Gynaecological cancers, like cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal and vulvar cancers, affect thousands of South African women every year. While you can’t control risk factors like genetics or age, research shows that lifestyle plays a significant role. In fact, the Cancer Association of South Africa indicates that a large percentage of cancer deaths are linked to preventable behaviours.
The good news is that you can significantly lower your risk of these cancers by making proactive changes. Your friendly gynaecologists at Mount Edgecombe Hospital have compiled this list of evidence-based ways to reduce your chances of gynaecological cancers through lifestyle strategies.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Being overweight raises your risk of uterine, ovarian and breast cancers after menopause. Women with a BMI over 30 have a 26% higher chance of getting ovarian cancer. Losing even a small amount of weight can significantly reduce this risk. Aim for a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9. The following two points can help you with that.
Physical activity is one of the best ways to lower your risk of gynecologic cancers. Getting active for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, can reduce your chances of uterine and ovarian cancer by 20-40%.
Moderate exercise like brisk walking, swimming or cycling helps maintain a healthy weight and lowers oestrogen levels.
Eat a Plant-Based Diet
Adding lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and plant proteins to your diet has been linked to lower rates of endometrial, ovarian and breast cancers. Phytochemicals in plants have antioxidant effects that protect cells. Try filling half your plate with vegetables and eating plant-based meals often.
Cut Back on Smoking and Alcohol
Smoking exposes the reproductive system to cancer-causing chemicals and is a top risk factor for cervical, vulvar, and endometrial cancers. Heavy drinking also increases your risk, so limit alcohol to a maximum of one drink a day. If you smoke, talk to your gynae about safe, effective ways to quit.
Making proactive lifestyle changes can significantly impact your risk of gynaecological cancers. For more information on reducing your risk, please get in touch with our specialist gynaecologists at Mount Edgecombe Hospital. Dr Leon Augustine and Dr Nitesh Parikh can help you become more aware of your risks and make smart choices to take control of your health.