February 22, 2016 | By CATCH Global Foundation
February is National Cancer Prevention Month. But what does that mean for me, my friends, family and lifestyle? Well, we want to tell you more.
National Cancer Prevention Month emphasizes that individuals can cut their cancer risk by moving more, maintaining a healthy weight and eating more healthfully. Created by the American Institute for Cancer Research, the month’s activities focus on promoting healthy behaviors to reduce cancer incidence in the United States.
At CATCH, we’re fortunate to work with a team of talented researchers, academics, educators and partners, including The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, who dedicate their time and effort to ensure a positive impact on children’s nutrition, level of physical activity, classroom environment and community. As the most proven program to prevent childhood obesity, it’s our mission to launch kids and communities towards a healthier lifestyle, fully incorporating the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) expanded, coordinated school health approach: Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC).
We all know a healthy lifestyle and physical activity are important, and according to the CDC, research shows that being overweight or obese raises a person’s risk of getting some cancers. In fact, diet, physical activity, and weight control prevent 1 in 3 cancers. Healthy eating and exercise begin in early childhood, at home and on the playground, and are the right choices to living an active and healthy life.
However, healthy lifestyle choices go beyond just eating healthy and being physically active. From adolescence to adulthood, a healthy lifestyle also includes avoiding tobacco use and nicotine and preventing secondhand smoke. It’s also important to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays which could result in skin damage and sunburns, a major risk factor for melanoma. It’s estimated that 1 in 5 people will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States.
CATCH believes that sun safety is important. So much so that we’ve disseminated the evidence-based Ray and the Sunbeatables™: A Sun Safety Curriculum developed by MD Anderson Cancer Center. The program emphasizes the sun safety behaviors of seeking shade, applying sunscreen, wearing protective clothing, hats and sunglasses and minimizing time outdoors during peak sun hours (10:00 AM—4:00 PM). Check out a sample lesson here.
Promoting healthy sun safety habits in early childhood can reduce the risk of skin cancer and lead to healthy choices throughout adulthood such as avoiding tanning bed use. Indoor tanning exposes you to intense UV rays, increasing your risk of melanoma — one of the most common cancers in women between 20 and 29 years old.
From engaging in sun safety behaviors to actively eating healthy and exercising, there are various ways we can all promote a healthy lifestyle to our friends and family to reduce cancer incidence.
P.S. Are you looking to promote better health in your community? Start by supporting efforts to improve access to cancer treatment and services. This guide from CDC has practical advice on how to get started.