Cancer Prevention Information
What you can do -- NOW -- to reduce your risk of cancerAccording to the American Cancer Society, there is strong evidence that an individual's risk of developing cancer can be substantially reduced by healthy behavior
- not using tobacco
- getting sufficient physical activity
- eating healthy foods in moderation
- participating in cancer screening according to recommended guidelines
The American Cancer Society estimates that of the 565,650 cancer deaths expected in 2008, about 170,000 cancer deaths will be caused by tobacco use alone, and another third can be attributed to poor eating habits, overweight and obesity, and physical inactivity. If we can effectively promote healthy behaviors, much of the suffering and death from cancer can be prevented or reduced.
Who can get cancer?
Anyone can get cancer. One of the biggest factors that can make a person more likely to get cancer is age: 3 out of 4 cancers are found in people aged 55 or older. But there are many other factors that affect cancer risk and some of them can be changed. It is only natural that people are looking for more ways to prevent cancer.
Can cancer be prevented?
Sometimes cancer can be prevented. Looking at the whole country, it is quite possible that more than half of cancer deaths could be prevented -- if no one used tobacco and if everyone took steps to improve their health. Of course, that is a big "if."
But is there a way to guarantee that you or your loved ones won't get cancer? So far, nothing has been found that is proven to prevent every case of cancer. As of 2008, there are ways to prevent many cases of cancer in large groups of people. And there are things you can do as an individual that might reduce your chances of getting cancer. If cancer does develop, doctors also use early detection tests to improve the odds that it will be found at an early stage when it is easier to treat. But, as of today, even the best methods of reducing your chances of getting cancer (called cancer risk reduction) cannot prevent all cancers.
A team of researchers found that tobacco use, poor diet, physical inactivity, and alcohol consumption were among the leading causes of death; combined, the first three accounted for more than one-third of all deaths in the United States. In addition to mortality, these unhealthy lifestyle behaviors impose significant burdens on society, such as disability, diminished quality of life, and increased health care costs.
Tobacco use is a known risk factor for 15 types of cancer. . Decreased tobacco use has reduced cancer deaths among men by at least 40% from 1993 to 2003. Although much has been accomplished, a considerable amount of work remains to be done. Recently, smoking rates among adults and high school students have leveled off, possibly because of increased tobacco industry spending on marketing and promotion.
Increasing evidence has accumulated showing that physical activity helps prevent cancer, and yet 38% of adults in the United States do not engage in any physical activity in their leisure time. Only 1 in 8 adults engages in vigorous physical activity in their leisure time for the recommended 5 times a week. Obesity and physical inactivity may account for 25 to 30% of several major cancers, including colon, post-menopausal breast, endometrial, kidney, and cancer of the esophagus. Cancer Screening
Breast cancer deaths have been decreasing since 1990, with breast cancer screening playing a significant role. Unfortunately, the percentage of women who report that they have had a mammogram in the past 2 years has leveled off, remaining at the same level since 2000. If we can increase the number of women who have mammograms, more women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at an earlier stage, which dramatically increases their chances of surviving cancer.
Although colorectal cancer screening not only results in earlier detection, but also can actually prevent cancer from developing, less than half of Americans age 50 and older are current for colorectal cancer screening.
SymptomsWhat are signs and symptoms?
A sign is also a signal that something is not right in the body. But signs are signals that can be seen by someone else -- maybe a loved one, or a doctor, nurse, or other health care professional. Fever, fast breathing, and abnormal lung sounds heard through a stethoscope may be signs of pneumonia.
A symptom is a signal of disease, illness, injury, or that something is not right in the body. Symptoms are felt or noticed by the person who has them, but may not be easily.
What are some general cancer signs and symptoms?
You should know some of the general signs and symptoms of cancer. But remember, having any of these does not mean that you have cancer -- many other things cause these signs and symptoms, too. If you have any of these symptoms and they last for a long time or get worse, please see a doctor to find out what is going on.
Unexplained weight loss
Most people with cancer will lose weight at some point. When you lose weight with no known reason, it's called an unexplained weight loss. An unexplained weight loss of 10 pounds or more may be the first sign of cancer. This happens most often with cancers of the pancreas, stomach, esophagus, or lung.
Fever is very common with cancer, but it more often happens after cancer has spread from where it started. Almost all patients with cancer will have fever at some time, especially if the cancer or its treatment affects the immune system. This can make it harder for the body to fight infection. Less often, fever may be an early sign of cancer, such as blood cancers like leukemia or lymphoma.
Fatigue is extreme tiredness that does not get better with rest. It may be an important symptom as cancer grows. It may happen early, though, in cancers like leukemia. Some colon or stomach cancers can cause blood loss. This is another way cancer can cause fatigue.
Pain may be an early symptom with some cancers like bone cancers or testicular cancer. A headache that does not go away or get better with treatment may be a symptom of a brain tumor. Back pain can be a symptom of cancer of the colon, rectum, or ovary. Most often, pain due to cancer is a symptom of cancer that has already spread from where it started (metastasized).
Along with cancers of the skin, some other cancers can cause skin symptoms or signs that can be seen. These signs and symptoms include:
- Darker looking skin (hyperpigmentation)
- Yellowish skin and eyes (jaundice)
- Reddened skin (erythema)
- Itching (pruritis)
- Excessive hair growth
Screening refers to tests and exams used to find a disease, such as cancer, in people who do not have any symptoms. Screening tests can help find cancer at an early stage, before symptoms appear. When abnormal tissue or cancer is found early, it may be easier to treat or cure. By the time symptoms appear, the cancer may have grown and spread. This can make the cancer harder to treat or cure.
It is important to remember that when your doctor suggests a screening test, it does not always mean he or she thinks you have cancer. Screening tests are done when you have no cancer symptoms.
Lifestyle Choices May Prevent Cancer
While making healthy lifestyle choices cannot guarantee a person will remain cancer-free, many studies have shown that people who make healthy choices have lower chances of developing some cancers. For people seeking ways to do all they can to prevent cancer and avoid other health problems, certain recommendations are universally endorsed by health care providers: avoid smoking or chewing tobacco; eat a variety of healthful foods, especially low-fat and plant-based options; get regular exercising and maintain a healthy weight; limit sun exposure, and when outdoors wear sun block. These choices support a healthy lifestyle and may improve the body's ability to fend off cancer.
Some diet and exercise recommendations developed by the American Cancer Society's Nutrition and Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee and approved by the American Cancer Society National Board of Directors are:
Nutrition and Exercise
- Balance caloric intake with physical activity.
- Maintain a healthy weight throughout life; avoid excessive weight gain.
- If currently overweight or obese, achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
- Adopt a physically active lifestyle. Adults should engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity, above usual
activities, on 5 or more days of the week (45 to 60 minutes of intentional physical activity is preferable).
Children and adolescents should engage in at least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity at least 5 days per week.
- Eat 5 or more servings of a variety of vegetables and fruits every day.
- Choose whole grains over processed grains.
- Limit intake of processed and red meats.
- Limit alcoholic beverages. Women should not exceed one drink per day, men should not exceed two drinks per day.
Getting a good night's sleep also contributes to the body's ability to fight cancer, according to some studies. The amount of sleep a person gets each night affects certain hormones in the body, and disruption of their natural levels can influence how the body defends itself against cancer. Furthermore, lack of sleep can undermine exercise's cancer prevention benefits.
Routine Medical Care
Routine medical check-ups are important, especially in the detection of cancer.
- Mammogram - An x-ray of the breast. - every year beginning at age 40.
- Colonoscopy Examination of the inside of the colon using a colonoscope, inserted into the rectum. A colonoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove tissue to be checked under a microscope for signs of disease; every 5 to 10 years beginning at age 50.
- Pap smear - every 2 to 3 years beginning at age 21.
It's important to remember, though, that these are general recommendations. Depending on things like family history and risk factors, some people may need to start screening earlier, or get tested more or even less often.
Other Health Tips
- Women are advised to perform a breast self-exam every month.
- Individuals should check their skin for moles that are new, large, or irregular; contain more than one color; or change color.
- An open dialogue with a family doctor supports important preventive measures on a timely basis, and if any tests suggest possible cancer, the result can be further explored quickly.
- NCCN: Lifestyle Choices May Prevent Cancer
- Cancer Prevention Research at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center
- Prevention and Risk Assessment at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center
- University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center Breast and Ovarian Risk Evaluation Clinic
- University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center Genetics Clinic
Study: Prostate Cancer Genetic Project:
The purpose of the Prostate Cancer Genetics Project is to determine the possible genetic causes of prostate cancer through the study of family histories and genetic analysis.
Contact: 800-723-9170; email@example.com
Study: GOG 0136: Acquistion of Human Gynecologic Specimens and Serum to be used in studying the causes, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of
Purpose: Donate your gynecologic tumor tissue and some of your blood serum to aid in studies into the causes and treatment of gynecologic cancers.
Contact: Dr. Carolyn Johnston throught the Cancer Answer Line: 800-865-1125 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
HUM00045552 - Title: GLNE 010-Validation and Comparison of Biomarkers for early detection
Purpose: Obtain blood and stool samples from people scheduled for colonoscopy. Samples must be obtained BEFORE colonoscopy takes place
Principal Investigator: Dr. Danielle Turgeon. Contact: 734-647-7758 or GLNE010@umich.edu.
HUM00026957 - A Phase II Trial of
Preoperative Soy Isoflavone Supplementation and Molecular Markers in the Prevention of Head and Neck Squamous Carcinoma
Purpose: The goal of this research is to determine if soy isoflavone can decrease tumor recurrence and increase overall survival and quality of life in patients with head and neck squamous carcinoma
Principal Investigator: Dr. Gregory Wolf; contact through Cancer AnswerLine - 800-865-1125 or email@example.com.
American Cancer Society Cancer Prevention Trial
Join Our Cancer Prevention Study - 3 (CPS-3).
National Cancer Institute
Cancer Prevention/Genetics Clinical Research
Shape Up America!
Founded in 1994, Shape Up America! is a not-for-profit organization committed to raising awareness of obesity as a health issue and to providing responsible information on healthy weight management.
University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center News
Tobacco use linked to worse outcomes in HPV-positive head and neck cancer
Can a Mediterranean diet help prevent colon cancer?
Spices halt growth of breast stem cells; U-M study finds
National News / Articles
National Cancer Institute
- UCSF clinical trial shows first evidence that anal cancer is preventable
- Scientists identify molecular link between BRCA1 protein levels and obesity
- Not all doctors comply with practice guidelines for recommending colorectal cancer screenings
- International Study Shows No Increase Risk of Brain Tumors from Cell Phone Use
- New Tool Developed to Predict Colorectal Cancer Risk
American Cancer Society
- More Collaboration Needed to Increase Anti-Cancer Efforts
- Cancer Prevention Guidelines Also Helpful Against Other Diseases
- Everyday Steps to Help Lower Your Cancer Risk
- Daily Aspirin Use May Lower Cancer Death Risk, Study Finds
- High BMI Linked to Higher Risk of Death
- Medicare Expands Coverage for Smoking Cessation
American Cancer Society
National Cancer Institute
National Institutes of Health
Centers for Disease Control and PreventionMen's Health