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David Christianson

DAVID CHRISTIANSON

Experts report that 1/3 of all cancer deaths in the United States each year are attributable to lifestyle practices that include tobacco use, sun exposure, diet, weight, and physical activity.

Tobacco use

Approximately 50% of lifetime smokers die of a tobacco-related illness and life expectancy is 13 years shorter than nonsmokers. Approximately 30% of all cancer related deaths in the United States are related to smoking. Tobacco use increases the risk for developing cancer of the mouth, larynx, pharynx, lungs, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, cervix, kidneys, bladder, colon, and is also associated with an increased risk of leukemia.

Sun Exposure

There are more than 1 million cases of skin cancer diagnosed each year. Sun exposure and artificial ultraviolet radiation from tanning beds is a risk factor for skin cancer. Ultraviolet radiation exposure from tanning beds is considered a human carcinogen. Increased risk for both melanomatous and non-melanomatous skin cancer is reported. Experts recommend limiting sun exposure, especially between the hours of 10 a.m and 2 p.m, and advise using sun protection This includes wearing hats and other protective clothing, using sunscreen, and wearing sunglasses. Limiting sun exposure should start in childhood and, consistent with the World Health Organization guidelines, anyone under 18 should not use a tanning bed.

Diet:

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Vegetable and fruit consumption is associated with lower cancer risk. Diets rich in vegetables and fruits are also associated with lower risk of weight gain and obesity. Studies also suggest a modest association of red meat and processed meat consumption with increased cancer risk. Whole grain foods may reduce risk of cancer involving the gastrointestinal tract. For these reasons the American Cancer Society recommends a diet that includes at least 2.5 cups of vegetables and fruits each day, limits red meats and processed meats, and includes whole grains in preference to refined grain products.

Weight and cancer risk:

Up to 20% of cancer-related mortality in the United States is attributed to obesity. Obesity is associated with increased risk for developing breast, colorectal, endometrial, adenocarcinoma of the esophagus and pancreas is reported. There are also reports of increased risk for developing cancer of the liver, gallbladder, cervix, ovary, prostate and possible increased risk for non-Hodgkin lymphoma and multiple myeloma.

Exercise:

Physical activity appears to be associated with cancer risk. Lower levels of physical activity are associated with higher cancer risk. The explanation for this association may primarily be physical activity contributes to maintenance of a healthy body weight. Additionally, physical activity may also be beneficial through helping to regulate sex hormones, insulin, and prostaglandins, and may promote positive effects on the immune system. A lifestyle that is physically active is also associated with a lower risk of heart disease and diabetes.

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Dr. David Christiansen is a Billings oncologist.

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