Reducing Your Cancer Risk

More than 1 million people in the United States get cancer each year. Research shows that many of these cases are the result of preventable causes, including tobacco use, being obese or overweight, physical inactivity, poor diet and excess exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. The good news is that you can avoid some of these cancer risks. Here are four ways you can lower your risk of developing cancer.

Don’t use tobacco

One of the most effective ways to reduce your risk is avoiding or quitting tobacco use. You should refrain from using any type of tobacco, including cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco and smokeless tobacco. Cigarette smoking is responsible for one in three cases of cancer diagnosed in the United States each year, and tobacco use can cause 18 types of cancer. It’s never too late to quit. If you need help quitting tobacco, start the conversation with your doctor.

Maintain a healthy weight, be active and eat healthy

Research shows that being obese or overweight can increase your risk for 14 types of cancer. Being active and making healthy choices in the kitchen can help you maintain a healthy weight and, on their own, can reduce the risk for certain types of cancer.

Here are some recommended guidelines:

  • Engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate activity a week. Being active may lower the risk of breast and colon cancer.
  • Limit your consumption of red meat and processed meat like bacon and hot dogs, which can increase the risk for colorectal cancer.
  • Eat at least 2½ cups of vegetables and fruits each day.

Protect your skin

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, and the number of skin cancer cases has increased over the past few decades. However, skin cancer is preventable. Excess exposure to ultraviolet light causes most skin cancers.

Here are several ways you can protect your skin from UV rays:

  • Avoid the midday sun. The sun’s rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Stay in the shade as much as possible when you are outdoors.
  • Cover your skin. Wear clothing that covers the arms, legs and torso. Hats with a wide brim can shade your face, ears and neck, and sunglasses can protect your eyes.
  • Properly apply sunscreen lotion of SPF 30 or higher.
  • Avoid indoor tanning beds and sunlamps.

Get screened

While these lifestyle changes reduce your risk of developing cancer, they can’t guarantee cancer prevention. That’s why cancer screenings are important. Screening tests are used to discover cancer before a person shows any symptoms. Screenings can find precancerous conditions and catch cancer in its early stages, when treatment is most effective. Ask your doctor which screening tests are right for you.