Prevention & Knowing Your Cancer Risk

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the U.S., just behind heart disease . While not all cancer can be prevented, you can take steps to reduce your risk for this disease. In fact, the American Cancer Society estimates that more than half of all cancer diagnoses and deaths could be prevented through proper cancer prevention measures.

Among the most important cancer prevention measures you can take are:

Some risk factors you can’t avoid, such as your age (78 percent of all cancers are diagnosed in people over age 55) and your inherited genes. But, even for factors you can’t change, there are still important things you can do.

Regular screenings save lives

When it comes to cancer, early detection dramatically increases the options and effectiveness of treatment. Talk with your doctor about your cancer risks. Together, you can develop a plan for screenings and healthy lifestyle changes and stay on top of any warning signs that might occur.

If you have a family history of cancer, your doctor may recommend genetic risk assessment. Centura Health offers genetic counseling to individuals shown to be at higher risk for certain cancers, including breast cancer. Genetic counselors can create an individualized plan to help you manage your risks, know what signs to look for and create a schedule for regular screenings.

Healthy living makes a difference

Among some of the greatest risk factors for cancer are lifestyle choices. The World Cancer Research Fund estimates nearly 20 percent of all cancers in the U.S. are caused by a combination of excess weight, poor nutrition, excess alcohol consumption and sedentary lifestyle.

Taking steps to address these risk factors is important for everyone. Some of the biggest changes you can make in your life are to:

  • Quit smoking
    Tobacco use accounts for nearly 30 percent of all cancer deaths in the U.S.
  • Drink in moderation, if you drink
    Alcohol abuse raises the risk of many cancers, including mouth, throat, esophageal, liver, breast and colorectal cancers.
  • Exercise and maintain a healthy weight
    Excess body weight and lack of physical activity are key factors in the risk of many cancers and other chronic health conditions.
  • Avoid excessive sun exposure
    Skin cancer, the most common form of cancer, is largely caused by unprotected exposure to the sun and its harmful UV rays.