7 Tips to Help You Prevent Cancer

By Richard Fowler, MD, internal medicine physician

prevent cancer


Did you know that you make choices every day that impact your risk of cancer?  Research shows that approximately 50 percent of cancer cases are preventable with knowledge and early detection being key.

February is Cancer Prevention Month, and below are seven tips to help you decrease your risk of cancer.

Don’t use tobacco products and/or subject yourself to secondhand smoke.

While smoking is most associated with lung cancer, bladder, breast, cervical, colorectal, esophageal, mouth and throat cancers have also been linked to tobacco use.

Protect your skin from the sun.

Did you know that in Arizona 85-90 percent of the 365 days in the year are sunny?  While our attractive climate makes enjoying the great outdoors inviting, the risk of skin cancer, including melanoma, is greater.  Skin cancer is not only the most common form of cancer in the United States, but it’s also one of the most preventable.  Be certain to protect your skin from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation using a sunscreen of 30 SPF or higher and reapply every two hours.

Eat (and drink) healthy.

A balanced diet that includes plenty of beans, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and limits red meat is recommended to improve your overall health and decrease the risk of cancer as well as other conditions such as cardiovascular disease.  In addition, delete processed meats from your diet, and limit alcohol consumption to no more than two drinks daily if you are a man, and one for a woman.  Alcohol consumption increases your risk of breast, colorectal and liver cancers.

Maintain physical activity and a healthy weight.

Exercise has numerous health benefits, including decreasing stress, increasing energy and positive attitude, supporting a healthy weight, and strengthening the immune system. Did you know a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity daily can also decrease your risk of cancer? Lack of exercise and obesity have been linked to breast and colorectal cancers, and some evidence has revealed a connection to lung and pancreatic cancers.

Practice safe sex.

High-risk strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is spread through skin-to-skin contact during anal, oral, and vaginal sex, have increasingly been found to cause many types of cancer, including liver cancer. Use protection during sex, know your partner’s sexual history, and limit your number of partners.

Get the HPV and hepatitis vaccinations.

Certain viruses have been linked to cancer but can be prevented through vaccinations. For example, approximately one-third of liver cancers are connected to hepatitis B (HBV) and hepatitis C (HCV) viruses.  Vaccinations are available and recommended for certain age and/or risk groups; speak with your primary care provider (PCP) to determine if vaccinations are appropriate based on your age, risks, and other factors.

Get regular cancer screenings and annual exams.

If you do not have a PCP, find one and not only schedule an annual exam but share your complete medical history as well as that of your family.  Your PCP will partner with you to assess your risk of cancer and other diseases, schedule appropriate screenings such as a mammogram, PAP smear, and/or colonoscopy, and design a health and wellness plan that is right for you.

To find a District Medical Group PCP near you, click here.