February is National Cancer Prevention Month, which is a great reminder to put your health first. Fortunately, the majority of known cancer causes are avoidable and related to lifestyle. While eating right, exercising regularly and avoiding tobacco products may constitute your first line of defense, recent research has uncovered a number of small, surprising ways to minimize your cancer risk every day. Not only can these five tips help prevent cancer, they can improve your energy levels and overall well-being in the process.
- Filter your tap water. A report from the President’s Cancer Panel on how to reduce exposure to carcinogens suggests that home-filtered tap water is a safer bet than bottled water. Consumer Reports’ top manufacturers for faucet-mounted filters are Culligan, PUR and Brita. Store your drinking water in a stainless steel or glass container to avoid chemical contaminants like BPA, which is present in most plastic bottles.
- Dont forget your hat – or your sunscreen. Though melanoma can appear anywhere on the body, it’s more common in areas that are exposed to direct sunlight. Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have found that people with melanomas on their scalp or neck die at almost twice the rate of people with skin cancer on other areas of their body. Hats and sunscreen can protect your head and neck from overexposure to UV rays.
- Stop topping off your tank. According to the Environmental Protection Agency and the President’s Cancer Panel, topping off your gas tank can spill fuel and override the pump’s vapor recovery system – which is designed to keep cancer-causing chemicals like benzene out of the air you breathe.
- Go green. The next time you’re choosing salad fixings, reach for the darkest varieties. The chlorophyll that gives them their deep green color is loaded with magnesium, which has been proven to reduce the risk of colon cancer. Just a half-cup of cooked spinach provides 75 mg of magnesium, which is 20 percent of the daily recommended value.
- Stay caffeinated. A 2010 British study revealed that people who drank five or more cups of caffeinated coffee a day were 40 percent less likely to develop brain cancer than those who drank less. Drinking five cups a day also reduced the risk of oral and throat cancer by nearly the same amount. Researchers credit the caffeine: Decaf had no comparable effect. Just remember that caffeine is a stimulant. Drinking five or more cups of coffee a day could have harmful side effects, including insomnia, anxiety and high blood pressure.