

There is no routine cancer. At The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute, researchers and oncologists understand that cancer can result from many factors, including your genetic makeup and lifestyle choices.

While you cannot alter your genes, you can make healthy choices and positive changes that not only reduce your cancer risk but also improve your overall health.


If you use tobacco, quit. If you don’t, don’t start. Smoking has a direct link to lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women in the United States. Furthermore, 90 percent of lung cancer deaths among men and approximately 80 percent of lung cancer deaths among women are due to smoking.

Lung cancer isn’t the only concern. Studies at the OSUCCC – James have linked smoking to an increased risk of cervical and colorectal cancer. Smoking also causes many other types of cancer, including cancers of the throat, mouth, nasal cavity, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, kidney, bladder and cervix, and acute myeloid leukemia, in addition to other health conditions.


Did you know that being overweight or obese contributes to as many as one out of five cancer-related deaths? Excess body weight can increase your risk of colorectal, endometrial (uterine), esophageal, kidney, pancreatic and breast (in women past menopause) cancer.

Because the link between weight and cancer risk is not fully understood, more research is needed to uncover how body weight affects risk and whether losing weight will reduce risk.

Regardless, maintaining a “normal” weight is crucial to your well-being and health. To evaluate whether your weight is within the normal range, use the National Institutes of Health's BMI calculator.


Not only is exercise important in maintaining a healthy weight, but it is also a beneficial way to relieve stress, reduce fatigue, improve range of motion, loosen stiff muscles, improve quality of life and provide an overall feeling of well-being.

Where do you begin? A good way for adults to start exercising is brisk walking in 10-minute intervals. As you become more active and comfortable with your exercise routine, aim to meet one of the three following exercise guidelines for adults:

  1. 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (e.g., brisk walking) every week and muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)
  2. 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (e.g., jogging or running) every week and muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)
  3. An equivalent mix of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)


A balanced diet is also important in maintaining a healthy weight and reducing cancer risk. Aim to meet the following five guidelines:

  1. Eat five or more servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables each day. A typical serving is equivalent to one average-sized whole fruit or vegetable, such as an apple or a tomato. One cup of any raw, chopped fruit or vegetable, such as lettuce or fruit salad, is considered one serving. If the fruit or vegetable is cooked, as in tomato sauce or spinach, one-half cup is a serving.
  2. Eat at least six servings per day of breads, cereals and grains. Choose whole grains that are minimally processed. Try to reduce intake of highly refined sugars and carbohydrates. A serving is one slice of bread or half a bagel; ½ cup cooked pasta, rice or beans; and ¾ cup of most cereals.
  3. Consume red meat in moderation. Three ounces or less of red meat per day is recommended. Fish and poultry are good alternatives, as they have less saturated fat.
  4. Keep total fat in your diet at less than 30 percent of total calories. Also, saturated fat should make up less than 10 percent of total calories. For a person who consumes 2,000 calories per day, this would equal 66 grams of total fat with 22 grams of saturated or hydrogenated fat.
  5. Use salt in moderation. In general, it is recommended that salt consumption should be less than 6 grams per day. That means that total sodium intake for one day would be 2,400 milligrams (mg). Note that one teaspoon of salt has just over 2,300 mg of sodium. Many processed and fast foods, like some soups and frozen dinners, have over 1,500 mg per serving. Pay attention to food labels. Try using herbs and spices to season foods in place of salt.

For four additional ways to reduce your cancer risk, subscribe to the OSUCCC – James Blog to receive part two of this series in your inbox!