Learning About New Ways to Prevent Cancer

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Appendix A

Recommended ways to reduce your cancer risk

About 1 in 3 cancer deaths in the United States each year is related to diet, exercise, and overweight. Another 1 in 3 cancer deaths are due to tobacco exposure.

If you are looking for ways to reduce your cancer risk, and reduce your risk of dying from cancer, there’s scientific evidence to support certain methods. Even though this document is focused on learning about unproven methods, your American Cancer Society has looked at the science and made the recommendations listed here. These methods are proven to help reduce the number of cancer cases and cancer deaths in large groups of people.

American Cancer Society recommendations for individual choices about nutrition and physical activity

Get to and stay at a healthy weight throughout life.

  • Be as lean as possible throughout life without being underweight.
  • Avoid excessive weight gain throughout life. For those who are overweight or obese, losing even a small amount of weight has health benefits and is a good place to start.
  • Get regular physical activity and limit your intake of high-calorie foods and drinks as keys to help stay at a healthy weight.

Be physically active.

  • Adults: Get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week (or a combination of these), preferably spread throughout the week.
  • Children and adolescents: Get at least 1 hour of moderate or vigorous intensity activity each day, with vigorous activity on at least 3 days each week.
  • (Moderate activities are those that require about as much effort as a brisk walk. Vigorous activities generally use large muscle groups. They raise your heart rate, speed up your breathing, and make you sweat.)

  • Limit sedentary behavior such as sitting, lying down, watching TV, and other forms of screen-based entertainment.
  • Doing some physical activity above your usual activities, no matter what one’s level of activity, can have many health benefits.

Eat a healthy diet, with an emphasis on plant foods.

  • Choose foods and drinks in amounts that help you get to and stay at a healthy weight.
  • Limit how much processed meat (like deli meats, hot dogs, and bacon) and red meat you eat.
  • Eat at least 2½ cups of vegetables and fruits each day.
  • Choose whole grains instead of refined grain products.

If you drink alcohol, limit your intake.

  • Drink no more than 1 drink per day for women or 2 per day for men.

Avoid things that cause cancer

  • Avoid smoking, second hand smoke, and all other forms of tobacco.
  • Don’t expose yourself to other known cancer causing agents (carcinogens). Learn more about chemicals or agents that you work with or use at home, and how to protect yourself. (See our document called Known and Probable Human Carcinogens to learn more.)
  • Protect yourself from sunlight and other UV light sources (tanning beds and lamps).

Get the HPV vaccine if it will benefit you

  • If you are female and between 11 and 18 years old, get the HPV vaccine series to reduce your risk of cancers caused by HPV infection. If you have daughters in this age range, talk to their pediatrician about the HPV vaccine.
  • If you are a woman between 19 and 26 years old, talk with your doctor about whether the HPV vaccine might reduce your risk of HPV-related cancers.

Get tested for common cancers and pre-cancers

Use early detection methods that can find pre-cancerous changes in some parts of the body. Treating these pre-cancers can keep them from growing into cancer:

  • Pap tests for women as recommended
  • Colonoscopy, CT colonography, or sigmoidoscopy for people age 50 and over (or earlier if high risk)

For more on prevention and early detection, see our documents, Cancer Prevention and Early Detection Checklist for Men or Cancer Prevention and Early Detection Checklist for Women. Even though some of these methods don’t prevent cancer, early detection methods can help lower your chance of dying from cancer, and improve your chance of a cure.

See the American Cancer Society Guidelines for the Early Detection of Cancer and see a doctor to discuss the best plan for early cancer detection in your case.


Last Medical Review: 10/09/2014
Last Revised: 11/21/2014