HOUSTON, Texas – In today’s troubled economy, saving money is a hot topic. No matter what gets cut from your budget, however, experts at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center believe that healthy choices to prevent cancer shouldn’t be on the list.
“Cancer is a disease that is cheaper to prevent than treat,” says Michele Forman, Ph.D., a professor in M. D. Anderson’s Department of Epidemiology. “If we eat healthier meals and increase daily exercise, we could avoid about one-third or 186,000 cancer deaths this year.”
Five budget friendly activities that can reduce your chances of getting cancer are:
1. Exercise daily.
Forman suggests you do at least 30 minutes of low to high-intensity exercise on five or more days a week, depending on your fitness level. Forty-five to 60 minutes of exercise is even better. Children and teens should do at least 60 minutes a day of moderate to high-intensity exercise at least five days a week.
“It’s okay to gradually increase your exercise to 30 minutes a day if you currently aren’t exercising,” Forman says.
Can’t afford a gym membership? Look at these low cost exercise options:
• Local city parks and recreation centers offer a variety of cost-friendly options to keep you fit. This includes free or low cost gym memberships and sports programs for adults and kids. Parks also are a great place to go hiking, running, walking, or to play family sports. Contact your local parks and recreation center to learn about what is available in your area.
• Health and fitness organizations often offer many free or low-cost programs to get you moving. Check out www.fitness.gov to find a program in your area.
2. Eat more fruits and veggies.
Vegetables and fruits have lots of vitamins, minerals and fiber found to help prevent cancer. Eating five fruit and vegetable servings every day also is a great way to keep a healthy weight. Remember to include a colorful variety in your weekly menu.
Buying enough fruits and vegetables to meet your five-a-day serving can get costly. Below are some cost-friendly tips to help you on your next trip to the store.
• Your local farmer not only offers some of the freshest produce in town, but he or she also has some of the cheapest prices too. Search online or ask family and friends about farms in your area that sell seasonal fruits and vegetables.
• Your local farmer’s market also may offer fresh produce at a cheaper price. You can find a listing of farmer’s markets at www.usda.gov.
• Nutrition assistance programs provide children and adults in need with food and a healthful diet. Visit www.fns.usda.gov to see if one of these programs can help you or your family.
3. Avoid tobacco.
Tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of death in the United States. Each year, it causes about 169,000 cancer-related deaths, says the American Cancer Society. Another great reason to quit is that you could save up to $4,000 a year.
Here are some free resources to help you quit.
• M. D. Anderson smoking cessation studies help people quit tobacco through treatment methods. Learn about these free programs at www.mdanderson.org/preventionstudy.
• The National Cancer Institute offers free information and support to help you quit. Learn about their services at www.smokfree.gov.
• The American Cancer Society Quitline provides tailored support, and the tools and steps to help you become smoke-free. Learn about their services at www.yesquit.com.
4. Practice sun-safety.
More than one million cases of skin cancer are expected in 2009. Unprotected exposure to too much ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is the number one cause of skin cancer.
Staying safe in the sun can get costly. Below are some suggestions to get the most out of your dollar.
• Sun-Protection Factor (SPF) 15 sunscreen is just as good as SPF 70, if applied and reapplied properly, and it is usually more affordable. The protection an SPF offers does not increase with the SPF number. SPF 15 absorbs 93% of the sun’s burning rays, while SPF 70 absorbs about 98%.
• Sunglasses are a must to protect the eyes. You don’t have to buy costly, designer shades to get good ultraviolet (UV) protection. When shopping for a new pair of sunglasses, look for ones that have broad UV protection that absorb at least 99% of UV rays.
5. Get regular check-ups.
Wellness exams, or cancer screening exams, are medical tests done when you are healthy, and you don’t have any signs of illness. They make sure that cancer is found at its earliest, most treatable stages. The chances of surviving colorectal, breast and cervical cancers are higher if found early. In addition to finding cancer early, screening exams for colorectal and cervical cancers also can remove abnormal cells that may turn into cancer. Doing this prevents cancer altogether.
Many states and counties offer free or low-cost screening exams for men and women who qualify. To learn about what your state offers, call the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER.
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