More than 500,000 people in Germany are diagnosed with cancer every year. But each of us can greatly reduce our personal cancer risk. 9 risk factors and how to eliminate them.
More than half a million people in Germany were diagnosed with cancer in 2022. More than 200,000 die from it every year. This fate has now befallen the skiing legend Rosi Mittermaier. She died at the age of 72 after a serious illness, as reported by “Bild”.
According to experts, around half of all cancers can be avoided with simple preventive measures. Of course they are no guarantee either.
Cancer and prevention researchers have developed the recipe for this. These preventive or preventative measures include:
Being overweight massively increases the risk of cancer. This has now been established for at least 13 types of cancer. For example, for particularly common ones such as colon cancer and kidney cancer.
The greater the overweight, the higher the risk of cancer. Being overweight also promotes other diseases, such as diabetes (the diabetes mellitus) and high blood pressure.
It is best not to let obesity develop in the first place. If you are overweight, you should lose weight slowly. You can only do this in the long term with two measures: with the right diet and exercise.
Sitting for a long time makes you ill, while exercise makes you fit and healthy. Daily exercise can help maintain or even lose weight.
The reason why exercise can specifically protect against cancer: Physical activity supports genes that can slow down cancer cells. Exercise lowers the risk of the following types of cancer:
Any form of exercise can protect against cancer and other diseases. It doesn’t matter whether you dance, take a brisk walk or use your home trainer. Half an hour a day makes sense. And: Build movement into your everyday life – for example, take the stairs instead of the elevator.
There is no such thing as a 100% anti-cancer diet. But a healthy diet lowers the risk of cancer. That is scientifically proven.
Avoid foods that have been shown to promote cancer. This includes red meats like beef, pork, or lamb, and processed meats like sausage or ham. If you also eat less sugar, you can lose weight and reduce the risk of cancer.
Many foods can slow down the growth of cancer cells, such as fiber. They are found in fruit and vegetables, which also contain many vitamins and other healthy substances. They can also protect against cancer.
Therefore, you should eat at least 400 grams of fruit and vegetables per day. Also 30 grams of fiber, for example from whole grain bread or legumes such as beans and lentils.
Losing excess weight, exercise and a healthy diet: These first three points are particularly important in preventing cancer.
Fact: Smoking is the reason for 19 percent of all new cancer cases. Smokers are twice as likely to die from cancer as non-smokers, warns the German Cancer Society.
Tobacco and especially tobacco smoke contains carcinogenic substances. Because tobacco smoke is so extremely dangerous, passive smoking can also make you sick.
The most well-known cancer caused by smoking is lung cancer. But there are many other types of cancer that are caused by smoking, such as cancer of the mouth, larynx and stomach.
Therefore, if you are a smoker, quit as soon as possible.
The German Cancer Research Center has an overview of various smoking cessation programs.
By the way: If you haven’t smoked for five years, your risk of lung cancer is reduced by half. Also, make sure you live in a smoke-free environment.
With our PDF guide, you can finally quit nicotine in just 33 days – forever.
The alcohol in beer, wine, sparkling wine or schnapps is called ethanol and is carcinogenic. For example, increased alcohol consumption can cause mouth and throat cancer and breast cancer in women.
Increased alcohol consumption is when women drink more than 10 grams of alcohol and men more than 20 grams per day. A glass of beer, wine or schnapps contains 10 grams of alcohol. So in one drink.
But even if you drink this small amount every day, the risk of esophagus cancer increases by almost a third. The risk of mouth and throat cancer increases by 20 percent.
And if you have 4 or more drinks regularly, your risk of cancer is 5 times higher.
So it’s best not to drink alcohol at all. At least you should avoid it on a few days of the week. The rest of the days you should only enjoy one drink.
There are many pollutants in our environment that are carcinogenic, i.e. carcinogenic. In the air, these are, for example, fine dust and chemical substances.
The fine dust from exhaust gases is particularly dangerous: Its tiny parts penetrate deep into the lungs. There they can form oxygen that damages the genetic makeup of the lung cells.
Therefore, avoid fine dust as much as possible. For example, they should not jog or walk with a stroller on streets with heavy traffic.
You can find out how good the air is in your region in the current air quality index from the Federal Environment Agency.
Radon levels are high in some areas of Germany. Radon is an inert gas. It can flow from underground into the basement and ground floor. If it gets into the air, it breaks down into radioactive particles. If these particles are inhaled, they can cause lung cancer.
You can find out how high the radon risk is in your area on the “Radon concentration in the soil” map.
Small amounts of carcinogenic substances can also be found in food, cosmetics and everyday objects. At the workplace, legal protective measures are intended to protect employees from damage to their health.
The German Cancer Society offers an overview of the many cancer-causing substances in everyday life.
Sunburn causes a number of cancers, most notably skin cancer. It can even affect the eye:
Contrary to what was previously thought, each of the three types of UV radiation is carcinogenic: i.e. UV-A, UV-B and UV-C rays. The artificial light in the solarium can also promote cancer. UV light damages the DNA, i.e. the genetic material of the skin cells. They can change and become malicious.
This risk is particularly high in children and people with fair skin. Children under the age of two should therefore not be exposed to direct sunlight at all. This is rarely taken into account.
So being tanned is a health risk. It also causes the skin to age faster. That means you get wrinkles faster.
It is very easy to protect yourself against UV light: Use sunscreen with a high sun protection factor. Even when the sky is overcast.
Also note the current UV index: It is the measure of UV radiation and shows when there is a risk of sunburn. The Federal Office for Radiation Protection provides up-to-date information on this on a daily basis.
However, UV-A and UV-B radiation are also important for the skin to form vitamin D. However, long sunbathing is not necessary: In spring and summer, ten to 15 minutes outdoors are enough. The German Cancer Aid advises that the face, arms and legs should not be covered.
Cancer is not contagious. But some forms of cancer can be caused by infections. Getting vaccinated early can prevent this. Two vaccinations in particular are important here:
1. Vaccination against hepatitis B for infants. Infection with hepatitis B virus increases the risk of liver inflammation. This in turn can lead to liver cancer. Hepatitis B is the biggest risk factor for liver cancer.
2. Girls and boys can be vaccinated against Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). This is best done between the ages of nine and 14, i.e. before the first sexual contact.
HP viruses are transmitted during sex. The skin in the genital and anal areas is affected. The infection is often hardly noticed because it is mild.
Despite this, certain HP viruses can cause cancer after many years. Depending on the sex practice, they can lead to these types of cancer:
Cancer doesn’t happen overnight. There are usually preliminary stages that the doctor can remove during a preventive examination. In this way, a cancer disease cannot develop further in the first place.
The best example of this is the early detection of colon cancer by colonoscopy. The doctor sometimes finds polyps that can become malignant. They can then be easily removed during the examination.
The following early detection examinations are offered in Germany:
In addition, you should examine yourself regularly. If you start doing this from a young age, you will get to know your body well. If changes occur, you notice them quickly.
Women should check their breasts and armpits for changes at least once a month. The same applies in men to their testicles. You can also recognize skin changes at an early stage if you are familiar with the skin’s appearance.