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Hoeven: A lifetime commitment to cancer prevention

If you're like many Americans, you are already struggling to keep your New Year's resolutions. But consider the big picture: lifestyle changes like exercising more, quitting smoking and eating better are long-term strategies that may reduce your risk of cancer.

About 1.7 million Americans are expected to be diagnosed with cancer in 2018, with 4,100 diagnoses in North Dakota alone—but many cases are preventable.

February is National Cancer Prevention Month, a great time to commit to a lifetime of healthy choices—for yourself and your loved ones—to reduce your risk of cancer.

Here are five ways to get started:

• Don't smoke. Smoking is responsible for 80 to 90 percent of all lung cancers—the number one cancer killer in the U.S. If you smoke, the sooner you quit, the better.

• Get vaccinated and screened. Regular screenings for breast, cervical and colorectal (and lung for those at high risk) cancers have been shown to reduce cancer deaths. Men should talk to their health care professionals about the pros and cons of prostate cancer screening.

• Protect your skin. To reduce your risk of skin cancer—the most commonly diagnosed cancer—avoid sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you need to be outside, wear sunglasses and a hat, and use sunscreen with at least SPF 30 with UVA and UVB protection.

• Exercise. Regular exercise can reduce your risk of colorectal, breast and endometrial cancers; more recent evidence links exercise to reduced risk of additional cancers, including liver and kidney cancers. Adults should get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week, and children should get at least an hour daily.

• Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity has been linked to at least 13 types of cancer, including post-menopausal breast, colorectal and liver cancers. Eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, while limiting red meat and alcohol, can help you maintain a healthy weight.

Think beyond short-term goals for a lifetime of health. To learn more about cancer prevention, visit www.preventcancer.org.

Hoeven is the spouse of Sen. John Hoeven and a member of the Prevent Cancer Foundation’s Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program.

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