Top of the page
Experts believe that one-third to one-half of all cancers can be prevented.
That's because there are certain things about our lifestyles—our daily habits—that can make us more likely to get cancer. Here are some steps you can take today to help prevent cancer:
Your doctor may recommend other things based on your personal health history. For example, taking aspirin to prevent cancer may be a good idea for some people. But taking aspirin can have risks, too. So talk to your doctor about what cancer prevention tips are best for you.
When you quit smoking, you lower your chances of getting many types of cancer. Smoking makes you more likely to get cancers of the lung, bladder, kidneys, pancreas, cervix, mouth, esophagus, and throat.
Quitting is hard, but you can do it with the right amount of information and support. And there are several medicines that work well to help people quit for good. For information, see the topic Quitting Smoking.
And for more help, see:
Healthy food choices may help prevent cancer.
Some scientists think certain natural health products might help prevent cancer, but there isn't enough research yet to prove that. If you want to take natural health products to prevent cancer, talk to your doctor about what is safe for you to take. Eating healthy foods is still the best way to get the vitamins and minerals your body needs.
For ideas and tips, see:
If you are very overweight, your chances of getting some forms of cancer are higher. And people whose extra fat is in the waist area may be at higher risk than people whose extra fat is in the hips or thighs.
Eating a healthy diet and being more active can help you reach a healthy weight. It can be hard to change habits around eating and being active. But you can do it by taking one step at a time. To learn how, see Getting to a Healthy Weight: Lifestyle Changes.
For more help making these changes, see:
Being active every day may prevent a number of cancers. And regular activity can help you get to and stay at a healthy weight, which can also help keep you from getting cancer.
Being physically active and getting enough sleep may work together to lower your cancer risk even more than activity alone, especially for women.
If you're not used to being active every day, think about taking small steps to change your habits. For more information, see:
For more ideas and tips, see:
Most skin cancer is caused by too much sun. Follow these steps to help prevent skin cancer:
For more information, see:
If you drink alcohol, be aware that this may increase your risk for getting cancer.
Experts don't agree on how much is safe, but most agree that the more alcohol you drink, the higher your risk is for cancer.
If you're a woman, think about limiting yourself to 1 drink a day. Drinking alcohol leads to extra estrogen in the body, which raises your risk for breast cancer. Studies show that for women who have a personal or family history of breast cancer, it is better to limit alcohol to less than 1 drink a day.
Practicing safer sex helps keep you from getting HPV, a sexually transmitted infection that can cause cervical cancer in women. Safer sex includes using condoms and talking to every potential sex partner about his or her sexual history.
Visiting your doctor and dentist for regular checkups is good for your health. Your doctor can schedule regular screenings for various types of cancer, such as mammograms for breast cancer and stool tests for colon cancer.
Most screenings and checkups are to find cancer early, when it's easier to treat and may even be curable. But there are some things your doctor may recommend that can actually prevent certain cancers in the first place.
There are several types of screening tests for colon cancer. But only two of them can actually prevent cancer: colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy. These tests can find and remove polyps in the colon before they turn into cancer.
The HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine protects against HPV. HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI). There are many types of HPV. Some types of the virus can cause cervical or oral cancer and some uncommon cancers, such as vaginal and anal cancer. The HPV vaccines protect against the most common HPV types that can cause serious problems.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends the vaccine for females and males ages 9 to 26. The vaccine may also be given to women ages 27 to 45 who didn't get the vaccine when they were younger. HPV vaccine recommendations may be different in your province or territory. Check with your doctor or provincial ministry of health to find the HPV vaccine recommendations in your area.
Living or working in unhealthy places can make you sick. Stay away from certain chemicals and other things in the environment that can increase your chances of getting cancer.
CitationsDales R, et al. (2008). Quality of indoor residential air and health. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 179(2): 147–152.
Adaptation Date: 8/20/2021
Adapted By: Alberta Health Services
Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2021 Healthwise, Incorporated. All rights reserved. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.