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Cancer prevention

Cancer is the leading cause of death among Canadian adults, and 1 in 2 Canadians will get cancer in their lifetime. Luckily, there are things you can do to prevent certain types of cancer. Learn more about what causes cancer and ways to help lower your risk of getting cancer.

Want to reduce your risk of cancer? Try these evidence-based tips
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  • Evidence Summary

    Selenium for preventing cancer.

    Cochrane Database Syst Rev (2018)
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    Physical activity and cancer

    National Cancer Institute
    Physical activity can lower your chance of getting cancer. Exercise moderately for at least 2.5 hours every week. Exercise may also help improve your quality of life if you are a cancer survivor.
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    Smoking: Helping people stop and stopping them from starting

    Evidently Cochrane
    Medication (such as nicotine replacements) combined with counselling or other support increases your chances of successfully quitting smoking.
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    Texting 2 quit - Using mobile phones to support people quit smoking

    Evidently Cochrane
    Support, in the form of education and nicotine replacement therapy, can increase your chances of quitting smoking. Counselling and text message support via mobile phone is a promising way to manage nicotine cravings. More research is needed as technology options change.
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    Research review: Old data on dietary fats in context with current recommendations

    Harvard School of Public Health
    Researchers disagree on which fats should be included in our diet. Current dietary guidelines recommend replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats for better heart health.
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    Vitamin, mineral and multivitamin supplements for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer: Consumer fact sheet

    U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF)
    Healthy adults should not take vitamin E or beta carotene supplements to prevent cardiovascular disease (CVD) or cancer. Taking beta carotene supplements can increase chances of lung cancer if you are already at risk.
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    Healthy eating

    Patient.co.uk
    A healthy diet can help prevent chronic diseases and manage your weight. A healthy diet includes fruits & vegetables, fiber, dairy and healthy proteins such as fish, nuts and beans. Limit fat, cholesterol, salt and sugar. Example snack and meal ideas in this resource.
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    Detecting non-melanoma skin cancer

    Informed Health Online
    Skin changes are a normal part of aging. See your doctor if you have a new mole, growth or spot that hasn't healed after 4 to 8 weeks. This resource describes what to look for.
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    Let's talk about portion size and overeating

    Evidently Cochrane
    Bigger portions, packaging and tableware may cause you to consume more food and drink. Limit portion sizes of fatty foods and sugary drinks to maintain a healthy diet.
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    Melanoma

    Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care
    Prevent melanoma (skin cancer): avoid sunburns and tanning booths, cover your skin in the sun and use UV protection such as sunscreen. Some sun exposure is necessary to produce vitamin D. If you are at high risk for melanoma have regular checkups with a clinician.
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    WHO report says eating processed meat is carcinogenic: Understanding the findings

    Harvard School of Public Health
    Red meat and processed meat may increase your risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. For a healthy diet, reduce your intake of red meat and avoid processed meat. This resource answers other questions about the report.
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    Obesity: Television watching and "sit time"

    Harvard School of Public Health
    More time spent watching television and sitting can increase your risk of obesity and related chronic diseases. Stay active and limit your sit time to help control your weight.
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    3 strategies to prevent overeating

    Harvard School of Public Health
    To reduce overeating, try to be more aware of how much you eat, cut down on sweet and salty foods, and eat when you are hungry, not to cope with stress. Avoid technology during meals and focus on the food you are eating.
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    Cancer prevention: 7 tips to reduce your risk

    Mayo Clinic
    To help prevent cancer: avoid tobacco and intense sun exposure, exercise, maintain a healthy body weight and practice safe sex. Certain immunizations may also help and identifying cancer early increases your chances of successful treatment.
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    Staying active

    Harvard School of Public Health
    Lower your 'sit time' and increase your 'fit time'. Exercise lowers your risk for: heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and some types of cancer. Exercise can also help improve your stress, sleep, risk of falling, mood and mental health.
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    An update: New evidence on vitamins

    Evidence-based Living
    Eating a healthy, balanced diet is enough to satisfy your daily vitamin requirements. Unless your diet is lacking in some way, you do not need to take vitamins. Vitamins do little to prevent asthma, cancer or ear infections.
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    Alcohol and cancer risk

    National Cancer Institute
    Drinking alcohol can increase your risk of getting certain types of cancer. Risk of some cancers are even greater for people who drink and smoke. Follow drinking guidelines to help lower your risk (details in this resource).
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    Alcohol use and cancer

    American Cancer Society
    Alcohol is linked to many different types of cancer. Drinking alcohol regularly increases risk of head and neck, esophageal, liver, breast, or colorectal cancer. The more alcohol you drink, the higher your risk. Recommended alcohol limits are no more than 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink a day for women.
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    Getting people to exercise: What do we know about what works?

    Evidently Cochrane
    Many adults do not get enough physical activity. Research shows tailored exercise programs with both individual and group support help increase physical activity. Internet programs may also work, especially tailored programs with support.
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    Best sunscreen: Understand sunscreen options

    Mayo Clinic
    The best ways to protect yourself from the sun are to avoid being outside mid-day, wear protective clothing and use sunscreen. Choose broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF of at least 15 and re-apply often.
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    Evidence-based exercise: What's the optimal amount?

    Evidence-based Living
    Thirty minutes of moderate exercise every day helps increase your chance of living longer. Exercising for one hour a day has even more benefits. People who do not exercise are the most likely to die early.
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    Sugary drinks

    Harvard School of Public Health
    Sugary drinks - such as soda, juice and energy drinks - are often high in calories and can lead to weight gain. Choose beverages that have little or no sugar added to them, such as water, coffee or tea. This resource includes a link to a sugar chart of common drink choices.
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    Factors that modify breast cancer risk in women

    UpToDate - patient information
    Lower your risk of breast cancer by exercising, not smoking and eating healthy. Environment, some medications and estrogen exposure can increase your risk. Some of the things you cannot change about your risk are age, gender, ethnicity, and family history. Regular screenings help reduce your risk of dying of cancer.
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    National smoking bans are good for your health

    Evidently Cochrane
    Second-hand smoke increases your risk of getting heart disease. National bans on smoking have led to reduced rates of heart disease, especially among non-smokers.
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    Fitness basics

    Mayo Clinic
    Make fitness a part of your daily routine to reduce your risk of chronic disease. Aim for 150 minutes of exercise each week as well as strength training at least twice a week.
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    If I switch to a vegetarian diet, will I lose weight?

    Mayo Clinic
    A vegetarian diet does not guarantee you will lose weight. You can gain weight if you eat large portion sizes or foods high in calories and fat. To lose weight, eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and plant-based proteins and burn more calories than you eat.
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    5 simple ways to reduce sedentary time

    Heart and Stroke Foundation
    Sedentary time increases your risk of chronic diseases. To lower your daily sitting time, try to take frequent walking or standing breaks, avoid screen time and change habits to stand or move when you would otherwise sit (for meetings, on the phone, etc).
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    Fitness: walking for wellness

    Health Link B.C.
    An easy way to get exercise and to stay healthy is by walking. It is recommended that you have at least 2.5 hours of moderate activity a week. This can include brisk walking, cycling, or yard work. Set short-term goals and then work to increase them.
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    Strength training

    Mayo Clinic
    Strength training can tone muscle and reduce body fat. Strength exercises can be done at home or in a gym. Use proper techniques in order to see improvements.
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    Core exercises: Why you should strengthen your core muscles

    Mayo Clinic
    Core exercises can help improve your balance and posture. You can do these kind of exercises without going to the gym. This resource includes instructions for doing a bridge exercise to strengthen your core.
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    Quitting smoking

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
    Quitting smoking lowers your risk of diseases like lung cancer and heart disease. You can quit smoking at any age. Counseling and medication have been shown to help, speak with your doctor to learn more.
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    A closer look at Dr. Oz’s 15 superfoods

    Science-based Medicine
    Be skeptical of so-called "superfoods". Claims that these are the "key to weight loss" are based on poor evidence and dietary advice. This resource reviews the evidence on 15 "superfoods" including beans, fennel and chili peppers.
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    Weight loss: Strategies for success

    Mayo Clinic
    A lower calorie diet and regular exercise with realistic goals can help you successfully lose weight. For long-term weight loss focus on changing your lifestyle, rather than temporary changes.
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    Secondhand smoke: Avoid dangers in the air

    Mayo Clinic
    Exposure to secondhand smoke can cause asthma, cancer and other serious problems. Avoid smoke in your home, vehicle and choose smoke-free restaurants and care facilities. Encourage your loved ones to quit smoking.
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    Risk reduction strategies for vaginal cancer

    Canadian Cancer Society
    Get the HPV vaccine, limit your sexual partners and use a condom to lower your risk of vaginal cancer. Have regular pap tests and avoid smoking. This resource includes questions to ask your doctor about vaginal cancer.
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    Drinks to consume in moderation

    Harvard School of Public Health
    Artificially sweetened drinks, diet drinks, 100% fruit juice, milk and alcohol are high in calories: drink these only in moderation. For some people drinking small amounts of alcohol may help to reduce the risk of heart disease or diabetes, but these risks are actually increased for heavy drinkers. People who do not drink should not feel that they need to start drinking small amounts of alcohol.
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    Alcohol and sensible drinking

    Patient.co.uk
    Drinking above recommended limits increases the risk of developing serious problems
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    Are high-protein diets safe for weight loss?

    Mayo Clinic
    A high-protein diet can be safe in the short-term and may help you lose weight. It can be harmful if continued long term. Dangers include risk of heart disease, poor kidney function, and low fibre levels.
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    Reducing your risk for kidney cancer

    Canadian Cancer Society
    Limit your risk of kidney cancer by avoiding smoking, being active and maintaining a healthy weight. Test your blood pressure and talk to your doctor about ways to lower high blood pressure. Avoid exposure to dangerous chemicals.
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    Colorectal cancer risk

    Cancer Care Ontario
    There is a better chance of curing colorectal cancer if it is found early. Cancer Care Ontario recommends you get screened for colectoral cancer every 2 years starting when you are 50 years old. Read more about risk factors, prevention, screening and treatment in this resource.
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    Lung cancer: Prevention

    Canadian Lung Association
    Lower your risk for lung cancer: do not smoke, avoid second-hand smoke and check your home for radon.
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    Can exercise trim your risk for breast cancer recurrence?

    Exercise can have benefits for women who have gone through breast cancer treatment. But can it prevent breast cancer’s return? Unfortunately, the jury is still out.
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    Selenium and cancer: Friends or foes?

    Selenium has been touted to have anti-cancer properties, but new research suggests that selenium supplements may be too much of a good thing.
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    Make 'happy hour' healthier: limit your alcohol to reduce your cancer risk

    Alcohol and cancer: research evidence links drinking alcohol to increased cancer risk. What are the recommended guidelines?
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    Be "sun smart" to avoid skin cancer

    How to reduce your risk of skin cancer. Evidence-based insights about preventing and detecting melanoma from McMaster University.
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    Do dietary supplements help reduce cancer risk?

    Taking steps to reduce your risk of cancer? Eat well and exercise regularly. But what about dietary supplements, do they help? Find out what the research says!
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    Move more, sit less to reduce your risk of cancer

    Want to reduce your risk of cancer? Exercise regularly. Mounting research evidence connects a sedentary lifestyle to serious health issues, including cancer.
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    A healthy diet can reduce your risk of cancer

    Eating healthy food is the key to living well and avoiding disease - including cancer. What should you put on your plate - and what should you avoid?
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    Want to reduce your risk of cancer? Try these evidence-based tips

    Research reiterates what you may already know about reducing your risk of cancer. It's worth confirming again. Your life could depend on it!

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