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Keep Aging Relatives Cancer-Free
Newswise, June 2010 — About 77 percent of people
diagnosed with cancer are 55 or older,
according to the American Cancer Society.
Family members can help reduce an aging
relative’s risk of cancer by encouraging
healthy lifestyle changes, according to
experts at The University of Texas MD
Anderson Cancer Center.
“Thanks to modern medicine, more people are
living longer,” said Therese B. Bevers,
M.D., medical director of MD Anderson’s
Cancer Prevention Center. “But a longer life
doesn’t always equal a healthier one.”
Bevers suggests the following lifestyle
changes that can benefit the health of
senior family members.
1. Encourage exercise
“Daily exercise plays a major role in
preserving a person’s health,” Bevers said.
Retired seniors often lead sedentary lives.
Try these tips to get them moving.
Educate seniors about the benefits of
exercise. Increasing physical activity can
lower a person’s chances for many cancers,
including breast, endometrial, prostate,
colorectal and lung cancers.
The American Institute for Cancer Research
suggests getting at least 30 minutes of
moderate exercise, such as walking, every
day. Jumpstart increased activity by going
for a brisk walk together during your next
Encourage seniors to do activities they
enjoy and that will keep them active.
Gardening, golfing, playing tennis and
swimming are all great choices. “Encourage
aging relatives to talk to their doctor
about what types of activity they should
do,” Bevers said.
2. Encourage healthy food choices
Many seniors, especially those living alone,
don’t cook much.
“A poor diet may keep seniors from getting
the nutrients they need to maintain a
healthy body and lower their risk of lung,
mouth, esophageal, stomach and colon
cancers,” Bevers said.
Here are some tips to make sure aging
relatives are eating nutritious meals daily.
Learn about healthy diets for adults older
than age 50. Share information on how many
calories they should be getting daily and
the types of foods they should be eating.
Share leftovers. Make enough healthy food at
home so that you have extra to package and
freeze. Then, when you visit, take those
leftovers with you.
3. Discourage smoking and secondhand smoke
“Quitting smoking is the most important
thing anyone can do to improve their
health,” Bevers said.
It’s never too late to quit. It reduces the
risks for cancer and other diseases, such as
heart and lung disease. And avoiding
secondhand smoke can greatly improve one’s
Encourage an aging relative to get help by
calling one of these free quit smoking
• American Cancer Society: 1-800-QUIT-NOW
• National Cancer Institute: 1-877-44U-QUIT
4. Reduce financial stress
Many seniors experience financial stress due
to money management issues. Psychological
stress can affect the immune system, the
body’s defense against infection and disease
Here’s how to help aging relatives cope with
Offer advice. Work with them to set a budget
and payment system for bills. Suggest
working with the bank to set up automatic
bill payment to relieve some of the
Look into the “representative payee”
alternative. If they receive income from
Social Security, the Social Security
Administration can appoint a representative
payee to receive the monthly checks and use
the money to pay for living expenses.
5. Encourage regular check-ups and screening
Cancer screening exams help find cancer at
its earliest stage, when the chances for
curing the disease are greatest.
Learn what screening exams aging relatives
should be getting and make sure they
schedule their appointments on time.
“It’s important to take an active role in
keeping your senior family members healthy,”
For more information on family health, visit