Age-specific cancer prevention tips for women
"A woman’s life changes at every decade and so does her body," says Therese Bevers, M.D., medical director of MD Anderson’s Cancer Prevention Center.
"And, just as a woman sets personal and work-related milestones, she also should set health goals for every stage of life."
MD Anderson experts have created a plan to help guide women along their way.
"Practicing the healthy behaviors in our guide is important for all women, regardless of age," Bevers says. "So take note of all of these tips — even the ones directed toward women older or younger than you."
Your 20s: Avoid Tanning and HPV
Say ‘no’ to tanning salons. Tanning bed use significantly ups a woman’s odds of getting melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer), according to research. Using tanning beds regularly before age 30 increases a woman’s risk of skin cancer by 75%.
Reduce exposure to HPV. The human papilloma virus, or HPV, is most common among young women in their late teens and early 20s. High-risk strains of HPV are present in more than 99% of cervical cancer cases.
A woman’s best bet to reduce the risk of HPV infection is to:
- Limit her number of sexual partners
- Consistently practice protected sex
- Get the HPV vaccine if she’s younger than age 26
Your 30s: Add Weights and Relaxation Time
Lift some weights. Most women begin to lose muscle mass after age 30. Strength training can prevent muscle loss, build bone density and increase the rate at which the body burns calories. And, maintaining a healthy weight can help the body avoid diseases like cancer.
Take time to unwind. Juggling all the responsibilities of being a mom, wife, caretaker and employee often brings increased stress. Chronic stress affects almost every system in the body and wreaks havoc on their functioning, making it harder to fight off diseases like cancer. Curb stress by doing breathing exercises and other relaxation-type activities.
Your 40s: Stick to a Healthy Diet and Exercise
Maintain a healthy weight. As women get older, their metabolism decreases. This is especially true after age 40, when women may have a hard time maintaining the weight they had in their 20s and 30s.
Making healthy food choices and staying active every day can help jumpstart the body’s metabolism and keep off unwanted pounds.
Your 50s: Seek Healthy Hormone Options
Limit the use of hormone therapy. Taking hormones can increase a woman’s chances of developing uterine cancer, breast cancer, heart disease, blood clots and stroke. Women should talk to their doctor about hormone therapy and ask about healthier options to manage menopausal symptoms.
Your 60s and older: Stay Socially Active
Almost 10 million Americans older than age 65 live alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. For many, living alone can lead to loneliness and depression, which can harm a person’s overall health.
Get involved in your community. Bevers encourages women who are retired and lack social interaction to find volunteer opportunities in their communities and get involved. It’ll keep them active, engaged and sociable. Even better: it offers a chance to help others.
Get annual check-ups
“Whether you’re in your 20s, 40s or 60s, yearly check-ups are a must,” Bevers says. “With the help of your doctor, you can create a personalized health plan to help you stay healthy for many years to come.”
Bevers recommends women download this Screening Exams by Age checklist and take it to their next doctor’s visit.
For more information, visit www.mdanderson.org/focused.
Source: The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
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