The holiday season is an ideal time to resolve to live a healthier lifestyle, including adopting habits that may help prevent cancer, according to researchers at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC). Instead of indiscriminately stuffing yourself with everything on the holiday table and then snoozing on the couch, there are healthier choices for a happy holiday season. Here are five suggestions that may improve your family’s health and reduce the likelihood of a cancer diagnosis in the future.
1 – Resolve to stop smoking.
“One of the best gifts people can give themselves and their family is to stop smoking,” said Vanderbilt’s David Carbone, M.D., Ph.D., Harold L. Moses Professor of Cancer Research at VICC. “Lung cancer kills more people than breast, colon and prostate cancers combined and tobacco use is the No. 1 cause of this form of cancer. This is a particularly important gift to your children, as ‘secondhand’ smoke is also a strong risk factor, and children of parents who smoke are more likely to start smoking themselves. ”
2 – Watch your weight.
While it is tempting to ignore the scales during the holidays, it can be difficult to take off those extra pounds later and being overweight can put you at risk for cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, excess weight causes the body to produce and circulate more of the hormones estrogen and insulin, which can stimulate cancer growth. Obesity has been linked to several forms of disease, including breast, colon and pancreatic cancer.
3 –Add some cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts or cabbage to your holiday menu.
Researchers with VICC and the Shanghai Cancer Institute in China have documented a possible link between a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables and a decreased risk for breast cancer and colorectal cancer.
“Cruciferous vegetables contain some compounds that may have a cancer-inhibitory effect,” explained Dr. Jay Fowke at Vanderbilt, Ph.D. and assistant professor of Medicine. “We were able to identify a group of women with a specific genetic profile who seem to particularly benefit from a high intake of these vegetables.”
Research by Vanderbilt’s Dr. Gong Yang, a M.D., MPH and research assistant professor of Medicine, found a similar protective effect against colorectal cancer among Chinese women who ate the most cruciferous vegetables.
4 – Substitute fruit juice, sparkling cider or water for alcohol.
“High consumption of alcohol over several years has been linked to a risk for head and neck cancer which is the fifth most common cancer in the U.S.,” said Dr. Wendell (Dell) Yarbrough at Vanderbilt, M.D. and associate professor of Otolaryngology and Cancer Biology. “We encourage everyone to abstain from alcohol or drink in moderation to reduce their risk for this type of cancer.”
5 – Get some exercise.
After a big holiday meal, encourage family members to take a walk or engage in one of the new video games that require physical activity. Exercise has been linked to a reduced risk for several types of cancer. Physical activity may reduce your cancer risk by helping maintain your weight, and can also improve your hormone levels and the way your immune system works.
While adopting a healthy lifestyle won’t guarantee a cancer-free life, adopting these resolutions may improve your overall health and enable you to enjoy more holiday seasons with your family.
The Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center is a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of two centers in Tennessee and 40 in the country to earn this highest distinction. Its nearly 300 faculty members generate more than $140 million in annual federal research funding, ranking it among the top 10 centers in the country in competitive grant support, and its clinical program sees approximately 4,000 new cancer patients each year. Vanderbilt-Ingram, based in Nashville, Tenn., recently joined with 21 of the world’s leading centers in the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, a non-profit alliance dedicated to improving cancer care for patients everywhere. For more information, visit www.vicc.org.