Cancer Prevention and Risk Factors

Cancer is not a single disease, but a group of diseases. Many things in your genes, your lifestyle, and the environment around us may increase or decrease your risk of getting cancer.

Cancer prevention is action you can take to lower your chance of getting cancer. Cancer prevention includes avoiding risk factors (things that increase the chance of developing a disease). Some risk factors for cancer can be avoided, but some cannot. Some people may get cancer even if they don’t have a family history of cancer and even if they follow all the recommended cancer prevention behaviors.

Reducing your risk of cancer may be easier than you think. The following suggestions can help lower your chances of developing cancer. They can also help you feel better and improve your quality of life.

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vegetables

Eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains every day. Limit salty and high-fat foods such as fried and fast food.

More about eating healthy:

Healthy Eating Cookbook

Good Life Kitchen Classes and Recipes

ChooseMyPlate.gov

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red meat

Avoid eating meats that have been smoked, preserved, salted, or cured such as many types of ham, bacon, or hot dogs. If you eat red meat, eat only small amounts. Eat less than 18 ounces of beef, pork, lamb, or other red meats each week.

More about eating healthy:

Healthy Eating Cookbook

Good Life Kitchen Classes and Recipes

ChooseMyPlate.gov

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alcohol

If you drink alcohol, do it in moderation. Only have one or two drinks a day, if any.

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excercise

Make time for exercise. Be active for at least 30 minutes each day.

More about exercise:

Weekly Activity Tracker

Body Mass Indicator Calculator

POWER Program for HCI Patients and Survivors

Huntsman Hometown Heroes training program

Let’s Move

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Cancer is not a single disease, but a group of diseases. Many things in your genes, your lifestyle, and the environment around us may increase or decrease your risk of getting cancer.

Cancer prevention is action you can take to lower your chance of getting cancer. Cancer prevention includes avoiding risk factors (things that increase the chance of developing a disease). Some risk factors for cancer can be avoided, but some cannot. Some people may get cancer even if they don’t have a family history of cancer and even if they follow all the recommended cancer prevention behaviors.

Reducing your risk of cancer may be easier than you think. The following suggestions can help lower your chances of developing cancer. They can also help you feel better and improve your quality of life.

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sunshine

Protect your skin from suntans and sunburns. Wear a hat, sunglasses, and 30+ SPF broad-spectrum sunscreen that contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.

More about protecting your skin:

Melanoma: Know the Danger Signs

Protect Yourself from Skin Cancer

Sun Smart Tips for Healthier Skin

Sun Safe on the Slopes

UV Index

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tanning bed

Stay out of tanning beds. Tanning beds emit the same UVA and UVB rays that cause skin to tan and burn when we are outside.

More about protecting your skin:

Melanoma: Know the Danger Signs

Protect Yourself from Skin Cancer

Sun Safe on the Slopes

UV Index

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cigarettes

Avoid cigarettes and other tobacco products.

More about quitting tobacco:

way to quit

Smoking and Your Lungs video

How to Help Someone You Love Stop Using Tobacco

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radon

Test your home for radon, a cancer-causing, odorless gas. Inhaling radon over time may cause lung cancer. Testing for radon is easy and inexpensive.

More about testing your home for radon:

Are You Breathing Radon? Video

Radon information card

Environmental Protection Agency

Order a test kit from radon.utah.gov

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Cancer is not a single disease, but a group of diseases. Many things in your genes, your lifestyle, and the environment around us may increase or decrease your risk of getting cancer.

Cancer prevention is action you can take to lower your chance of getting cancer. Cancer prevention includes avoiding risk factors (things that increase the chance of developing a disease). Some risk factors for cancer can be avoided, but some cannot. Some people may get cancer even if they don’t have a family history of cancer and even if they follow all the recommended cancer prevention behaviors.

Reducing your risk of cancer may be easier than you think. The following suggestions can help lower your chances of developing cancer. They can also help you feel better and improve your quality of life.

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vaccines

Get vaccinated for hepatitis B (HepB) and human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is the major leading cause of cervical cancer. HepB vaccination protects against the Hepatitis B virus, which can lead to lifelong liver problems such as chronic hepatitis, chronic liver disease, and even liver failure.

More about vaccines and cancer:

Cancer Vaccines factsheet from the National Cancer Institute

Utah Has the Lowest Vaccination Rate of This Cancer-Reducing Vaccine (Scope Radio Podcast with Deanna Kepka, PhD)

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mammogram

Talk to your doctor about which cancer screenings you need and how often. Screenings are available for certain types of cancer:

More about cancer screenings:

Cancer Screening and Early Detection

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family

Tell your health care provider about your family health history. If you have a family history of cancer, you may need more cancer screenings.

More about cancer screenings:

Breast Cancer Screening

Cancer Screening and Early Detection

Family Cancer Assessment Clinic

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Factors that Raise a Person's Risk of Developing Cancer

Cancer researchers study risk factors to find ways to prevent new cancers from starting. Anything that increases your chance of developing cancer is called a risk factor. This information reviews only the major cancer risk factors that can be controlled or changed to lower the risk of cancer. Risk factors that are not described here include certain inherited genetic changes, certain sexual behaviors, the use of estrogen, and being exposed to certain substances at work or to certain chemicals. Talk with your doctor for more information about assessing your cancer risk.

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tobacco

Cigarette Smoking and Tobacco Use: Tobacco use is strongly linked to an increased risk for many kinds of cancer. A smoker’s risk of cancer can be 2 to 10 times higher than it is for a person who never smoked. This depends on how much and how long the person smoked.

Not smoking or quitting smoking lowers the risk of getting cancer and dying from cancer. Scientists believe that cigarette smoking causes about 30% of all cancer deaths in the United States. Learn more about quitting tobacco.

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virus

Infections: Certain viruses and bacteria are able to cause cancer. Viruses and other infection -causing agents cause more cases of cancer in the developing world (about 1 in 4 cases of cancer) than in developed nations (less than 1 in 10 cases of cancer). Examples of cancer-causing viruses and bacteria include:

  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) increases the risk for cancers of the cervix, penis, vagina, anus, and oropharynx.
  • Hepatitis B and hepatitis C viruses increase the risk for liver cancer.
  • Epstein-Barr virus increases the risk for Burkitt lymphoma.
  • Helicobacter pylori increases the risk for gastric cancer.

Two vaccines to prevent infection by cancer-causing agents have already been developed and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). One is a vaccine to prevent infection with hepatitis B virus. The other protects against infection with strains of human papillomavirus (HPV) that cause cervical cancer. Scientists continue to research vaccines against infections that cause cancer. Learn more about cancer and vaccines from the National Cancer Institute.

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radiation

Radiation: Being exposed to radiation is a known cause of cancer. There are two main types of radiation linked with an increased risk for cancer:

  • Ultraviolet radiation from sunlight: This is the main cause of nonmelanoma skin cancers.
  • Ionizing radiation including:
    • Medical radiation from tests to diagnose cancer such as x-rays, CT scans, fluoroscopy, and nuclear medicine scans.
    • Radon gas in our homes.

Scientists believe that ionizing radiation causes leukemia, thyroid cancer, and breast cancer in women. Ionizing radiation may also be linked to myeloma and cancers of the lung, stomach, colon, esophagus, bladder, and ovary. Being exposed to radiation from diagnostic x-rays increases the risk of cancer in patients and x-ray technicians.

The growing use of CT scans over the last 20 years has increased exposure to ionizing radiation. The risk of cancer also increases with the number of CT scans a patient has and the radiation dose used each time.

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pills

Immunosuppressive Medicines: These medicines are linked to an increased risk of cancer. These medicines lower the body’s ability to stop cancer from forming. For example, immunosuppressive medicines may be used to keep a patient from rejecting an organ transplant.

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scale

Obesity: Studies show that obesity is linked to a higher risk of the following types of cancer:

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pollution

Environmental Risk Factors: Being exposed to chemicals and other substances in the environment has been linked to some cancers:

  • Links between air pollution and cancer risk have been found. These include links between lung cancer and secondhand tobacco smoke, outdoor air pollution, and asbestos.
  • Drinking water that contains a large amount of arsenic has been linked to skin, bladder, and lung cancers.

Studies have been done to see if pesticides and other pollutants increase the risk of cancer. The results of those studies have been unclear because other factors can change the results of the studies.

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From the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Prevention Overview (PDQ®)
Last Updated February 2015