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February is National Cancer Prevention Month and March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Unfortunately, according to a study conducted by Northeast Regional Cancer Institute (NRCI), our area has a higher rate of cancer compared to the rest of the United States. Residents of NEPA must be vigilant! While there is no fool-proof method for cancer prevention, scientific research does support the fact that healthy lifestyle choices are essential.

Important Tips to Reduce Your Risk of Cancer:

  1. AVOID SMOKE AND SMOKING! - Perhaps the most important thing one can do to prevent cancer is to avoid smoking…first hand or second hand. It has been directly linked to cancer of the lung, head and neck, bladder and pancreas and others. Smoking increases the risk of lung cancer by 20 to 30 times.
  2. Exercise, Exercise, Exercise - 30 -45 Minutes of moderate exercise or physical activity 4-5 days per week is recommended to reduce the risk of cancer. Walk, ride a bike, swim, or join a gym, just do something! However, individuals exercising for longer durations at higher intensities were shown to experience the greatest reduction in their risk cancer.
    • Why Exercise Works - Various biological mechanisms including hormonal changes have been suggested as possible reasons for the reduction in cancer through exercise. However, current research has demonstrated a strong link between cancer and stress. Stress, which reduces our body’s natural defense mechanisms, such as adrenal cortical or stress hormones, increases our susceptibility to disease including cancer. Exercise and physical activity has been shown to not only reduce stress, anxiety, and depression but also to elevate mood. These psychological improvements may be the reason why exercise and physical activity are effective in preventing cancer.
      • Obesity as a risk factor for cancer has been demonstrated in the scientific literature for years. Individuals that are more physically active are usually not overweight. Exercise increases basal metabolic rate, expends calories, and burns fat to help control your weight and to help maintain a more normal lean body mass. Physical activity and exercise prevent obesity.
    • Colorectal Cancer - Physical activity and exercise has been shown to have the greatest prevention against colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among American men and women combined. Physical activity reduced the risk of colorectal cancer up to 70% for both men and women.
    • Breast Cancer - Research has been able to establish a similar relationship between physical activity and breast cancer. Approximately one out of every eight women in the United States can develop breast cancer at some point in their lifetime. Exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer up to 40%.
    • Prostate Cancer - Prostate cancer, the second most common cause of male death, will affect one in every five American males. However, the risk of prostate cancer can be reduced up to 30% through physical activity and exercise. Researchers hypothesize that exercise may have its greatest protective effect against prostate cancer when initiated early in a man’s life.
    • Cancer of the Lung/Uterus/Cervix - Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Cancers of the uterus and cervix will accounts for 7,400 deaths annually in the United States. Exercise and physical activity can reduce the risk of lung and uterine/cervical cancer up to 40% and 90%, respectively.
  3. Avoid Obesity and Stress - Both obesity and stress, as mentioned above, have been linked with cancer of various types. A healthy low-fat diet, limited in red meat, with moderate amounts of fish, rich in fruits, vegetables and nuts along with and regular exercise are essential components for prevention , especially for colorectal and prostate cancer.
  4. Use a Water Filter - The use of a good home water filter has many healthy benefits. It may reduce your exposure to carcinogens and other harmful chemicals. Also, using a steel or glass container to store drinking water is important to avoid chemicals such as BPA found in plastic bottles.
  5. Drink Plenty of Water - The American Cancer Society recommends drinking more than 8 cups of water per day to prevent bladder cancer by diluting the concentration of urine in the bladder. 
  6. Limit Consumption of Meat - Processed, charred, blackened, and well-done meats are associated with heterocyclic amines, which are cancer causing and formed when charcoal broiling meat. Marinating meat for an extended time prior to grilling has been recommended to improve safety according to some studies.
  7. Eat Green Vegetables - Some studies suggest that the really dark greens such as spinach, kale, collards and broccoli are valuable in cancer preventions. Endive, arugula, and romaine must be added to this list.
  8. Eat Nuts - Some studies show that snacking on Brazil nuts and other nuts high in antioxidants, lowers the risk of some cancers such as bladder, lung and colorectal.
  9. Limit Sun Exposure - Take time to use adequate sun block and proper clothing to protect your skin from the sun to prevent skin cancer, especially if you are light skinned. At all costs, avoid sunburn!
  10. Eat Organic and Natural Foods - When possible, buy fresh foods and meats free of antibiotic and hormones. Choose organic produce grown free of pesticides. Eat farm-raised fish and limit consumption of fish from waters high in mercury concentration
  11.  Visit Your Physician Regularly - Regular check-ups by your physician is essential to stay healthy and have early detection of disease. Many tests and vaccinations offer life saving information such as: PAP tests, mammograms, colonoscopies, PSA blood tests and others. Ask your physician about new vaccinations such as HPV, Human Papillomavirus. These are important for the prevention of cervical cancer in women and head and neck cancer in men.

Source: American Cancer Society

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This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy in Scranton and Clarks Summit. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles, visit our exercise forum!