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

Carolyn Vachani, RN, MSN, AOCN
The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: March 23, 2012

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.


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