While not all cancers can be prevented, there are a number of strategies and techniques to help reduce cancer risk, even for those with inherited cancer genes. It’s important to start implementing healthful habits early in life, and as a parent, to educate kids about the importance of cancer prevention. However, it can be difficult to know where to start, especially with younger children. Here are some tips for talking with and informing kids about prevention.
Practice sun safety. The majority of damaging sun exposure occurs in the first 18 years of our lives, so it’s paramount to protect children’s skin. Teach your child to be safe in the sun by letting let them help pick out a sunscreen with lots of SPF, or a new sunhat for outdoor wear. They will be more responsible about protecting their skin when they get to help pick out their protective gear. You can also apply sunscreen as a family and explain why everyone needs to wear it – setting a good example can go a long way.
Develop healthy eating habits. Get kids involved in the kitchen early on by developing child-friendly balanced meal plans and cooking healthy recipes as a family. Dana-Farber nutritionist Stacy Kennedy, RD, MPH, recommends sharing meals as a family whenever possible and introducing kids to healthy habits by modeling good behavior as parents.
“The best way for parents to encourage kids to eat healthfully is to do so themselves,” Kennedy says. And besides what you eat, how the family eats is equally important for establishing healthy habits, she notes. “The family dinner is the number one aspect correlated to a child’s academic success; more than hours spent doing homework, tutors, and sports,” Kennedy adds. “Sit with your child as often as possible and enjoy eating together.”
Exercise. There are numerous physical and mental benefits to regular exercise. Staying fit doesn’t have to be a chore for your kids; it can be a fun activity they share with you. Establish an exercise routine, such as family walks or trips to the pool. Talk with your kids about why exercising is important, and ask them for suggestions about new things they may want to try. Kennedy enjoys walking to the local farmer’s market on weekends with her sons and having them help pick out fresh produce, a good way to mix a healthy diet with family exercise.
Familiarizing yourself with can greatly reduce your risk for certain types of cancer. If you are being screened regularly for If you are being screened regularly for breast, cervical, colon, or skin cancer, among others, talk with your children about why you choose to do this and how it helps you stay healthy. Modeling this behavior for them will help your kids know what to do for themselves when the time comes.
Follow screening guidelines. Familiarizing yourself with screening recommendations can greatly reduce your risk for certain types of cancer. If you are being screened regularly for breast, cervical, colon, or skin cancer, among others, talk with your children about why you choose to do this and how it helps you stay healthy. Modeling this behavior for them will help your kids know what to do for themselves when the time comes.
Learn more about cancer genetics and prevention from the Center for Cancer Genetics and Prevention at Dana-Farber.