Best Ways to Prevent Cancer
While being screened for cancer is a good way to reduce your risk of dying from cancer, an even better way to reduce your risk of dying from cancer is to prevent cancer from developing in the first place. This type of prevention is called primary prevention. We know how to prevent at least 50 percent of cancers.
Here are some ways:
- Don’t smoke or use tobacco products. Tobacco use causes lung cancer and is linked to cancers in the pancreas, throat, bladder, stomach, kidney and cervix. If you smoke, quitting now can reduce your risks of lung and other cancers. If you currently smoke, ask your primary care provider for assistance with quitting or the National Cancer Institute Quit Line. For Maryland residents, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669) or Spanish: 1-855-DÉJELO-YA.
- Maintain a healthy weight, eat a healthy diet, and get regular exercise. Contact your primary care provider for assistance.
- Don’t abuse alcohol. Alcohol misuse is a risk factor for some cancers. The National Cancer Institute provides information on the link between alcohol and cancer.
- Protect your child (11 to 26 years old) or you (up to age 26 years) against human papilloma virus or HPV, a viral infection by getting vaccinated. Vaccines against HPV can significantly decrease the risk of cervical cancer. Contact your child’s pediatrician or your primary care provider for vaccination.
- Protect yourself against hepatitis B or HBV by getting vaccinated. The HBV vaccine can protect against infections that increase the risk of liver cancer. Contact your primary care provider for vaccination.
- Get screened for HCV. This virus causes liver inflammation, a precursor to some liver cancers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers information on who should be screened.
- Protect yourself from ultraviolet radiation from the sun and from tanning beds, which can increase your risk of skin cancer. You can reduce this risk by staying inside during peak sunlight hours (usually 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), apply and reapply “broad spectrum” sunscreens that protect against both UVA and UVB radiation, and wear protective clothing, hats and sunglasses in the sun. Avoid tanning beds and sunlamps.
- Avoid known cancer-causing agents such as asbestos, radon, and arsenic in your home and at work. Home test kits are available from hardware stores. Adhere to your employer’s safety and occupational health standards.
- For some people with a strong genetic or hereditary risk of cancer, there may be additional ways to prevent cancer. The first step is to learn about your family’s history of cancer, so that you can be alert to any inherited or genetic risks for certain cancers that could affect you. Seek help from a genetic counseling team to determine prevention strategies that are best for you.
More information on preventive health services, vaccinations and genetic test counseling that are usually covered by health insurance plans at no cost to you is provided by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.
Learn more about cancer through the National Cancer Institute and Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center free publications.