Appendix A

Recommended ways to reduce your cancer risk

About 1 in 6 cancer deaths in the United States each year is related to physical inactivity, alcohol consumption, being overweight and/or poor nutrition. 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 diet and physical activity

Get to and stay at a healthy weight throughout life.

  • Keep your weight in a healthy range.
  • 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.

(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.)

  • Adults: Get 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week (or a combination of these). Getting to or going over the upper limit of 300 minutes is ideal.
  • Children and adolescents: Get at least 1 hour of moderate or vigorous intensity activity each day.
  • Limit sedentary behavior such as sitting, lying down, watching TV, and other forms of screen-based entertainment.

Follow a healthy eating pattern at all ages.

  • Choose foods that are high in nutrients in amounts that help you get to and stay at a healthy weight.
  • Limit or avoid processed meat (like deli meats, hot dogs, and bacon) and red meat.
  • Eat a variety of vegetables – dark green, red and orange, fiber-rich legumes (beans and peas), and others each day.
  • Choose whole grains instead of refined grain products.
  • Eat a variety of fruits, especially whole fruits with a variety of colors
  • Avoid sugary drinks and highly processed foods

It is best not to drink alcohol.

  • If you do drink, you should have no more than 1 drink per day for women or 2 per day for men.

Avoid things that cause cancer

  • Avoid smoking, secondhand 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 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

  • HPV vaccination is recommended for boys and girls starting at age 11 or 12 to reduce the risk of cancers caused by HPV infection. If you have children in this age range, talk to their pediatrician about the HPV vaccine.
  • HPV vaccination is also recommended through age 26 years old. It’s important to know that vaccination at older ages is less effective in lowering cancer risk.

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:

  • HPV tests and Pap tests for women as recommended
  • Colonoscopy or other screening tests for colorectal cancer for people age 45 and over (or earlier if at high risk)

Finding cancer early improves the chances of it being treated successfully. See the American Cancer Society Guidelines for the Early Detection of Cancer and talk with your doctor about the best plan for you.

To read more about how diet and physical activity can help lower cancer risk, see the American Cancer Society Guideline for Diet and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Rock CL, Thomson C, Gansler T, et al. American Cancer Society guideline for diet and physical activity for cancer prevention. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. 2020;70(4). doi:10.3322/caac.21591. Accessed at on June 9, 2020.

Last Medical Review: October 9, 2014 Last Revised: June 9, 2020

Last Medical Review: October 9, 2014 Last Revised: June 9, 2020

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