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Six Things to Give Up At Lent That Will Help You Prevent Cancer

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Updated March 10, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

In observation of Lent, many give up a habit that is dear to them. Chocolate, coffee, and social networking are only a few things that people sacrifice during Lent. This year, though, why not give up something that will jumpstart a healthier lifestyle and help reduce your risk of cancer? By avoiding these six habits, you will be on the road to a healthier you before Lent is over.

1. Smoking

Ria Hills

Smoking is a tough habit to break, but if you can quit for 40 days during Lent, then you will most likely be able to continue being a non-smoker. There is not one single health benefit of smoking. The human body is somewhat forgiving, though, and you will begin to reap the benefits of being a non-smoker just minutes after kicking the habit. Did you know that smoking causes many types of cancer, not just lung cancer? Smoking is associated with breast, pancreatic, colon, head and neck, bladder cancer and more. 

2. Tanning

Marcin Paszkiewicz

Giving up tanning is one of the best decisions you can make for your health. Whether you do it in your backyard, on the beach, or in a salon, tanning is unsafe and the consequences can be potentially life-threatening. Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer and is on the rise. Alarmingly, more young people are being diagnosed with melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer. Instead of baking, try faking! An artificial tan is easy, relatively inexpensive, and best of all, safe! 

3. Drinking

Steve Woods

For Lent, why not pass on that last call for alcohol -- or avoid drinking altogether? Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol regularly increases your risk factor for many types of cancer. Studies suggest that men who consume two alcoholic drinks per day and women who have one alcoholic drink per day significantly increase their risk factors for certain types of cancer.

4. Unsafe Sex

bill davenport

Unsafe sex can result in unwanted pregnancy, disease, and infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV), a known cause for cervical cancer and a risk factor for many other types of cancer. HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection that is spread through sexual skin-to-skin contact. A vaccine to prevent HPV, called Gardasil, was approved by the FDA in 2006 and protects against four strains of HPV that are associated with cervical cancer. HIV/AIDS is also associated with some types of cancers.

5. Being a Couch Potato

Mario K Photography

Did you know that when you exercise, you are reducing your risk for many types of cancer? The American Cancer Society recommends exercising for 30 or more minutes, at least five days a week, for cancer prevention. Exercising doesn't have to mean going to the gym to lift weights. There are plenty of ways to get exercise into your day. Check out these 10 ways to prevent cancer through exercise for great gym alternatives. 

  • How Exercise Can Reduce Your Breast Cancer Risk
  • Can Exercise Prevent Lung Cancer?
  • Exercise for Beginners
  • 6. Unhealthy Diets

    Rob Owen-Wah

    For Lent, you can also give up an unhealthy diet. Studies show that a diet high in animal fat increases the risk for several types of cancer, particularly colon cancer. Red meat contains much more fat than poultry and fish, so reducing the amount of red meat in your diet may help to prevent cancer. A diet high in fat also is major cause of obesity, which is a risk factor for many types of cancer. 

  • Healthy Sources of Protein
  • Eat Beef and Still Stay Healthy
  • Quiz: How Healthy is Your Diet?
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