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February is National Cancer Prevention Month


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If your New Year’s fervor to get healthy is already losing steam, February – National Cancer Prevention Month – is a great time to give yourself a second chance.

American Institute for Cancer Research's three Guidelines for Cancer Prevention can help you focus on what’s most important.

  1. 1. Choose mostly plant foods, limit red meat and avoid processed meat.
  2. 2. Be physically active every day in any way for 30 minutes or more.
  3. 3. Aim to be a healthy weight throughout life.

Notice anything about them? Like, for example, how closely the advice for cutting cancer risk resembles advice for preventing other chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes – not to mention for getting in shape?

It’s true: these simple steps offer many different health benefits, and National Cancer Prevention Month is as good a time as any to start putting them into action.

Let’s look at them one at a time:

Choose mostly plant foods, limit red meat and avoid processed meat.

You already know that limiting high-calorie treats is a good idea. But did you know that if you make an effort to prepare meals focused around vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans, you’ll help fortify your body against cancer?

That’s what American Institute for Cancer Research’s groundbreaking expert report concluded. The report also found a convincing scientific link between red and processed meats and colon cancer, so it’s a good idea to limit red meat to 18 ounces of lean cuts per week and avoid processed meats like ham, hot dogs, sausage and bacon.

Be physically active every day in any way for 30 minutes or more.

Remember: Every day – in any way. That means you don’t need a gym membership – you just need to get your heart pumping.

Being physically active for a total of at least 30 minutes a day – whether you’re walking, vacuuming, dancing or scuba diving – will lower your risk for colon cancer and possibly several other cancers as well.

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You might need to get more than 30 minutes a day in order to prevent weight gain – which is very important – but you don’t have to do it all at once. Try breaking your activity into several 15- or 20- minute sessions to fit your schedule.

Aim to be a healthy weight throughout life.

And what about that goal so many of us seek right after the holidays, a healthy weight?

It’s the third key element that will help protect against chronic disease. In fact, carrying excess weight has been linked to six different types of cancer.

The good news is that once you start following the first two guidelines about diet and physical activity, you’ll find it easier to accomplish this one.

So this month especially, keep these three guidelines in mind and remember: It’s never too early and never too late to start making choices that improve your chances for good health (and good looks!) for 2011 and beyond.

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Source: American Institute for Cancer Research