by Kristen Power I sit writing this post on the eve of National Cancer Prevention month in February and a handful of days before World Cancer Day, February 4, wracking my brain as to what I can say about cancer prevention that hasn’t been said a million times before. I’ll be honest. There’s nothing new to say. What worked for cancer prevention last year, three-and-a-half years ago when I started working at NCC, and years before that, still works today. The ways that you and I can prevent cancer are fairly easy to understand. Putting them into practice, well, that’s so much harder. Breaking old habits and forming new ones takes considerably more work than maintaining the status quo. We’re busy. We’ll do it tomorrow. We're young, there’s still time. This year I turn 40. For me, I've finally realized that now IS the time. And whether you're 14 or 65 , now can be your time too. In the spirit of this year’s World Cancer Day theme, “We Can. I Can.”, I hope you’ll make a pact with me to strive for a little bit of cancer prevention in your life every day. Where to begin? Here’s our list of the top ways you can prevent cancer, along with a few notes from me on how I’ll be adopting them into my life.
Don’t use tobacco. This one is kind of a no-brainer. Tobacco is a leading cause of cancer and is entirely avoidable. Looking to quit? Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or check out the Nevada Tobacco Quitline online for free cessation assistance. (I’ll continue to share quitline information with those who smoke, and continue advocating for clean air, indoors and out.)
Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and drink alcohol in moderation. (I bought the “365 Days of Salads” cookbook to help add more fruits and veggies into my diet this year. My goal? At least 2 servings of fruit and 5-7 servings of veggies every single day. I don’t think I’ve reached that yet, but as my dad would say, “if at first you don’t succeed, try try again.”)
Be physically active; include at least 30 minutes of physical activity in your daily routine. (This is a tough one for me, so I set a goal to hike a 168-mile trail this summer, which provides me with a reason to get out and walk, bike, hike, snowshoe, or do calisthenics every day for the next six months to train and prepare. After that, I hope my habits will be set.)
Protect yourself from the sun. Through our Sun Smart Nevada program we teach the 5 S’s of sun safety. Check out the 5 S’s here and be sure to check your skin regularly for changes in moles or other growths. (SPF 30, check. Hat and sunglasses, check. A regular check with my dermatologist, check. I’ve got this one on lock.)
Get immunized. Visit ImmunizeNevada.org for the schedule of vaccinations you should receive. Cancer prevention vaccines include HPV (for adolescents and young adults up to age 26) and Hepatitis B. (I’d also recommend getting your annual flu shot. It doesn’t prevent cancer, but it’ll help stem the spread of the flu and protect those who are unable to be vaccinated.)
Test your home for radon. Connect with the Nevada Radon Education Program to learn more about this cancer-causing gas that can accumulate in your residence, how to test for it, and what you can do to mitigate. (I have a radon test at home that I’ll actually be using in early February. The winter months are the best time to test for radon.)
Get regular medical care and stay up to date on your cancer screenings. That includes Pap tests for cervical cancer, a colonoscopy or FIT test for colon cancer, and a mammogram for breast cancer. (I turn 40 this year, which means I’ll be getting my first mammogram. I’ve already discussed my risk with my health care provider and will be ready for my mammo in August!)
There’s quite a menu of ways you can prevent cancer, and the great thing is you don’t have to do it all at once. Start with one or two and work your way down the list to build healthy habits and awareness into your daily life. We can. I can. Together.
Kristen Power has been the Communications Director for the Nevada Cancer Coalition since August 2013. In that time she's also lost and gained 20 pounds, completed a sprint triathlon, backpacked the John Muir Trail, and eaten a lot of dark chocolate. She has been known to over-share.