Observe World Cancer Day by reducing your cancer risk. Here's how:

February 1, 2015 | by Nicole White

With this week's World Cancer Day challenging us to think about cancer on a global scale, we should also keep in mind that daily choices affect cancer risk on an individual scale. Simply put, lifestyle changes and everyday actions can reduce your cancer risk and perhaps prevent some cancers.


cancer risk reduction Choosing healthy foods, exercise and other healthy habits are essential to cancer risk reduction.


According to the World Cancer Research Fund, about a third of the most common cancers could be prevented through reduced alcohol consumption, healthier diets and improved physical activity levels. If smoking were also eliminated, that number could jump to as many as half of all common cancers.

Here are a few suggestions. Truly, they're not that difficult. Give them a try this week to mark World Cancer Day, Feb. 4, Try them the next week too. And the week after that ...

In a word, exercise. Simple exercise benefits everyone, and even a little helps. Leslie Bernstein, Ph.D., professor and director of the Division of Cancer Etiology at City of Hope, recommends a 45-minute walk five days a week. While that is ideal, her research has found that, for some people, even 30 minutes per week can make a difference. The benefit of exercise applies for people of all weights and fitness levels.

The American Cancer Society recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of high intensity exercise each week, preferably spread throughout the week. Don’t deny yourself the benefits just because you don’t have a large block of time or can't get into the gym for a more formal workout.{C}

Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is linked to numerous cancers, including bowel, breast, uterine, ovarian, pancreatic, esophageal, kidney and gall bladder cancers. It is also linked to many other serious health conditions, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Limit alcohol intake. The American Cancer Society recommends that, for cancer prevention, men limit alcohol intake to two drinks per day and women to one drink per day.

Don't smoke. Not only is smoking tobacco products the single biggest risk factor for lung cancer and implicated in many other cancers – it’s linked to one in five deaths in the United States. Need some inspiration for quitting? Check out this video about the more than 7,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke.

Slip, slop, slap. Australia set a great example for the rest of the world with its three-pronged campaign to prevent skin cancers. Before going into the sun, slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen and slap on a hat. City of Hope surgical oncologist Vijay Trisal, M.D., who helps formulate melanoma treatment guidelines nationally and internationally, recommends two other steps: Seek and slide.  Seek out shade and slide on sunglasses.

Choose screening. Screening is available for colon, breast, prostate and, now, lung cancer. Screening cannot reduce the risk of cancer, but early detection increases the chances of successful treatment.

Consider genetic screening. Genetic screening guidelines are fairly narrow, but women with a family history of breast cancer should take advantage of knowing their risk. Cancers linked to BRCA1, BRCA2 and PAL2 mutations tend to affect younger women and be more aggressive.

Genetic screening is not so readily available in all parts of the world. Jeffrey Weitzel, M.D., director of the Division of Clinical Cancer Genetics at City of Hope, has led efforts Latin America, Peru, Colombia and Mexico to build genetic counseling and testing programs.

Choose health care wisely. Health care reform is a complicated national conversation, and a fairly complicated decision faced by families. Although affordability is surely a major concern, insurance premiums are only one factor to consider when weighing affordability. Complex diseases, such as cancer, require specialized care. Keep that in mind when making health care choices for your family.

In short, with cancer, expertise matters.


The rallying cry for World Cancer Day this year is “Not Beyond Us.” Among the recommendations made by World Cancer Day organizers are:

  • Government investment in cancer risk reduction and prevention
  • HBV (Hepatitis B virus) and HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccines as part of regular immunization schedules
  • Healthy choices as the default in schools and offices

Those choices start with each of us.



Learn more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion at City of Hope by visiting our website or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). You may also request a new patient appointment online. City of Hope staff will explain what's required for a consult at City of Hope and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.

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