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Proven steps to a longer life

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Millions of Americans take steps to reduce their risk of heart disease, such as taking cholesterol-lowering drugs and watching the salt in their diets.

But most people don't know how to protect themselves from cancer, says Karen Collins, nutrition adviser to the American Institute for Cancer Research. Many people worry about possible environmental causes of cancer, such as pollution and food additives, but are unaware of proven ways to reduce their cancer risk, such as exercising and eating more vegetables, Collins says.

According to the American Cancer Society, about one-third of all cancer deaths -- 186,000 lives a year -- could be prevented if people were more active and ate better. Parents can help their children avoid cancer as well by encouraging healthy habits from birth, says Carolyn Runowicz, president-elect of the cancer society and co-author of The Answer to Cancer.

People with a strong family history of a type of cancer might want to consider additional steps to stay healthy, such as being screened at younger ages, Runowicz says. Though there is no way to prevent all cancers, experts agree that for most people a handful of small changes greatly increases the odds of living a longer, healthier life.

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© Copyright 2004 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

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