February is National Cancer Prevention Month

Cancer Prevention Month: Strategies to Lower Your Risk

February is National Cancer Prevention Month in the United States. This month is a fitting time to learn more about ways to prevent or lower your risk for developing cancer. Estimates vary, but research has shown that 30-50% of cancer cases are preventable. According to the American Cancer Society, about 42% of new cancer cases (not including non-melanoma skin cancers) could be avoidable with lifestyle and behavior changes. This adds up to at least 840,000 cancer cases that could be prevented in 2024.

Many research studies have been conducted to identify effective strategies to prevent cancer and lower risk. However, all that information can be overwhelming, and you may be left not knowing where to start. MNCCTN has narrowed it down and outlined several key strategies to lower your risk of developing cancer. Learn more and take action today to prevent cancer!

Don’t Smoke or Use Other Tobacco Products

Smoking and using tobacco products are significant causes of cancer. Smoking and secondhand smoke are connected to about 20% of cancer cases and 30% of cancer deaths, especially lung cancer. Smokeless tobacco products, such as dip or chew, can also cause cancer, especially cancers of the esophagus, mouth, and throat. While choosing to never smoke or use tobacco products is the best option to prevent cancer, it is never too late to quit. Learn more about smoking cessation.

Learn more about smoking and lung cancer in a previous MNCCTN blog post.

Eat a Balanced Diet & Stay Active

About 18% of cancer cases are caused by a combination of excess body weight, alcohol consumption, poor nutrition, and physical inactivity. Experts recommend eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and legumes. Specific foods that should be limited include refined sugar, red meat, and processed meat. Alcohol consumption should also be limited, as it is linked to multiple cancers, including breast, kidney, colon, lung, and liver cancers. Cancer risk increases as alcohol consumption increases as well. Physical activity is protective against cancer, and experts recommend engaging in at least 30 minutes of some activity per day. This can include any form of exercise, such as walking, cycling, running, yoga, pilates, swimming, and strength training. 

Learn more about diet and cancer prevention a previous MNCCTN blog post.

Protect Your Body from the Sun

UV exposure, through the sun and indoor tanning beds, is the main cause of skin cancer, one of the most common cancers in the United States. There are many ways to prevent UV exposure and protect the skin. A simple strategy is to never use tanning beds or sun lamps. Another strategy is to protect your skin by wearing sunscreen with SPF of 30 or higher, wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, and long sleeves and pants. You can also lower your risk by avoiding the sun when UV radiation is at its peak, between 10 am and 4 pm, and staying in the shade.

Learn about skin cancer research and how UV exposure causes cancer in a previous MNCCTN blog post.

Get Immunized

There are two different immunizations that prevent cancer! One is the HPV vaccine, which protects against HPV infection. HPV causes about 90% of cervical cancers, as well as some oral cancers. The HPV vaccine is nearly 100 percent effective at preventing cervical cancer. Another vaccine that prevents cancer is the Hepatitis B vaccine, which prevents Hepatitis B infection. Chronic hepatitis infection is linked to about 65% of liver cancer cases. By preventing Hepatitis B infection, this vaccine is very effective at preventing liver cancer as well.

Learn more about the immunizations that prevent cancer in a previous MNCCTN blog post.

Stay Up to Date on Cancer Screening

Cancer screening is another strategy to prevent cancer by catching precancerous cell changes before they develop into cancer. Cervical cancer screening, also referred to as a Pap smear or Pap test, can detect cell changes in the cervix. Sometimes these changes lead to cancer, or they resolve on their own. Screening tests can then catch precancerous changes so clinicians can monitor the changes and treat cases early, before cancer occurs. Colorectal cancer screening can also detect changes before cancer develops, such as cell changes or polyps. A polyp is a small growth or clump of cells in the lining of the colon. Sometimes polyps are harmless, but others can develop into cancer over time. When caught early through colorectal cancer screening, doctors can remove the polyps before they develop into cancer. Skin cancer screenings can also detect skin changes early before cancer occurs or spreads.

Learn more about cervical cancer and colorectal cancer screening in previous MNCCTN blog posts.