University Health Care System
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Cancer Risk Factors and Facts

This year, about 552,650 Americans are expected to die of cancer - more than 1,500 people a day. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the U.S., exceeded only by heart disease. In the U.S., one of four deaths is from cancer. In 2007, about 1,444,920 new cancer cases will be diagnosed. The American Cancer Society stresses that prevention and early detection are key factors in the fight against cancer.

Cancer Risk Factors

  • Cigarette smoking
  • Family history of cancer
  • Overweight by 20 percent or more
  • Physical inactivity
  • Poor dietary habits: high fat, low fiber intake
  • High levels of stress
  • Long-term exposure to environmental carcinogens such as second-hand smoke, asbestos, radon or coal tar
  • Personal history of cancer

Cancer and Your Diet

Lifestyle plays a major role in cancer risk, and diet has been estimated to contribute to at least one-third of all cancer-related deaths. Overweight women are eight times more likely to develop uterine cancer than women of normal weight. There also is some evidence that heavier women also are at greater risk of ovarian cancer, breast cancer and cancer of the gallbladder.

To reduce your risk of cancer, experts recommend physical activity, not smoking and following these dietary guidelines:

  • Eat plenty of vegetables, beans, lentils, fruit and wholegrain products like breads, cereals, pasta and rice. These foods are rich in antioxidants that play a role in the body's natural defense against cancer, and they contain fiber - an important risk reducer for cancers of the colon and rectum.
  • Pay attention to food labels. Watch your intake of saturated fats, cholesterol and carbohydrates.
  • Use sugar and salt in moderation.
  • Drink alcoholic beverages moderately and with meals.

Reviewed: 12-17-10
Updated: 12-17-10


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