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Small Changes Can Have Big Impact in Reducing Cancer Risks

Some clinical studies say changes to your lifestyle and diet can reduce your risk for cancer, and there are things you can do to help prevent cancer from taking hold. NY1's Jill Urban filed the following report.

We all know a healthy lifestyle can help fight off or prevent disease, but when it comes to cancer risks, some small changes can have a big impact.

"Clinical studies show that there may be an association of about 80 percent of risk reduction with cancers and lifestyle," says Dr. Jeffrey Mechanick, an endocrinologist at The Mount Sinai Hospital.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and Mechanick  says it's good time to remind people how important it is to evaluate and adjust lifestyle.

He says no matter your genetics or environment, there is science to prove that modifying certain behaviors can significantly reduce your risk for most types of cancer. For example, diet can have a direct link to prevention.

"The way in which diet interacts with cancer can be viewed in two ways," Mechanick says. "First, you have to achieve a good, healthy weight, but second, it's the way the parts of the food interact with the molecules or the targets, the things that we need to effect in the body."

So that means we should make every bite count. Fruits and vegetables have the greatest body of evidence  showing a protective value. Good eating patterns also include complex carbohydrates and foods low in saturated fat and high in fiber.

We also know exercise and good sleep are good for us, but Mechanick  says evidence shows they are key in cancer prevention.

All of these help insulin work better in the body, and there are associations  of insulin resistance and high insulin levels with the development of cancer," he says.

Limiting alcohol and avoiding smoking are also imperative. Last, he says being happy can help us stay healthy.

"Mood and behavior  are known to effect the way in which humans respond to treatments for disease, certainly associated with decreased risk for disease," Mechanick  says. So you may have heard it before, but it's important to say it again: when  it comes to preventing cancer, lifestyle medicine can be your  first line of defense.


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