Lifestyle and the role it can play in cancer prevention

By Lizzy Ellery, MHB Vice President


In the world today, we are overloaded with an exhausting list of options when it comes to our health. From the recommendations for which diet plan to follow, how many minutes a week to exercise, and the things we should do versus the things we shouldn’t do. It can just be very overwhelming. Especially when you have cancer on the mind.

According to American Cancer Society, “For most Americans who do not use tobacco, the most important cancer risk factors that can be changed are body weight, diet, and physical activity. At least 18% of all cancers diagnosed in the US are related to excess body weight, physical inactivity, excess alcohol consumption, and/or poor nutrition, and thus could be prevented.” (, 2022)

At this point in time, there isn’t a way to fully ensure you prevent cancer from occurring. There are many, many factors that contribute to the development of cancer, not to mention the genetic aspect. Even though we may not know for sure, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that lifestyle will in fact help prevent cancer, it couldn’t hurt to at least adopt some of those lifestyle changes (just in case). There are many resources that indicate lifestyle changes can yield positive outcomes. Here are a few resources to review when you consider what you can do to make these changes in your own life if you choose.


Achieve and maintain a healthy weight throughout life.

Keep your weight within the healthy range and avoid weight gain in adult life.


Be physically active.

Adults: Get 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity each week (or a combination of these). Getting to or exceeding the upper limit of 300 minutes is ideal.

Children and teens: Get at least 1 hour of moderate or vigorous intensity activity each day.

Limit sedentary behavior such as sitting, lying down, watching TV, and other forms of screen-based entertainment.


Follow a healthy eating pattern at all ages.

A healthy eating pattern includes:

Foods that are high in nutrients in amounts that help you get to and stay at a healthy body weight

A variety of vegetables – dark green, red, and orange, fiber-rich legumes (beans and peas), and others

Fruits, especially whole fruits in a variety of colors

Whole grains

A healthy eating pattern limits or does not include:

Red and processed meats

Sugar-sweetened beverages

Highly processed foods and refined grain products


It is best not to drink alcohol.

People who do choose to drink alcohol should have no more than 1 drink per day for women or 2 drinks per day for men.

We all fully support the idea of living your best life! Don’t dwell on the unknown, rather enjoy your life and adopt the healthy habits that are meaningful to you.


Additional resources to consider:

Breast Cancer Resource Foundation – Nutrition Care for Breast Cancer Patients