Through research, interventions and actions have been shown to reduce risk for a wide variety of cancers. This infographic highlights six categories of actions that may help prevent cancer.
Cancer Prevention Interventions Available Today
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Medications proven to reduce the risk of breast and colon cancers in those at increased risk through personal medical history (conditions like atypical hyperplasia in the breast) or familial history and inherited risk (genes). Women can check their risk for breast cancer using the breast cancer risk assessment tool.
Lifestyle and behavioral choices can reduce risk of a variety of cancers. Tobacco use causes many types of cancer, including cancer of the lung, larynx (voice box), mouth, esophagus, throat, bladder, kidney, liver, stomach, pancreas, colon and rectum, and cervix, as well as acute myeloid leukemia. People who use smokeless tobacco (snuff or chewing tobacco) have increased risks of cancers of the mouth, esophagus, and pancreas. Alcohol consumption is linked to the development of head and neck cancers, and cancers of the esophagus, liver, breast, and colon. Cancer-causing substances can increase risk in a variety of cancers, depending on exposure. Physical activity and obesity are also linked to risk for cancer.
Treatments for infections known to increase cancer risk, including hepatitis C (which increases risk for liver cancer); HIV (which increases risk for many cancers, including Kaposi’s sarcoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and cancers of the cervix, anus, liver, lung and oral cavity; and H. pylori which increases risk for stomach cancer.
Screening tests that allow removal of precancerous lesions can reduce cancer risk, like the removal of polyps during a colonoscopy.
In some cases, surgery to remove the tissues at risk for cancer may be appropriate, such as in women with BRCA mutations who may have prophylactic mastectomies and oophorectomies (removal of ovaries).
The Division of Cancer Prevention conducts and supports research to determine a person's risk of developing cancer and to find ways to reduce that risk. Through laboratory, clinical, and epidemiologic research, scientists have shown that the diseases of cancer occur not as single, catastrophic events, but rather as the result of a complex and long-evolving molecular process that can take decades. This long-term process of carcinogenesis provides time and opportunities to slow down, stop, or reverse the cellular changes that can become cancer.