It’s likely that almost every one of us has known someone who’s been touched by cancer.
The good news? Modern medicine has allowed for more precise detection and effective treatments than ever before for this complex set of diseases.
Here’s some even better news: Prevention and early detection are the keys to protecting yourself against the scourge of cancer. Adults should maintain a regular screening schedule with their doctor, avoid tobacco use, protect themselves against harmful sunlight, follow a sensible diet and exercise regularly.
The steps to prevention aren’t limited to the grown-ups, however. It’s never too early to practice healthy habits and invest in a lifetime of wellness.
Parents understand the natural instinct to protect their children. By following these six steps, they can help to lessen their child’s future risks of cancer and other serious diseases:
1. Stay active. Encourage your child to put down the video game controller, and devote at least one hour a day to vigorous physical activity and play. An increase in physical activity elevates your overall sense of wellness, and helps you maintain a healthy weight. This is important, because unwanted pounds can set the stage for cancer and other chronic diseases when kids become adults.
2. Serve plenty of fruits and veggies. Another key to weight control is a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Plant-based foods contain nutrients and compounds that may protect against diseases like cancer. You should try to include servings of fruits and veggies with every meal, and keep them nearby for healthy snacks as well.
3. Go with the grain. Whole grains are an essential part of a plant-based diet, and they can even help to lower the risk of colorectal cancer. Make your child’s sandwiches using whole-wheat bread, serve brown rice at dinner, and try whole-wheat pastas as well.
4. Stay safe from the sun. You might think that sunburns are just temporary inconveniences, but they can actually increase the risk of cancers in children and adults. For protection, you and your child should wear a sunscreen of at least a 30 SPF before heading outside. Encourage a sun-savvy dress code (think hats, pants and long-sleeved shirts, when possible).
5. Just say no to tobacco. Most adult smokers started the habit when they were kids. It’s never too early to preach the risks of tobacco use with your child.
6. Get their HPV shots. Vaccinating kids helps protect them as adults from several cancers caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), including cervical and throat cancers. Both boys and girls should begin getting the HPV vaccine (it's a series of shots) at age 11 or 12, but it's not too late to get your kids caught up if they've missed any shots.
Additional sources: American Academy of Family Physicians; American Academy of Pediatrics; American Cancer Society