Did You Know... The Facts About Cancer Prevention?

Carolyn Vachani, RN, MSN, AOCN
The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Ultima Vez Modificado: 1 de septiembre del 2008

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In a 2006 study, the American Cancer Society found that 47% of adult Americans think they have little to no ability to reduce their cancer risk. Let’s address some changes to our daily habits that can reduce our risk of developing cancer.

  • The use of tobacco products is the number one cause of cancer worldwide. This includes cigarettes, cigars, and smokeless tobacco.
  • While most people know that using tobacco products can lead to lung cancer, they may not realize all of the other cancer types that have been linked to tobacco use. Cancer of the head and neck region, particularly cancer of the larynx (voice box) and oral cavity, are strongly associated with smoking. Esophageal cancer can also be caused by smoking. It has recently been shown that smoking increases the risk of developing acute leukemia. In addition, smoking is frequently the cause of cancers of the stomach, kidney, bladder, and pancreas. Female smokers have an increased risk of developing cervical cancer, probably because smoking decreases the likelihood of the immune system clearing an infection with the Human Papilloma Virus.
  • Ok, so maybe you don’t smoke, but there are still many other things you can do to reduce risk.
  • Maintain an ideal body weight. Being overweight has been shown to increase the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer, colon, endometrial, esophageal and kidney cancers.
  • Eat a healthy diet containing lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  • Excess alcohol intake has been shown to increase the risk of head & neck, esophageal, liver, breast and colorectal cancers. Limit your alcohol intake to no more than 2 drinks per day for men or one drink per day for women. A drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of spirits.
  • Protect your skin from sun exposure. Use sunscreen daily, wear protective clothing, a hat and sunglasses when outdoors. Remember, many Americans get their biggest dose of sunlight each day driving in the car! So, it is important to protect your skin every day, not just when at the beach or a pool.
  • Have your home checked for carcinogens such as asbestos and radon.
  • Practice safe sex! Human Papilloma Virus is a common sexually transmitted disease that causes cervical cancer in women and can cause oral and anal cancers in men and women.
  • These tips can help reduce your risk, but preventive healthcare is just as important! Follow established guidelines for cancer screening to detect cancers early or in a precancerous state.
  • For women:
    • After age 20, all women should have periodic healthy check ups to screen for cancers such as skin, breast, thyroid, oral and ovarian cancers. An annual oral exam by a dental professional is also recommended.
    • Annual mammograms, beginning at age 40 for women of average risk for breast cancer. A breast exam by your healthcare provider should be performed every 3 years for women in their 20s and 30s and annually for women over 40.
    • Begin screening for colorectal cancer at age 50 if you are of normal risk. Discuss your risk and when to begin screening with your healthcare provider.
    • Annual pap smear for cervical cancer screening and pelvic exam should begin no later than 3 years after becoming sexually active or at age 21. This can stop at age 70 if the woman has had 3 normal pap smears in the previous 10 years.
  • For men:
    • After age 20, all men should have periodic healthy check ups to screen for cancers such as skin, thyroid, oral, and testicular cancers. An annual oral exam by a dental professional is also recommended.
    • Begin screening for colorectal cancer at age 50 if you are of normal risk. Discuss your risk and when to begin screening with your healthcare provider.
    • Both the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and digital rectal examination (DRE) should be offered annually, beginning at age 50, to men who have at least a 10-year life expectancy. Men at higher risk of developing prostate cancer may begin screening earlier. Discuss your risk with your healthcare provider.

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