The best cancer weapon is prevention – equal parts awareness and action. While smoking and obesity are known cancer risks, there are lesser-known conditions and lifestyle choices that can make you more susceptible to a cancer diagnosis. Additionally, while exercise and a balanced diet are known to improve your health, there are other activities and practices you can incorporate into your life to decrease your risk.
Dr. Oz reveals the 5 biggest cancer risks for women over 40 and the preventive measures you should watch out for.
Hidden Cancer Risk #1: Diabetes and Pancreatic Cancer
Type 2 diabetes is a dangerous risk factor when it comes to pancreatic cancer, often referred to as a silent killer. For many physicians, this is the most feared cancer because it is often so difficult to detect until it gets into the advanced stages. The link between the two exists because type 2 diabetes is associated with increased inulin production; inulin causes the growth of cells and the proliferation of blood vessels in the pancreas. This increased blood flow creates a hospitable environment for tumor formation. Diabetes is also linked to liver, uterine and bladder cancer.
Prevention Tip: Make sure you Know Your 5 numbers, including your blood sugar levels. Keep yourself informed; to learn more about the antiangiogenic foods that starve cancer cells by cutting off their blood supply, click here. To learn more about pancreatic cancer, click here.
Hidden Cancer Risk #2: Calcium Deficiency and Colon Cancer
Calcium deficiency poses a threat when it comes to colon cancer. Fewer than 15% of women over 40 get the calcium they need. Calcium works to stop the growth of cancer cells and detoxifies the system, preventing these outside invaders from wreaking havoc in the colon, where they can promote cancer. When a calcium deficiency is present, cancer cells have the chance to grow large and more threatening.
Prevention Tip: To ensure that you are getting enough calcium, Dr. Oz recommends a daily calcium cocktail: 600 mg of calcium, 400 mg of magnesium and 1000 IU of vitamin D. Natural sources of vitamin D include dairy, spinach and kale. To learn more about calcium, click here. To learn more about preventive screenings for colon cancer, click here.
Hidden Cancer Risk #3: Advanced Gum Disease and Head and Neck Cancer
Advanced gum disease, or periodontitis, causes inflammation and infection around the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth; this is a cancer risk in and of itself. Each millimeter of bone loss due to chronic periodontitis is associated with a 4 times greater risk of head and neck cancer. Female hormones make women over 40 more susceptible to bone loss. In addition to this, when a person suffers from periodontits, their saliva contains higher levels of a protein called VEGF, which spurs the growth of blood vessels that feed cancer cells.
Prevention Tip: Brush and floss daily! To learn more about how oral hygiene contributes to your overall health, click here.
Hidden Cancer Risk #4: Processed Meats and Ovarian Cancer
Diets high in processed meats contain preservatives like nitrates, which act like carcinogens in your body and damage healthy DNA. Damaged DNA is a breeding ground for cancer cells. Studies show that eating as little as 1-3 slices of processed meat a day can also increase your risk of esophageal, stomach and colon cancer.
Prevention Tip: Be vigilant of food labels. Pass on processed meats that have sodium nitrate or nitrites on the label.
Hidden Cancer Risk #5: Dense Breasts and Breast Cancer
Women who have dense breasts are at an increased risk for breast cancer. Regular mammograms have trouble seeing through denser breast tissue, but an alternative called digital mammography, in combination with an ultrasound or MRI, can help achieve more accurate results. Most women can not tell on their own if they have dense breasts; a mammography would be the only way to know. Ask your doctor to tell you if you have dense breasts.
Prevention Tip: A monthly breast self-exam is critical, as are regular screenings. This is equally important for all women. To learn how to do a proper breast self-exam, click here. For Dr. Oz's breast cancer prevention guide, click here.
These everyday activities are other ways you can take preventive action against cancer.
Simple Switch #1: Drink Caffeinated Coffee
Your daily cup of joe can cut your risk for different types of cancers. The theory here is that caffeine is a catalyst in the “suicide” of cancer cells. Studies have found that drinking 2 cups a day can cut your risk for colon cancer by 25%; 3 cups can prevent certain types of breast cancer; 4 cups reduce the risk of head and neck cancer by 39%; 5 cups cut your brain cancer risk by 40%; and for men, 6 cups the risk of prostate cancer by 60%. But remember: drink coffee is moderation and with modest amounts of milk and sugar.
Simple Switch #2: Open Your Windows
According to the EPA, air in most homes is up to 5 times more contaminated than outdoor air. Opening your windows for 15 minutes a day can help to filter out the contaminants that may be present in your home, including radon, a leading cause of lung cancer, or formaldehyde, an air pollutant linked to leukemia.
Simple Switch #3: Filter Your Tap Water
A new study has determined that home-filtered tap water is safer than bottled water. Bottlers are not required to disclose the content or source of their water and may be contaminated with carcinogenic chemicals. Filtering your tap water reduces exposure to carcinogens linked to bladder and stomach cancer.