Remember those old black and white movies when most of the actors and actresses smoked their way through countless roles? Back then, smoking was a way of life for the famous and the not-so-famous alike. So, it’s no surprise that John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, Lana Turner and numerous other Hollywood stars shared two things in common with millions of their fans: they were heavy smokers and they died from cancer.
It’s been a half century since the Surgeon General’s Report linked tobacco with cancer and other deadly diseases. Today, smoking cigarettes or cigars is no longer part of the lifestyle for a majority of Americans. Yet, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS), one-third of all cancer deaths in the United States can be blamed on tobacco. An estimated 160,000 Americans died from lung cancer in 2014 and most of them were smokers. Those who believe they can chew tobacco and escape the risk of cancer are fooling themselves. The chewing habit leads to numerous cancers, including those of the mouth, throat, voice box and esophagus.
Smoking is the most obvious lifestyle choice linked to cancer, but hardly the only one. Even if you don’t use tobacco, you could be leading a lifestyle that increases your risk of cancer. Obesity, a poor diet and inactivity also play significant roles in the incidence of various types of cancer.
The ACS says obesity may be linked to cancers of the pancreas, kidney, colon stomach and uterus. Women who gain excess weight after menopause increase their risk of breast cancer. Obese men may be more likely to be diagnosed with a deadly type of prostate cancer than men of normal weight. Studies cited by the ACS also indicate that obese men and women are at greater risk for pancreatic cancer.
Many studies also show a healthy lifestyle that includes proper nutrition and regular exercise lower your risk of cancer. A steady diet of vegetables, fruit, poultry, fish and low-fat dairy products has been linked to a lower risk of breast, colon and other cancers. Limiting the consumption of processed meats and alcohol may also reduce the risk of various types of the disease.
Of course, even the healthiest among us can’t totally eliminate the risk of cancer. No one can control family histories and other medical factors that increase the risk. However, for most of us, a tobacco-free healthy lifestyle that includes a healthy diet and regular exercise can help reduce the chances that cancer will strike.