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How To Reduce Your Risk Of Cancer

Last updated Oct. 14, 2016

Approved by: Krish Tangella MD, MBA, FCAP

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Although there is no guaranteed way to prevent developing cancer, there are certain steps that can be taken to lower your risk of developing many types of cancer.


There are many reasons individuals get cancer. These may include one’s genetic predisposition, environmental factors, and lifestyle choices. There is no guaranteed way to prevent yourself from getting cancer, but there are certain steps you can take to lower your risk for many types of cancer. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, “one-third of the most common cancers in the US can be prevented by following certain recommendations.”

The following strategies to prevent cancer may help you reduce your risk:

  • Exercise: Maintaining an active lifestyle can keep your body healthy, in proper shape, and functioning correctly.
  • Weight: Obesity has been linked to an increased risk for many different types of cancers, though the reason behind this correlation is unclear. Maintaining a healthy body weight can help reduce your risk for such cancers.
  • Diet: Eating healthy, cancer fighting foods can provide your body with all the different nutrients it needs to function properly. Having the right balance of nutrients can help reduce stress on your body and boost healthy antioxidants, which help prevent DNA mutations.
  • Avoid smoking: This is one of the most important ways to prevent getting oral, lung, and many other types of cancer. Tobacco contains known carcinogens that introduce dangerous mutations into your DNA. Smoking is an unnecessary risk to your health that is completely avoidable. Even hookah and electronic cigarettes can lead to cancer, despite some common misconceptions about their safety. The first step is to avoid commencing the habit of smoking in the first place. But, if you are already addicted to tobacco products, you should seek help and support for quitting the habit. Even long-term smokers can reduce their risk for smoking-associated cancers by quitting permanently.
  • Drink moderately: Heavy drinking over time has been linked to different types of cancers such as liver, kidney, lung, breast, and colon cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, alcohol is known to cause oral cancer, breast cancer, liver cancer, and cancers affecting the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Use sun protection: Protecting your skin from damaging UV rays of the sun is also an essential step in preventing cancer. Skin cancer is becoming increasingly common and can be prevented by using sunscreen, wearing UV blocking sunglasses, avoiding tanning beds, and limiting sun exposure.
  • Stay up-to-date on immunizations: There are multiple types of cancer associated with different viral infections. Important vaccines are hepatitis B, which can help prevent liver cancer, and the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which can help prevent multiple types of cancer including cervical cancer.

By getting regular medical checkups, you can ensure you are in good health and catch health issues early, if they should arise. Early detection is one of the most important factors towards cancer prevention. The earlier it is diagnosed, the better the prognosis. Conducting self-examinations of your skin, breasts, and testicles are also important tools for early detection.

References:

American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures 2014. Atlanta, Ga: American Cancer Society; 2014.

http://www.aicr.org/reduce-your-cancer-risk/cancer-prevention/ (accessed on November 26, 2014)

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/adult-health/in-depth/cancer-prevention/art-20044816?pg=2 (accessed on November 26, 2014)

http://www.cancer.org/myacs/newengland/areahighlights/seven-steps-to-reduce-your-cancer-risk (accessed on November 26, 2014)

http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/dcpc/prevention/other.htm (accessed on November 26, 2014)

Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:

Kamangar, F., Dores, G. M., & Anderson, W. F. (2006). Patterns of cancer incidence, mortality, and prevalence across five continents: defining priorities to reduce cancer disparities in different geographic regions of the world. Journal of clinical oncology, 24(14), 2137-2150.

Lappe, J. M., Travers-Gustafson, D., Davies, K. M., Recker, R. R., & Heaney, R. P. (2007). Vitamin D and calcium supplementation reduces cancer risk: results of a randomized trial. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 85(6), 1586-1591.

Riboli, E., & Norat, T. (2003). Epidemiologic evidence of the protective effect of fruit and vegetables on cancer risk. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 78(3), 559S-569S.

Dale, K. M., Coleman, C. I., Henyan, N. N., Kluger, J., & White, C. M. (2006). Statins and cancer risk: a meta-analysis. Jama, 295(1), 74-80.

Higdon, J. V., Delage, B., Williams, D. E., & Dashwood, R. H. (2007). Cruciferous vegetables and human cancer risk: epidemiologic evidence and mechanistic basis. Pharmacological Research, 55(3), 224-236.

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Oct. 14, 2016
Last updated: Oct. 14, 2016