GENERAL CANCER PREVENTION
Most cancers are thought to be related to lifestyle
or environmental factors, and large numbers undoubtedly
could be prevented by judicious changes in personal
habits or avoidance of exposure to environmental carcinogens.
Research constantly reveals new facts about cancer's
causes, and as we learn the biological processes involve
the potential for preventing cancer increases substantially.
Unless a definite cause has been identified for a particular
type of cancer, little can be done to prevent it. Identification
of risk factors and increased surveillance for those
at risk may lead to earlier diagnosis and prompt treatment.
The best means of reducing cancer risk is to avoid
unnecessary exposure to known cancer-causing agents.
Some preventive strategies are applicable to more than
one type of cancer, as well as to other life-threatening
conditions such as heart disease.
Avoid smoking and tobacco products.
The most effective step anyone can take in preventing
premature death from many causes is to stop smoking,
or better still, never start.
Adopt and maintain a healthy diet.
A diet including abundant fresh fruits and vegetables,
grains, and legumes provides fibre and antioxidant vitamins.
Switching to low-fat foods may forestall some forms
Avoid workplace and other environmental exposures.
Protecting workers and the public at large from carcinogenic
substances at a less than prohibitive cost has become
a major social and economic challenge. Passage of the
Occupational Safety and Health Act and creation of the
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and
Health (NIOSH) in 1970 formalized the government's role
in protecting workers from occupational hazards. The
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is charged with
minimizing the presence of harmful environmental pollutants.
Although these governmental agencies are constantly
attacked for excess stringency or laxness, they represent
the basic framework for reduction of environmental and
Avoid or limit radiation exposure.
Radiation's potential benefits must always be weighed
against possible risks. Routine chest x-rays are no
longer recommended as part of an annual physical exam
without clear indications of their benefit. Radiation
therapy is no longer used for relatively benign conditions
such as acne or tonsillitis because of the increased
risk of cancer. In addition, radiation dosage administered
by modern x-ray machines has been reduced markedly.
Avoid unprotected sun exposure. Ultraviolet
light, which causes cellular damage, is the most common
cause of skin cancer. A commonsense approach to sun
exposure can prevent most cases of this potentially
disfiguring cancer. People with fair skin should be
particularly careful to limit their sun exposure. Although
most skin cancers are not life threatening, the increase
in malignant melanoma, a potentially lethal condition,
is thought to be due to increases in sun exposure.
Avoid unsafe sexual practices. Because
of the role of sexually transmitted diseases in the
development of some types of cancer, condom use, avoiding
the exchange of bodily fluids, and maintaining mutually
monogamous sexual relationships are prudent preventive
Avoid use of certain plastics. Use
of certain plastics not approved for longterm storage
of edible substances.