Modern western medicine has made great strides in treating disease, but there are some things we can do for ourselves that could avert illness in the first place.

American Association for Cancer Research's annual Cancer Progress Report, released earlier this month, highlighted treatment and prevention.

It revealed that simply eating well, being physically active and maintaining a healthy weight could prevent "tens of thousands" of cancer cases each year.

According to AACR, "more than 50 percent of the 585,720 cancer deaths expected to occur in the United States in 2014 will be related to preventable causes."

So, living a healthy lifestyle is more than just an effort to look and feel better. It could save your life.

Smoking and obesity are among the many things we can control and are two factors most associated with cancer risk. Turning things around can mean dropping one habit and replacing it with something healthier, such as reducing sugary beverage intake and drinking more water instead. Also, making more room on the plate for vegetables and taking a daily walk are simple things that could put us back on a healthier course. According to the report:

n 33 percent of cancer diagnoses are caused by tobacco use

n 20 percent of cancer diagnoses are related to being obese or overweight

n 16 percent are related to infection with one or several cancer-causing pathogens

n 5 percent are related to insufficient physical activity

n 5 percent are related to poor dietary habits

n 2 percent are related to exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun or tanning devices

In addition to not smoking and regular exercise, getting mammograms and other screenings at the appropriate age can dramatically cut risks, doctors said. Understanding cancer prevention and realizing these risks should be seen as encouraging news, and not a challenge to grudgingly abandon all things that we enjoy.

While some things can't be controlled or explained, we always are empowered to make choices that will make a difference in our lives.

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