Ring in a new, healthier you in 2012

1/24/2012, 7:44 p.m.
Dana-Farber experts offer free and easy tips to stay healthy and reduce cancer risks ...

• Plan the quit day.

• Follow the four Ds: Deep breaths, drink lots of water, do something to avoid focusing on cravings and delay reaching for a cigarette — the urge will pass.

• Avoid triggers. Get rid of cigarettes, lighters, matches and ashtrays.

Sunscreen ‘applies’ year round
Sunscreen shouldn’t be packed away after summer ends. Skin can be exposed to harmful rays all year long. Snow, ice and water can all reflect the ultraviolet (UV) radiation that causes sunburn, which in turn increases the risk of developing skin cancer. Some experts say winter sports enthusiasts can face just as much risk of getting sunburn as summer sunbathers. Dana-Farber experts remind to protect year round.

• Wear sunscreen, lip balm and makeup with an SPF of 15 or higher.

• Use UV-blocking eye protection, especially for skiing.

• In a tropical setting, wear a broad brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.

• Avoid excessive exposure to the sun, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun is at its strongest.

Don’t forget your dentist
Visiting the dentist is not just about clean and healthy teeth. Dentists also are on the front lines of detecting cancer in the mouth. Research shows more than half of all smokeless tobacco users have non-cancerous or pre-cancerous lesions in their mouth. In addition to the increased risk of cancer, smoking and chewing tobacco erodes teeth and gums. “The treatment for this type of head and neck cancer can be a radical and deforming surgery,” warns Robert Haddad, M.D., disease center leader of the head and neck oncology program at Dana-Farber. He stresses, “The changes in the cells never go away once they happen. So don’t start using tobacco and if you have, get help to stop.”

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (www.dana-farber.org) is a principal teaching affiliate of the Harvard Medical School and is among the leading cancer research and care centers in the United States.