One of the greatest tools we have in fighting cancer is understanding your risks and taking steps to reduce your risk of developing cancer.
Hollings Cancer Center has a variety of screening programs and educational events to equip you with the knowledge and tools to understand and minimize your risk of developing cancer.
To best protect yourself, it is important to know the warning signs of cancer and follow all recommended cancer screening guidelines. Treatment often is more effective when the disease is caught early.
If you have any questions about your cancer risk, talk to your doctor today or check out our interactive health assessment tools.
There are a number of genetic, socioeconomic and environmental factors that may increase your risk for developing cancer. By making healthier lifestyle choices, following recommended screening guidelines and seeing a physician regularly, you can reduce your chances of developing cancer.
Maintain a balanced diet and regular exercise
Healthy eating habits and exercising regularly are some of the easiest ways to reduce your cancer risk. It is important to maintain a balanced diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables. Certain foods as well as how they are prepared can contribute to an increase in advanced glycation end products or AGE levels, which also can increase your risk. AGEs accumulate in the body as you age, contributing to chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Quit smoking and use of tobacco products
In addition to a poor diet, smoking and use of other tobacco endangers your health. One of every three cancer deaths is linked to smoking. In addition to lung cancer, smoking also can cause acute myeloid leukemia and cancers of the trachea and bronchus, oropharynx, esophagus, larynx, stomach, bladder, kidney and ureter, pancreas, uterus and cervix, colon and rectum and liver, according to Surgeon General’s reports.
Follow cancer screening guidelines
The best protection against cancer is early detection. Screening helps detect cancer early, when the disease is easier to treat and more treatment options are available. Screening options for several cancer types are available for both men and women.
Maintain a healthy weight
Obesity can increase your risk for cancer. By maintaining a balanced diet and exercising regularly, you can minimize body fat. Obesity has been linked to an increased risk for several cancers, including colorectal, breast, ovarian and liver cancer.
Practice sun safety
The Southeastern states have some of the highest rates of melanoma in the country, including South Carolina. Always protect yourself from the sun, particularly between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are the strongest. To help prevent melanoma and skin damage you should use at least 15 SPF, even if the weather is overcast, and avoid tanning beds, which can increase a person’s risk for melanoma by 20 percent.
Have recommended vaccinations
By following national vaccination recommendations to prevent the human papillomavirus or HPV, you can reduce your risk of developing HPV-associated cancers. The vaccine protects against HPV types that cause most cervical cancers and some cancers of the anus, vulva, vagina and oropharynx. The HPV vaccine is for boys and girls ages 11 to 12. Catch-up vaccination is also encouraged up to age 26 if the vaccine was missed at the recommended time.
Know your family history
If a family member or relative has had cancer, you may be at increased risk. Talk to your doctor about any family history you may have. Genetic testing looks for changes in a person’s genes that may indicate an increased risk for cancer. For those with a cancer diagnosis, genetic testing may also be helpful in personalizing cancer screening recommendations or determining if family members are at risk too.