Skip to content

These Popular Habits May Increase Cancer Risk

Doctor warns to break these six bad habits now!
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

We all have bad habits that are hard to shake, but there's several that can negatively impact our overall well-being and increase the risk of getting cancer, which is the second leading cause of death, after heart disease, in the United States. Making a few lifestyle changes can mean avoiding cancer and Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with Dr. Tomi Mitchell, a Board-Certified Family Physician with Holistic Wellness Strategies who explained what risky behaviors to stop immediately to help prevent cancer. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Excessive Alcohol Use

woman refusing glass of alcohol

Dr. Mitchell says, "Alcohol consumption is a habit that many people follow regularly. It is easy to incorporate into social events and often seen as a way to relax. However, many people don't realize that alcohol consumption can increase their cancer risk. While it may not be the only factor, alcohol is a known carcinogen, and even moderate consumption can put people at a higher risk for cancer. If you are concerned about your cancer risk, it is essential to be aware of your alcohol consumption habits and make sure that you are staying within the recommended guidelines. Cutting back on alcohol or eliminating it from your diet altogether can help to lower your cancer risk and improve your overall health.

Everyone knows that smoking and drinking are bad for your health, but you may not be aware of how much they can increase your risk of developing cancer. Tobacco and alcohol are both carcinogens, and using them together raises your risk even further. Tobacco and alcohol together are worse for you than either on their own. Drinking alcohol increases your risk of developing head and neck, breast, stomach, pancreatic, liver, and colorectal cancers. Smoking and drinking together – and the number of drinks you have – also increases your cancer risk. The good news is that there are lifestyle choices you can make to reduce your risk of developing cancer. Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption are all."


Being A Chimney

girl in casual clothes smoking an electronic cigarette

Dr. Mitchell shares, "I jokingly but seriously used to tell my patients that if you were meant to be a smoker, then God would have made you a chimney! Smoking is a lifestyle choice that can have a significant impact on your health. There are many risks associated with smoking, including an increased chance of developing cancer. The CDC reports that smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, causing over 480,000 deaths each year. Esophageal cancer, lung cancer, and other cancers are linked to smoking. The good news is that you can significantly reduce your risk of developing cancer by quitting smoking. Quitting will improve your health, but it will also help you avoid the high financial costs of smoking. If you are looking to quit smoking, many resources are available to help you. Exercise, meditation, and counseling have all been shown to be effective in helping people kick the habit."


Skipping Periodic Preventative Exams

middle-aged man chatting with doctor

"Habits are a routine part of our lives," Dr. Mitchell states. "We brush our teeth every morning, make habits of our commute to work, and often have habits that dictate how we spend our free time. However, one habit that is often overlooked is the importance of routine health exams. Skipping your periodic health exams can increase your cancer risks. It is essential to get your mammograms, pap smear, prostate cancer risk, and other examinations based on your age, lifestyle, and family history. While it may seem like a hassle to schedule and keep these appointments, they could ultimately save your life. So make it a habit to schedule your routine health exams today."

RELATED: Doing This After Age 60 is "Unhealthy," Say Physicians


An Unhealthy Diet

Man eating pizza having a takeaway at home relaxing resting

"Diet is one of the most important habits you can maintain for your health," Dr. Mitchell emphasizes. "What you eat can affect not only your physical health but also your mental and emotional well-being. Eating a diet rich in high cholesterol food and trans fat can increase your cancer risk. However, by making healthy choices and eating various nutrient-rich foods, you can help reduce your cancer risk. Choose foods low in saturated and trans fats, such as lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, and nuts. Incorporate a wide variety of fruits and vegetables into your diet. These nutrient-rich foods contain antioxidants that help protect cells from damage. Maintaining a healthy weight is also essential in reducing your cancer risk. Excess body fat increases your cancer risk as well. "

RELATED: Habits Secretly Increasing Your Abdominal Fat, Say Physicians


Being A Couch Potato

Woman sitting on bed looking at phone bored and in a bad mood

Dr. Mitchell says, "Cancer is a devastating disease that affects millions of people around the world. While many factors can contribute to cancer development, lifestyle choices play a significant role. In particular, a sedentary lifestyle has been linked to an increased risk of cancer. Lack of exercise can cause weight gain, which can, in turn, lead to an array of health problems, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Each of these conditions creates a unique opportunity for cancer cells to take hold and grow.

Furthermore, exercise helps boost the immune system, making the body better equipped to fight off infection. For all these reasons, it is essential to avoid a sedentary lifestyle and to get up and move as often as possible. Dust off your sneakers and hit the ground running!"


Chronic Stress

woman puts hands on head, stressed, busy at work

Dr. Mitchell reminds us, "While some stress is everyday and even beneficial, chronic stress can have serious adverse effects on our physical and mental health. When we're constantly under pressure, our bodies go into "fight or flight" mode, releasing a flood of stress hormones like cortisol. These hormones can suppress the immune system, increase inflammation, and contribute to cancer development. 

While it is well-known that lifestyle choices can impact our overall health, new research is beginning to suggest that these choices may also affect cancer cells that remain in the body after treatment. In a recent study, mice were found to have a dormant cancer cell stirred to life by a stress hormone. This finding raises the possibility that lifestyle choices, such as chronic stress may promote the recurrence of cancer. However, more research is needed to confirm this connection. In the meantime, it may be beneficial to focus on lifestyle choices that promote relaxation and reduce stress. Such decisions could include yoga, meditation, and spending time in nature. By making these lifestyle changes, we may be able to improve our chances of preventing cancer recurrence."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
Filed Under