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Prevention and Risk Reduction

Preventable Cancers

No cancer is 100% preventable. However, managing certain controllable risk factors – such as your diet, physical activity and other lifestyle choices – can lower your chances of developing cancer. This is especially true for 9 specific cancer types, which include:

Reducing your cancer risk

  • Each year, more than 260,000 American women are diagnosed with breast cancer. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women after skin cancer, yet there are more breast cancer survivors alive today than ever before – 3.3 million – thanks to advances in technology and early detection.

    Your risk for breast cancer can change over time, due to factors such as aging or lifestyle. Simply being female is the primary risk factor for developing the disease. Medical experts advise the following to maintain good health and lower your overall risk for developing breast cancer.

    Steps to reduce breast cancer risk

    • Adhere to a healthy diet.
    • Maintain healthy weight and body mass index.
    • Limit alcohol consumption.
    • Don’t smoke.
    • Stay physically active.
    • Breastfeed.
    • Talk with your doctor if breast cancer runs in your family.
  • Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers thanks to the HPV vaccine. HPV, or the human papillomavirus, causes 99% of all cervical cancers. The HPV vaccine, which is given in 2 doses, targets 9 different types of the virus.

    The vaccine protects against HPV types that most commonly cause anal, cervical, head and neck, penile, vaginal and vulvar cancers. The Food and Drug Administration has approved the vaccine for individuals age 9 to 45.

    Medical experts advise the following to reduce your risk for developing cervical cancer.

    Steps to reduce cervical cancer risk

    • Get the HPV vaccine (approved for ages 9-45).
    • Get a Pap test.
    • Don’t smoke.
    • Limit the number of sexual partners.
    • Use condoms.
  • Colorectal cancer screening is the most powerful weapon against colorectal cancer. Because of the increased incidence of colorectal cancer in younger adults, the American Cancer Society recommends people who are age 45, and at average risk, have regular colon cancer screening. This can include 1 of 6 different tests, either stool-based or visual examination.

    Most colorectal cancers develop from precancerous polyps. Regular screening helps prevent colorectal cancer by finding and removing certain types of polyps before they turn into cancer. Screening can also help detect colorectal cancer early, when it’s small, hasn’t spread and is easier to treat.

    The gold standard of screening is the colonoscopy, though other types of screenings are available. Talk with your doctor to determine which screening is right for you.

    Steps to reduce colorectal cancer risk

    • Get screened starting at age 45 (or before if you have other risk factors).
    • Seek genetic counseling if you have a strong family history.
    • Maintain a healthy diet and weight.
    • Stay physically active.
    • Limit alcohol consumption.
    • Limit consumption of red meat/processed meat.
    • Don’t smoke.
  • More people die of lung cancer each year than of colon, breast and prostate cancers combined. Lung cancer is the No. 1 cause of cancer death in the United States, yet it is one of the easiest cancers to prevent because most cases are caused by smoking.

    If you are a former or current smoker, you are at risk to develop lung cancer, and we encourage you to talk to your physician about your lung health. Even if you have smoked a long time, quitting can lower your chances of developing cancer. You also can lower your risk by ending your exposure to secondhand smoke.

    Nonsmokers can develop lung cancer, too. Exposure to other substances at home or in your workplace can significantly impact your risk of developing lung cancer. Radon exposure is estimated to be the second-leading cause of lung cancer, accounting for an estimated 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year.

    Be proactive and protect yourself at home and at work.

    Steps to reduce lung cancer risk

    • Don’t smoke.
    • Avoid secondhand smoke.
    • Avoid unprotected work with the following:
      • Arsenic
      • Asbestos
      • Radon
      • Radiation
      • Radioactive dust
  • Head and neck cancers include a wide range of tumors that can develop in several areas of the head and neck. These include the throat, larynx, nose, sinuses, mouth, salivary glands, thyroid and parathyroid glands.

    Approximately 75% of head and neck cancers are related to alcohol and/or tobacco use. HPV (human papillomavirus) infection is also often a factor, particularly in cancers involving the throat and tonsils. Recent studies show head and neck cancers are diagnosed more frequently in younger patients when  HPV is present.

    Head and neck cancers that go undetected may spread and affect other regions of the body. Making certain lifestyle changes can significantly lower your risk of developing head and neck cancer. These include:

    Steps to reduce head and neck cancer risk

    • Get the HPV vaccine.
    • Don’t use tobacco.
    • Stop or limit alcohol consumption.
    • Wear a protective face mask when there is potential occupational exposure.
    • Practice safe sex.
  • Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the U.S. with more than 170,000 new cases diagnosed each year. While prostate cancer is a serious disease, more than 2.9 million men in the U.S. who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lives are alive today.

    We encourage you to ask your physician about a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. The screening measures the prostate-specific antigen in your blood. An elevated PSA may indicate prostate cancer.

    While no one can prevent prostate cancer, you can reduce your chances of developing the disease by doing the following:

    Steps to reduce prostate cancer risk

    • Adhere to a healthy diet.
    • Maintain a healthy weight.
    • Stay physically active.
    • Don’t smoke.
    • Schedule an annual physical exam with your primary care physician to discuss your risk.
  • Skin cancer is a lifestyle disease, affecting the young, old and everyone in between. One in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in his or her lifetime.

    By examining your skin, you can catch potentially dangerous conditions while they are still treatable. Basal and squamous cell skin cancers are less likely than melanoma to spread and become life-threatening, but they should be identified and treated early. If not, they can grow and invade nearby tissues and organs, causing scarring, deformity or even loss of function.

    To protect your skin year-round, wear sunscreen. For daily wear, use a broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. In addition, follow these recommendations to prevent skin cancer:

    Steps to reduce skin cancer risk

    • Avoid sunburns in childhood.
    • Keep newborns out of the sun.
    • Avoid indoor tanning booths and beds.
    • Cover your skin with long sleeves, broad-brimmed hats and scarves.
    • Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.
    • See your physician every year, or as recommended, for a professional skin exam.
    • Stay in the shade during peak sun hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).
    • Wear UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Testicular cancer is common among men ages 18-39. Most men find testicular cancer themselves during a self-examination. Your doctor also may find it during a routine physical exam.

    Testicular cancer is highly treatable – even if it has spread beyond the testicle – and in most cases, treatment leads to remission or cure. Most men who develop testicular cancer don’t have any risk factors. But some problems may increase your chances of developing testicular cancer.

    No one can prevent testicular cancer. Talk with your doctor about self-examinations to detect testicular cancer, and make sure she or he is aware of your family or personal cancer history.

    Steps to reduce testicular cancer risk

    • Perform regular self-checks of your testicles (to look for lumps, hardening, change in size or shape, pain or discomfort or unusual size differences).
    • Correct undescended testicles (cryptorchidism) before puberty.
    • Limit dairy product consumption. One study showed a possible correlation between consuming dairy products – especially cheese – and an increased risk of testicular cancer.
    • Adhere to a healthy diet.
  • Any woman with ovaries is at some risk of ovarian cancer. If you have ever had breast or colon cancer, you may be at an increased risk of ovarian cancer.

    According to the American Cancer Society the risk of developing ovarian cancer increases with age. Ovarian cancer is rare in women younger than 40. Most ovarian cancers develop after menopause and half of all ovarian cancers are found in women age 63 or older.

    While you may not be able to prevent ovarian cancer, there are behaviors and treatments that lower your risk. We provide a high-risk ovarian cancer clinic for women who carry the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene and are at high risk for breast cancer.

    Talk with your doctor and make sure she or he is aware of your family or personal cancer history.

    Steps to reduce ovarian cancer risk

    • Breastfeed your infant(s).
    • Give birth to 1 or more children.
    • Have your fallopian tubes tied or cut.
    • Remove your ovaries.
    • Remove your uterus.
    • Take birth control pills.
    • Get genetic counseling and testing if you are at high risk.
Two women meeting.

Genetic testing and counseling

Genetic counselors at our nationally recognized cancer center identify and manage cancer risk through genetic testing and risk assessment.

Manage your risk

Request your appointment today.

To make an appointment at The University of Kansas Cancer Center, call 913-588-1227.

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