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Lowering Your Cancer Risk...
Here's What You Need to Know

Doctor pointing to a transparent screen showing an image with the words stop cancer, prevention, regular screening, medical care and healthy lifestyle which are ways of lowering your cancer risk

It’s important that you do your part to reduce your risk of developing cancer.

No ifs ands or butts, smoking causes cancer!

Smoking is the leading cause of premature, preventable cancer death in this country. The Centers for Disease Control reports that it is known to cause cancer of the blood (acute myeloid leukemia), bladder, cervix, colon and rectum, esophagus, kidney, larynx, liver, lungs, bronchi and trachea, mouth and throat, pancreas, stomach.(1)

Smoking or using tobacco products increases the risk of developing cancers of the mouth, esophagus, and pancreas.

The Centers for Disease Control describes secondhand smoke as exposure from burning tobacco products or smoke exhaled, or by the person smoking. Secondhand smoke causes health problems including a 20-30% increased risk for people who have never smoked. (2)

There are many resources to help people stop smoking. A good place to start is by visiting or (Arizona Smokers Helpline) for access to free information and resources to help you quit smoking. (3,4)

(1) Tobacco and Cancer  

(2) Secondhand Smoke 

(3) Smokefree.Gov 

(4) ASHLINE -Arizona Smokers' Helpline

Obesity is linked to cancer

Obesity rates are increasing with over one third of adults and approximately one in six children in the United States being obese.

Being overweight or obese can also put a person at greater risk for many diseases including:

  • diabetes

  • high blood pressure

  • cardiovascular disease

  • stroke

According to the American Cancer Society, being overweight or obese is clearly linked to an overall increased risk of certain cancers when compared to people with a healthy weight. Being overweight is clearly linked with cancers of the breast (in women past menopause), colon and rectum, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, and pancreas. (1)

Being overweight or obese is clearly linked to an overall increased risk of cancer. According to research from the American Cancer Society, excess body weight is thought to be responsible for about 8% of all cancers in the United States, as well as about 7% of all cancer deaths. (2)

(1) Obesity Rates Continue to Rise Among Adults in the US

(2) Does Body Weight Affect Cancer Risk? 

Make healthy choices in your diet

Learning some ways that you can incorporate more healthy choices in your diet is a good place to begin making a difference. Here’s a good place to start:

  • Add more fruits and vegetables to your diet each day.

  • Choose whole grains like oatmeal, popcorn, whole-grain bread and brown rice, and limit desserts made from grains, such as cookies, pastries and cake. Select low-fat or fat-free milk and dairy products.
  • Eat a variety of proteins such as seafood, beans and peas, unsalted nuts and seeds, soy products, eggs and lean meats, including poultry.
  • Limit foods that are high in sodium, saturated fats and added sugars.
  • Limit your intake of red meats, and processed meats that contain nitrates.
  • Drink water every day.

Get regular exercise

Staying active and getting regular exercise can help to maintain a healthy weight, lowering your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer.

For most adults, the recommendation is to get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week. It’s never too late to start exercising, but if you’re not currently active, it’s important to discuss with your physician before starting any exercise program.

Know your family history

Your family’s health history can hold important clues as to your risk for developing cancer. This includes first-degree relatives (parents, siblings, children), and second-degree relatives (grandparents, grandchildren, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, and half-siblings).

Your physician can use this information to identify certain hereditary conditions or genetic mutations that are in your family, so that you can make an informed decision about ways to reduce your chances of developing cancer. Your family history can potentially help other members of your family and is information that can be passed on to future generations.

A tool from the American Surgeon General that you can use to keep track of your family health history is My Family Health Portrait.

Ban the Tan! Protect the skin you’re in!

You can help to reduce the risk of developing skin cancer. It’s important to know that everyone can develop skin cancer regardless of their race, or their skin or eye color. Here are some things you can do:

  • Always wear sunscreen when you are outdoors. (SPF 30 or higher, broad spectrum and water resistant)
  • Apply sunscreen 15–30 minutes before sun exposure, don’t forget to apply to lips, ears, nose and tops of feet.
  • Wear protective clothing when you are outdoors (a hat, long sleeves and pants). It’s also important to protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Re-apply sunscreen liberally every 90 minutes to exposed skin, and re-apply after toweling OR becoming sweaty OR getting wet
  • Stay indoors between 10AM and 4PM, seek shade when outdoors.
  • Use extra caution when near reflective surfaces like water, snow, and sand.
  • Don’t use expired sunscreen.
  • Avoid sunburns and using tanning beds.
  • Check for skin cancer on your body (including palms of your hands, soles of your feet, under your nails). Skin cancer screening starts with you. You should regularly examine your skin to notice changes. If changes are found that do not go away, you should contact your primary care physician or dermatologist for a professional assessment.

Alcohol consumption - moderation is key

You can help lower your risk of developing an alcohol-related cancer by limiting the amount you consume. Recommended amounts are up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men, with drinks defined as 12 oz of beer, 5 oz of wine or 1.5 oz of hard liquor. Research shows the that the more alcohol a person drinks, especially over time, the higher their risk is of developing certain types of alcohol-related cancers.

Additionally, drinking alcohol while undergoing cancer-related treatment should be discussed with your oncologist.

Vaccinations that can help prevent cancer

The HPV vaccine is effective in preventing the human papillomavirus. The sexually transmitted virus has been shown to cause cervical and other genital cancers; it is also linked to a rise in head and neck cancers. Current HPV recommendations are found at:

HPV Vaccine

The Hepatitis B vaccine can reduce the risk of developing liver cancer, especially for certain high-risk adults. It’s important to talk with your physician to learn more about these vaccines.

Avoid risky behaviors

Hepatitis viruses, HIV, and the human papillomavirus have all been shown to increase the risk for certain cancers. Ways you can reduce your risk include practicing safe sex, and not using contaminated needles.

Get routine medical care & recommended screenings

One of the best things you can do is get routine medical care with your primary care physician and dentist and follow their recommendations for cancer screenings to help reduce your cancer risk, or to find cancer early when the chances for successful treatment is the highest.

You know your body best. If you have a concerning sign or symptom, please discuss with your primary care physician.