In Louisiana, February means Mardi Gras, and Mardi Gras means decadence. Unfortunately, we here at the Louisiana Cancer Prevention and Control Programs are all too aware that decadence can mean cancer. Obesity and excessive alcohol consumption have both been linked to a long list of cancers, and the sugar on top of your king cake can literally feed tumor growth. So are health-conscious revelers doomed to miss out on all the fun? Of course not! In fact, by thinking outside of the box, you can find ways to make “Fat Tuesday” one of the healthy-er days of the year. For example, ditch the folding chair and you’ll easily walk your 10,000 steps per day along the parade route. Offer to be the designated driver for some of your favorite parades and skip the ride-share services’ crazy surge prices (and the loooooong bathroom lines.) And declare your parade viewing space a smoke-free zone (in the past, Houma and Alexandria have offered designated smoke-free areas along parade routes.) Your body will thank you on Ash Wednesday!
Another important date to remember in February is World Cancer Day on February 4. World Cancer Day encourages organizations and individuals to consider how they can reduce the global burden of cancer. With that in mind, we here at LCP challenge you to take three easy steps this month to prevent cancer or cancer recurrence:
- Avoid tobacco
- Eat healthy
- Get recommended cancer screenings regularly, and encourage those around you to do the same.
Lastly, February is Black History Month. As we spend this month celebrating the achievements and contributions African Americans have made to our country and state, we must also remember that, out of all racial and ethnic groups in the US, African Americans have the highest death rates from most cancers. It may come as a surprise to some that here in Louisiana, black men and women have higher rates of melanoma, and black women are more likely to die of the disease than those in the rest of the US. While many factors, including genetics, may play a role in these disparities, two factors we can control are prevention and screening. Everyone, regardless of skin tone, is at risk for skin cancer, and should protect their skin by limiting exposure to the sun and using sunscreen. New moles, patches, or raised bumps on the skin should be examined by a dermatologist. The good news is that, when found early, skin cancer is easily treatable! For more information about skin cancer on dark skin tones, visit the Skin Cancer Foundation’s website: http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/skin-cancer-and-skin-of-color
- Amelia Robert, LCP Communications Student Worker