How bad is it?
Talking on your cellphone all day. Saying yes to tanning and no to sunscreen. Skipping preventative screenings. Just how risky are these actions when it comes to cancer?
Nobody’s perfect. But with cancer prevention, it pays to be close to impeccable as possible. Here, we rate common habits on a one-to-five scale based on advice from Baylor Scott & White Health experts.
Getting Your Bronze On
Sun-kissed, golden skin might look great, but melanoma does not. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a working group of the World Health Organization, people who use tanning beds before the age of 30 increase their lifetime risk of melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer) by 75 percent. So if you want a tan, hit the bronzer bottle, not the bed—self-tanner options are inexpensive, easy to use and safe.
Skipping Your Screenings
Health screenings aren’t exactly fun, but their benefits are well worth the tedium, says James Fleshman, MD, a physician on the medical staff at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas. For example, he says, “colonoscopy screening starting at age 50 and every 10 years thereafter in a patient with no risk factors can prevent cancer from ever occurring by detecting and removing precancerous polyps.”
The same principle holds true for mammograms, says Michael Grant, MD, a physician on the medical staff at Baylor Dallas. “For women over age 50, studies show that screening mammograms can help reduce the number of deaths caused by breast cancer,” he says.
In laymen’s terms? You can’t overcome cancer if you don’t even know it’s there. Talk to your doctor about setting up your screening schedule.
Oping Out Of Organic
If the pressure to buy all organic produce has you avoiding fruits and veggies entirely, take note: Whether organic foods translate to a lower risk of cancer because they are less likely to be contaminated by cancer-causing compounds is largely unknown, the American Cancer Society (ACS) says. So, while choosing organic produce certainly won’t hurt you (although it can be a bit pricier than conventional options), it may not be completely necessary. More important than organic versus nonorganic is fresh food versus junk food. Eat those veggies!
Talking On Your Cell Phone All Day
Hold the phone—literally. A recent report by the IARC found limited evidence of a possible connection between cellphone use and brain tumors. One of the studies examined for the report, which looked at cellphone use in several countries prior to 2004, showed that the heaviest cellphone users had higher risks for malignant brain tumors. Heavy use was defined as 30 minutes per day for 10 years.
Although the evidence is not conclusive, it is enough to warrant concern, the ACS says. What can you do? Use an earpiece or a landline (remember those?) to limit the time spent with your cellphone to your ear.
A version of this article originally appeared in the March 2015 version of Baylor Health magazine.