What is Cancer Prevention?

Some types of cancer can be found before they cause symptoms. Checking for cancer or for conditions that may lead to cancer is called screening. Learn more about screening guidelines.

You can take actions to lower your risk or chances of getting cancer. These actions are called cancer prevention. Making healthy lifestyle choices can prevent about half of all cancers. Here are examples of healthy lifestyles choices:

  • Avoiding tobacco and other known cancer-causing substances
  • Being physically active
  • Eating healthy
  • Getting vaccinated
  • Protecting skin from sun exposure
  • Testing your home for radon gas

Risk Factors

Research shows that certain factors can increase a person’s chances of developing cancer. Anything that increases your risk for developing cancer is a risk factor:

  • Age
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Exposure to cancer-causing substances
  • Exposure to sunlight
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Diet
  • Hormones
  • Immunosuppression
  • Infections and infectious agents
  • Obesity
  • Radiation
  • Use of tobacco

A person can control some risk factors such as smoking. Other risk factors, including age, family history, and environment are out of a person’s control.

Activities that can Lower Your Cancer Risk

female hiker in nature

Avoid Tobacco

Quit tobacco—better yet, never start—to lower your risk for cancer and other diseases. Tobacco causes many types of cancer. It is the leading cause of cancer-related death. Tobacco is harmful in any amount and any form. The resources here can help you or your loved one quit.

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pedalling a bike

Be Physically Active

Moving your body throughout the day has many benefits that help lower your risk of getting cancer and many other diseases. Exercise helps lower inflammation that can increase your cancer risk. It also helps keep damaged cells from turning into cancer.

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person holding basket of vegetables

Eat Healthy

No single food prevents cancer, but eating a variety of plant-based foods lowers your risk of getting cancer. Eating healthy helps you keep a healthy weight and supports your immune system. Healthy foods contain compounds that repair cells and help fight cancer before it starts.

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nurse giving a child an injection

Get the HPV Vaccine

The vaccines for two diseases—HPV and hepatitis B--can help prevent certain cancers. HPV mainly affects the genitals, the mouth, and the throat. Infection from the hepatitis B virus can cause damage to the liver that leads to liver cancer.

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smiling woman putting on sunscreen

Protect Your Skin

Everyone is at risk for skin cancer, no matter your skin color or type. Know the warning signs for skin cancer and protect your skin from the sun at every age.

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man holding clipboard

Test for Radon

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after tobacco smoke. Radon is a radioactive gas—impossible to see, taste, or smell. It occurs naturally and gets into buildings through the soil. Breathing in radon over time may cause lung cancer.

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