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There are more than a hundred different types of cancers, with many different potential causes. (Read about "Cancer: What It Is") And since the risk of developing cancer also depends on a person's personal and family history, there's really no sure way to eliminate cancer risk entirely. But research shows that certain risk factors increase the chance that a person will develop cancer. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) says these are the most common risk factors for cancer:
Many of these risk factors can be avoided. Others, such as family history, cannot be avoided. People can help protect themselves by staying away from known risk factors whenever possible.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) says one of the most important things a person can do to reduce their risk of developing cancer is never to start smoking, or to quit smoking. (Read about "Quit Smoking") According to ACS, over 80 percent of lung cancer cases occur as the result of tobacco smoking. (Read about "Lung Cancer") Oral cancer has also been linked closely to the use of tobacco. (Read about "Oral Cancer") If you are trying to quit smoking, there are a number of stop-smoking programs available that can offer support and advice.
Other lifestyle factors that affect the risk of cancer include diet and exercise. (Read about "Getting Started on Fitness") According to the International Food Information Council, diets rich in plant foods - fruits, vegetables, grains and beans - may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancers, including colorectal, oral and esophageal cancer. (Read about "Colorectal Cancer" "Esophagus Cancer") Some studies also indicate that reducing the amount of fats in the diet may lower cancer risk as well. (Read about "Dietary Guidelines")
The American Cancer Society's Dietary Guidelines suggest:
ACS also recommends being physically active and maintaining a normal weight. (Read about "Losing Weight") According to ACS, physical activity can help protect against some cancers by balancing caloric intake with energy expenditure and some studies have shown exercise may reduce the risk for cancers at several sites including the colon, rectum, prostate, endometrium and kidney. (Read about "The Prostate" "Uterine Cancer" "Kidney Cancer") If you need to make lifestyle changes in these areas, a doctor or registered dietitian can provide guidance.
Doctors also encourage people of all ages to limit their time in the sun and to avoid other sources of UV radiation, to reduce their risk of skin cancer. (Read about "Skin Cancer") Skin cancer is very common. NCI says you should avoid the midday sun, use protective clothing and use sunscreen. (Read about "Sunscreen")
If someone does get cancer, the odds of a successful treatment are usually highest if the cancer is diagnosed and treated early. That means that regular cancer check-ups and screenings can be a lifesaver. (Read about "Cancer Check-Ups")
ACS recommends discussing with your healthcare provider screenings for oral, skin, colorectal and other cancers. In addition, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says women should ask their doctor how often they should be checked for breast, cervical and ovarian cancer. (Read about "Breast Cancer" "Cervical Cancer" "The Ovaries") The American Foundation for Urologic Disease says men should ask about screenings for prostate cancer.
Besides regular screenings, anyone who notices potential warning signs of cancer should get medical help. ACS says potential warning signs include any suspicious lumps, swellings, growths, changes in existing moles (Read about "Moles/Nevi"), abnormal bleeding or discharge, or unusual symptoms such as a persistent, hacking cough. If you're experiencing such symptoms, see a doctor at once. (For links to specific cancers and their warning signs, see Cancer: What It Is)
More Cancer Information:
For a list of individual types of cancer, see Cancer: What It Is
All Concept Communications material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.
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