Here's how to lower your risk.
What would you do if you knew you had the power to prevent cancer? Wouldn't that make you feel empowered to take charge of your health?
Although there's no way to guarantee you won't get cancer, you do have the power to significantly reduce your risk of developing this disease. Scientific experts believe up to half of all cancers that occur in the U.S. are preventable through healthy lifestyle choices. However, there are still some factors that are out of your control.
But rather than worry about what you can't control, take charge of the factors you can do something about—they may significantly improve your health. Here are 9 ways to lower your cancer risk:
- Don't smoke – Smoking causes nearly 90% of all lung cancers and tobacco use is also linked to at least 30% of all cancer deaths. Being around secondhand smoke also increases cancer risk.
- Limit alcohol – Alcohol accounts for about 6% of all cancers in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society®. The more alcohol you drink, the higher your cancer risk.
- Be skin safe – Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. and is preventable. Limit exposure to UV rays, wear sunscreen and avoid tanning beds. Sun exposure during childhood may affect skin cancer risk later in life, so make sure kids practice sun safety, too.
- Eat a healthy diet – What you put in your body can help or hurt your health. Eat primarily whole foods, such as vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts and seeds, legumes, lean protein and low-fat dairy. Limit highly processed foods as much as possible.
- Exercise – Being physically active has been shown to lower your risk for many cancers, as well as other chronic health conditions.
- Maintain a healthy weight – Your risk of at least 10 types of cancer can be lowered by maintaining a healthy body weight. Eating a healthy diet and exercising help you do this.
- Get vaccinated – Stay up to date on vaccinations that prevent viruses known to cause cancer. The HPV vaccine protects against the human papillomavirus that may cause cervical cancer and other types of cancer as well. The hepatitis B vaccine may lower your risk of liver cancer.
- Get screened – Cancer screenings, such as mammograms, Pap tests, colonoscopies, skin checks and more help to identify cancer at its earliest stages. This is when the disease is easiest to treat, which dramatically reduces the risk of dying from cancer. Some screenings detect abnormalities even before they become cancerous.
- Know your family history – Since about 10% of cancer cases have a genetic component, it helps to know if you might have been born with something that makes you more likely to get cancer. This allows you to be more vigilant about screenings and taking steps to help prevent the disease.
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Date Last Reviewed: December 9, 2022
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD