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M. D. Anderson Provides Back-to-School Tips for Cancer Prevention

M. D. Anderson Provides Back-to-School Tips for Cancer Prevention
M. D. Anderson News Release  08/09/01

As summer winds down and kids head for the classroom, make sure they start the academic year with healthy habits for preventing cancer.

"Research has shown that up to two-thirds of all cancers may be prevented through healthy lifestyle changes," says Dr. Bernard Levin, vice president for cancer prevention at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

These lifestyle factors include avoiding tobacco, limiting time in the sun, eating five servings daily of fruit and vegetables, limiting alcohol consumption, exercising regularly and knowing your family’s history of disease, he says.

Research has shown that people who begin smoking as adolescents suffer more DNA damage than those who begin smoking as adults.  This is particularly important because recent studies have shown that 3,000 youths begin smoking each day.

“DNA damage puts early-age smokers at even greater risk for developing lung cancer,” says
Dr. Margaret R. Spitz, chair of the Department of Epidemiology.  “This information tells more clearly than ever about the importance of preventing smoking initiation in teens, and of helping teen smokers quit.”

To protect against sun damage to skin, make sure kids wear sunscreen, hats and protective clothing when outdoors, says Dr. Ellen R. Gritz, chair of the Department of Behavioral Science.  Help kids remember to protect themselves before soccer practice, bike riding, roller blading and other outdoor activities.

"Skin damage is cumulative, and studies have shown that children tend to get 80 percent of their lifetime sun exposure by age 18," she says.

Increased fruit and vegetable consumption has been linked to decreased risk of lung, prostate, bladder, esophagus, colorectal and stomach cancers.

“We can show our children that nutritious meals and snacks taste good and are enjoyable to eat, in addition to providing long-term health benefits,” Dr. Levin says.

It's important to know your family's history of cancer to help determine whether you and your children may be at increased risk of certain types of cancer.

"Some cancers tend to run in families, such as breast, ovarian, prostate and colorectal cancers," according to Dr. Levin.  "Be sure to tell your doctor about your family history."

For more information about cancer prevention, or for a free copy of the brochure titled
M. D. Anderson's Road Map to Cancer Prevention, visit the website or call The M. D. Anderson Information Line at 1-800-392-1611.  For information about cancer, call the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER. 

Tips for family exercise

People who make exercise part of their routines gain the most health advantagesand are most likely to continue.  Make exercise a life-long habit.  Researchers have found that about 30 minutes of exercise three to four times per week may help decrease your risk of several types of cancer, including colorectal and prostate cancer.  Cooler fall weather can make these outdoor exercises pleasant.

  • Put some distance between your family and cancer by putting some miles on bicycles. 
  • Bike ride through your neighborhood or local parks.
  • Schedule family evening walks as often as possible.
  • Challenge the kids to regular tennis matches or other sports.
  • Set up a friendly soccer scrimmage for a workout for all ages.  Invite neighborhood children and adults.
  • Take the family for weekend nature hikes at local parks or hiking trails.  Younger children can enjoy making a list of insects and plants.
  • Toss the football or baseball with your children for a game of catch.
  • Reacquaint yourself with the game of tag with your younger children.  They'll love it, and so will your cardiovascular system.

Tips for helping children eat healthy foods

Help children begin a lifetime of healthy eating habits that ultimately can help reduce their cancer risk.  Chips and candy are packaged for grab-and-go.  You can do the same with fruits and veggies.  You may be surprised at how easy it is to get your kids to eat healthy. 

  • Store washed and sliced carrots, celery or broccoli in a plastic bag next to a bowl of low-fat dip in the refrigerator.  Easy for kids to grab and go.
  • Fill a bowl with apples, oranges, bananas and pears and leave it on the kitchen counter.  Fruit is easy to reach and doubles as attractive kitchen décor.
  • Load the refrigerator with juice boxes and individual servings of applesauce, fruit cocktail or low-fat yogurt.  Kids really go for this.
  • Encourage your kids to ask for their favorite healthy snacks if they notice, before you do, that you’re running out.
  • Plan nutritious meals ahead of time.  You'll be less likely to resort to fast food for convenience.
  • Set a good example.  Children usually do what their parents do.


© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center