What you can do -- NOW -- to reduce your risk of cancer
According to the American Cancer Society, there is strong evidence that an individual's risk of developing cancer can be substantially reduced by healthy behavior:
- not using tobacco
- getting sufficient physical activity
- eating healthy foods in moderation
- participating in cancer screenings according to recommended guidelines
Anyone can get cancer
One of the biggest factors that can make a person more likely to get cancer is age: 3 out of 4 cancers are found in people aged 55 or older. But there are many other factors that affect cancer risk and some of them can be changed. It is only natural that people are looking for more ways to prevent cancer.
Can cancer be prevented?
Sometimes cancer can be prevented. Looking at the whole country, it is quite possible that more than half of cancer deaths could be prevented -- if no one used tobacco and if everyone took steps to improve their health. Of course, that is a big "if."
But is there a way to guarantee that you or your loved ones won't get cancer? So far, nothing has been found that is proven to prevent every case of cancer. There are ways to prevent many cases of cancer in large groups of people. And there are things you can do as an individual that might reduce your chances of getting cancer. If cancer does develop, doctors also use early detection tests to improve the odds that it will be found at an early stage when it is easier to treat. But, as of today, even the best methods of reducing your chances of getting cancer (called cancer risk reduction) cannot prevent all cancers.
Source: American Cancer Society Learning About New Ways to Prevent Cancer.
Lifestyle Choices May Prevent Cancer
While making healthy lifestyle choices cannot guarantee a person will remain cancer-free, many studies have shown that people who make healthy choices have lower chances of developing some cancers. For people seeking ways to do all they can to prevent cancer and avoid other health problems, certain recommendations are universally endorsed by health care providers: avoid smoking or chewing tobacco; eat a variety of healthful foods, especially low-fat and plant-based options; get regular exercise and maintain a healthy weight; limit sun exposure, and when outdoors wear sun block. These choices support a healthy lifestyle and may improve the body's ability to fend off cancer.
Learn more in our Nutrition section/
Getting a good night's sleep also contributes to the body's ability to fight cancer, according to some studies. The amount of sleep a person gets each night affects certain hormones in the body, and disruption of their natural levels can influence how the body defends itself against cancer. Furthermore, lack of sleep can undermine exercise's cancer prevention benefits.
Routine Medical Care
- Mammogram - every year beginning at age 40.
- Colonoscopy - every 5 to 10 years beginning at age 50.
- Pap smear - every 2 to 3 years beginning at age 21.
It's important to remember, though, that these are general recommendations. Depending on things like family history and risk factors, some people may need to start screening earlier, or get tested more or even less often.
Other Health Tips
- Individuals should check their skin for moles that are new, large, or irregular; contain more than one color; or change color.
- An open dialogue with a family doctor supports important preventive measures on a timely basis, and if any tests suggest possible cancer, the result can be further explored quickly.
- Women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam (CBE) as part of a periodic (regular) health exam by a health professional, at least every 3 years. After age 40, women should have a breast exam by a health professional every year.
- NCCN Lifestyle Choices May Prevent Cancer
- American Cancer Society Breast Cancer: Early Detection, Diagnosis, and Staging Topics
- U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center: