Nine Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Cancer

-This post was written by Stephanie Price.

Cancer formation can come from the foods we eat, the air we breathe or the medicine we take. While there is no magical pill that can prevent you from getting cancer, Deborah Armstrong, associate professor of oncology at the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, shares nine ways that you can reduce your risk.

1. Cut out tobacco. This is a no-brainer. The risk of developing lung cancer is 23-fold higher in men and 13-fold higher in women who smoke, compared with those who don’t. Tobacco can contribute to lip, oral, pancreas, voice box, cervix, bladder and even kidney cancer. The good news is that if lifelong smokers stop smoking today, their chance of getting cancer drops drastically—almost as much as a person who has never smoked.

2. Moderate your sun exposure. If you have a light, natural skin color or skin that frequently burns, freckles or reddens, you have less melanin. Melanin protects your skin against sun damage. The burns that people get in their teens and twenties are the burns that will most likely turn into melanoma. If you see more than 50 moles on your body, you need to see a dermatologist every year. A few tips are to seek shade during the mid-day hours (between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.);always wear clothing on exposed skin; put on sunglasses; and make sure to use sunscreen that has an SPF of 15 or higher (with as much UVB and UVA protection as possible).

3. Reduce your alcohol use. Regular, heavy alcohol use can lead to liver damage. Alcohol dissolves the carcinogens and helps them get into the cells faster to start inducing DNA damage. You should not drink alcohol every day, but if you are going to, you should only have one drink with a meal.

4. Get more sleep. People who get fewer than six hours of sleep a night were shown to have a 50 percent increased chance of precancerous lesions in their colons. Getting between seven to eight hours of sleep at night is ideal.

5. Be HPV-aware. The human papilloma virus causes most anal, genital, vaginal and penile cancers. The best part is that now we have ways to prevent it. There are two vaccinations that are approved by the Food and  Drug Administration for boys, as well as girls.

6. Update your family’s cancer history. Make sure your doctor is aware of any history of cancer in your family. If you have been seeing the same doctor for 20 years, and some of your family members have gotten cancer since then, make sure you let your caregiver know about these cases. This will help reveal the need for certain cancer screenings.

7. Test your home for radon. If you don’t recall the last time you had this done, it’s time to have your house tested. Radon is a radioactive gas that can be released from some types of building materials or from the soil. Radon damage is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. You can go to your local hardware store and pick up a test kit today.

8. Take the Helicobacter pylori test. This is a bacterium found in the stomach and the upper part of the intestine, which is a major cause of gastric cancer. Ask your doctor if you should be tested for the bacteria so that you can start preventing your chances of getting it now.

9. Know the diet for reducing your risk of cancer. Your fat intake should be about 30 percent of your calories or less. Fat tissue increases estrogen levels, and estrogen is associated with a number of cancer risks. Avoid eating large quantities of pickles and smoked foods. To prevent colon cancer, you should get between 20 to 30 grams of fiber a day, which means you should eat five servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables.

More on Cancer and Nutrition:

Watch nutritionist Lynda McIntyre give her tips for cancer survivors on staying healthy

Dr. Bill Nelson discusses the links between certain foods and cancer

Blog series on nutrition for breast cancer patients and survivors

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }


Ifeoluwa May 16, 2015 at 9:49 am

Pls, how can one get rid of HPV?


apache March 17, 2015 at 2:01 am

reduce ur risk for cancer

Reply August 15, 2014 at 3:55 am

Hi there! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and say
I really enjoy reading through your posts. Can you recommend any
other blogs/websites/forums that deal with the
same topics? Thanks a lot!


apache March 17, 2015 at 2:06 am

I believe genetics is a marker of greater significance than diet
what say yee


Lauren M. Bateman August 23, 2013 at 1:31 pm

This article has so many good points, thank you. I stumbled on the nutrition science cutting edge a few years back, and have been actively following many MDs, and Dr. Greger's ( really icings the cake since it shows the latest science and he's making sense of it all, real time. It's utterly amazing that whole food, plant based, is so simple yet the biggest solution, preventer, and reverser also. Let's spread this 'whole enlightenment' news in every way, as quick as possible, in a walls down, interdisciplinary collaborative way. I'm a holistic clinical nurse specialist who started mind body treatments with amazing results at JHH years ago, and have progressed into this with nonstop research review.


Samar Misra August 3, 2017 at 12:21 am

Go Lauren! Thanks for the nice comment and admire your work as a nurse.


Marcia Mullins August 3, 2013 at 6:03 pm

It is misleading to state that eating fiber will "prevent" Colorectal Cancer.The cause of this disease is not yet known.

Colorectal Cancer is the largest cancer killer of nonsmoking Americans.

I ate all the "right" things and almost never ate any of the "wrong" things, never smoked or consumed alcoholic beverages, had no family history, and I still developed Colorectal Cancer.

Knowledge of the symptoms and on-time screenings are the best prevention of Colorectal Cancer.
Incidence of this disease is on the rise among young adults, so awareness of early symptoms can save lives in that age group.


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