Prevention of Cancer


Prevention list: Methods of prevention of Cancer mentioned in various sources includes those listed below. This prevention information is gathered from various sources, and may be inaccurate or incomplete. None of these methods guarantee prevention of Cancer.

  • Prevention depends on the specific type of cancer but some methods are common
  • Avoid sunlight exposure - to prevent skin cancer and melanoma.
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Regular checkups at the doctor
  • Regular screening for common cancers - early detection of any abnormality can lead to prevention of severe cancers and easier treatment.
    • Screening mammogram
    • Pap smear
    • Colorectal screening tests
      • Fecal occult blood test
      • Sigmoidoscopy

Prevention of Cancer: Many cases of cancer can be prevented by not using tobacco products, avoiding the harmful rays of the sun, and choosing foods with less fat and more fiber. In addition, regular checkups and self-exams can reveal cancer at an early stage when treatment is likely to be effective. 1

Before recommending a screening test, your doctor will consider your age, medical history, general health, family history, and lifestyle. You may want to discuss your concerns or questions with your doctor, so that together you can weigh the pros and cons and make an informed decision about whether to have a screening test. If you are 50 or older, the following are some of the cancer screening tests that you and your doctor should consider:

Mammogram. A woman's risk of breast cancer increases with age; about 80 % of breast cancers occur in women over age 50. A mammogram is a special x-ray of the breast that often can find cancers that are too small for a woman or her doctor to feel. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) recommends that women in their 40s or older have a screening mammogram on a regular basis, every 1 to 2 years.

Clinical Breast Exam. During a clinical breast exam, the doctor or other health care professional checks the breasts and underarms for lumps or other changes that could be a sign of breast cancer.

Fecal Occult Blood Test. Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of death from cancer in the U.S. The risk of developing colorectal cancer rises after age 50. It is common in both men and women. Studies show that a fecal occult blood test every 1 or 2 years in people between the ages of 50 and 80 decreases the number of deaths due to colorectal cancer. For this test, stool samples are applied to special cards, which are examined in a lab for occult (hidden) blood.

Sigmoidoscopy. A doctor uses a thin, flexible tube with a light (sigmoidoscope) to look inside the colon and rectum for growths or abnormal areas. Fewer people may die of colorectal cancer if they have regular screening by sigmoidoscopy after age 50.

Pap Test. The risk of cancer of the cervix (the lower, narrow part of the uterus or womb) increases with age. Most invasive cancers of the cervix can be prevented if women have Pap tests and pelvic exams regularly. Older women should continue to have regular Pap tests and pelvic exams. The doctor uses a wooden scraper or a small brush to collect a sample of cells from the cervix and upper vagina. The cells are sent to a lab to check for abnormalities.

Pelvic Exam. In a pelvic exam, the doctor checks the uterus, vagina, ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder, and rectum for any changes in their shape or size. During a pelvic exam, an instrument called a speculum is used to widen the vagina so that the upper part of the vagina and the cervix can be seen.

Digital Rectal Exam. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men - especially older men. More than 80 % of prostate cancers occur in men 65 and older. Research is being done to find the most reliable screening test for prostate cancer. Scientists at the NCI are studying the value of digital rectal exam and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in reducing the number of deaths caused by prostate cancer. For a digital rectal exam, the doctor inserts a gloved finger into the rectum and feels the prostate gland for bumps or abnormal areas.

Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA). This test measures the amount of PSA in the blood-stream. Higher-than-average amounts of PSA may indicate the presence of prostate cancer cells. However, PSA levels also may be high in men who have noncancerous prostate conditions. Scientists are studying ways to improve the validity of the PSA test.

Skin Exam. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Routine examination of the skin increases the chance of finding skin cancer early.

A positive result on any of these tests doesn't mean that you have cancer. You may need more tests. A biopsy is the only sure way to know whether the problem is cancer. In this test, a sample of tissue is removed from the abnormal area and examined under a microscope to check for cancer cells.2

Although your chances of getting cancer increase after age 50, there are things that you can do to prevent it. About 80 % of all cancers are related to the use of tobacco products, to what we eat and drink, or to a lesser extent to exposure to radiation or cancer-causing agents in the environment and the workplace. Many risk factors can be avoided:

  • Do not use tobacco products. Tobacco causes cancer. In fact, smoking tobacco, using smokeless tobacco, and being exposed regularly to involuntary tobacco smoke are responsible for one-third of all cancer deaths in the U.S. each year.
  • Avoid the harmful rays of the sun. Ultraviolet radiation from the sun and from other sources - such as sunlamps and tanning booths - damages your skin and can cause skin cancer.
  • Choose foods with less fat and more fiber. Your choice of foods may affect your chance of developing cancer. Evidence points to a link between a high-fat diet and cancers of the breast, colon, uterus, and prostate. Being seriously overweight appears to be linked to cancers of the prostate, pancreas, uterus, colon, and ovary and to breast cancer in older women. On the other hand, you may be able to reduce your cancer risk by making some simple food choices. Try to eat a varied, well-balanced diet that includes generous amounts of foods that are high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Aim for at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. At the same time, try to cut down on fatty foods.
  • If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation - not more than one or two drinks a day. Drinking large amounts of alcohol increases the risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and larynx. People who smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol have an especially high risk of getting these cancers.2

    1. excerpt from Cancer: NWHIC
    2. excerpt from Cancer Facts for People Over 50 - Age Page - Health Information: NIA

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