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Prevention and Risk Reduction

Managing Your Risk

Cancer is the 2nd leading cause of death in the United States. By knowing and managing your risk factors, you can take steps to stay healthy and potentially avoid a cancer diagnosis. 

Follow these guidelines to reduce your risk.

Get recommended screenings

Regular screening tests are an important part of cancer prevention. Early detection allows your doctor to find cancer earlier, when it’s more likely to be successfully treated.

Your screening schedule depends on several factors: your sex and age, personal risk factors, current health and family history. You should discuss these with your doctor to determine what is right for you.

General screening guidelines for men and women include:


  • Annual physical
  • Perform self-exam for skin cancer 
  • Perform self-exam for testicular cancer
  • Regular testicular cancer physical exam from ages 15-35
  • Regular colon cancer screenings starting at age 45
  • Colonoscopy every 10 years starting at age 50, or as recommended by your physician 
  • PSA screening starting at age 55, or as recommended by your physician


  • Annual physical
  • Perform monthly breast self-exam
  • Perform regular skin cancer self-exam
  • Pap test every 3 years from ages 21-30
  • Pap/HPV test combined at age 30, or as recommended by your doctor
  • Annual mammogram starting at age 40, or as recommended by your physician
  • Regular colon cancer screening starting at age 45
  • Colonoscopy every 10 years starting at age 50, or as recommended by your physician
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Learn about age-appropriate cancer screenings so you can catch cancer earlier, when it's more treatable.
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Eat a balanced diet

While no foods can prevent cancer or keep you from developing cancer, medical research has shown that following some basic dietary guidelines may help you reduce your risk of cancer as well as other chronic diseases like diabetes.

A few tips

  • Eat vegetables, whole grains, fruits and lean animal protein like fish and chicken.
  • Choose whole, organic foods when possible.
  • Read labels, checking for whole grains, fewer chemicals and minimal saturated fats and sodium.
  • Limit red meat and processed meat.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation, or don’t drink at all.
  • Avoid soft drinks.

Maintain a healthy weight

Being overweight or obese puts you at greater risk for many types of cancer, including breast cancercolorectal cancer and uterine cancer. Exercise is an important component of healthy living, and may help manage your cancer risk. 

A few tips for adults

  • Break up long periods of sitting at work or at home by standing and moving around
  • Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily, using the following as a guide:
    • 150-300 minutes of moderate exercise each week, such as walking, biking, mowing the lawn
    • 75-150 minutes of vigorous activity each week, such as running, swimming or aerobics
  • Add strength training by lifting weights or performing resistance exercises at least 2 days a week

Don’t smoke or quit smoking now

Experts agree that not smoking is the single most important thing you can do for your health. Quitting at any time, at any age, has been shown to reduce disease risk and improve your chances for living longer. Quitting can be difficult, so ask your doctor or other healthcare provider if you need help.

A few tips

  • Have an action plan and set a date to quit.
  • Reduce smoking in advance of the date.
  • Seek support from cessation experts as well as family and friends.
  • Know your triggers and have strategies to avoid them.
  • Identify tobacco cessation programs that can help.
  • Ask your doctor about medications to help you stop smoking.
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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

Get the HPV vaccine

HPV (human papillomavirus) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S. The HPV infection is spread by intimate skin-to-skin contact, most commonly sexual intercourse. It can cause cancers of the throat, as well as cancers of the genital regions in men and women.

The American Cancer Society recommends the HPV vaccine to prevent cervical cancer and precancers. The vaccine protects against HPV types that most commonly cause anal, cervical, head and neck, penile, vaginal and vulvar cancers. The HPV vaccine protects individuals from ages 9 to 45. 

A few tips

  • Get tested for HPV if you’re a woman.
  • If you’re a man, watch for unusual lesions or wart-like growths and see your doctor to have them checked.
  • Get the HPV vaccine, which is FDA-approved for individuals ages 9 to 45.

Limit sun exposure

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. It’s also one of the most preventable cancers. Limiting your sun exposure will reduce your risk. To detect skin cancer, you should see your doctor for annual skin checks and do skin checks regularly yourself. Most skin cancers are highly treatable when caught early.

You are at increased risk if you:

  • Sunburned often as a child
  • Use a tanning bed or booth
  • Have red or blond hair, fair skin, freckles and blue or light-colored eyes
  • Have a family history or personal history of basal cell or squamous cell skin cancers
  • Have a family history or personal history of melanoma
  • Have more than 50 moles

A few tips

  • See a dermatologist for annual skin checks and do skin checks yourself.
  • Don’t use tanning booths and tanning beds.
  • Use broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher all year long.
  • Avoid sun exposure during peak hours (10 a.m.-4 p.m.).
  • Wear protective clothing and hats and stay in shaded areas if possible.
  • Know your family history of skin cancer..


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