Skip to content

    Cancer Health Center

    Font Size

    What Can I Do to Prevent Cancer?

    Surgery continued...

    For instance, some women find out they're at higher risk for this type of cancer because they have changes to their BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. Or they may have a strong family history of the disease.   

    If that's your situation, you and your doctor may discuss the possibility of a mastectomy, even if you don't have signs of cancer.

    Other surgeries, like tubal ligation and hysterectomy, may lower your chances of getting a certain type of ovarian cancer. But doctors don't recommend them unless they're needed for other medical reasons.

    Lifestyle Changes

    You can lower your risk of getting cancer by making healthy choices.

    Don't smoke. If you have a tobacco habit, it's time to quit.

    Smoking is clearly linked to lung cancer. It also may raise your chances of getting cancers of the head and neck, esophagus, bladder, kidney, liver, pancreas, cervix, colon, and some kinds of leukemia.

    Also, avoid places where you might breathe in the smoke from other people's cigarettes, because it also raises your risk.

    Stay out of the sun. You can slash your odds of skin cancer if you limit your contact with the sun's rays. Follow these tips:

    • Use sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher.
    • Stay in the shade when you're outside.
    • Wear clothes that cover your arms and legs.
    • Pop on a hat and sunglasses.
    • Avoid the sun when it's strongest -- between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
    • Don't use indoor tanning beds.

    Keep to a healthy weight. "Obesity causes breast and endometrial cancer, so weight control is important," says Alfred Neugut, MD, PhD, co-director of the Cancer Prevention Center of New York Presbyterian Hospital. It's also linked to cancers of the colon and rectum, esophagus, kidney, and pancreas.

    If you're overweight, it helps to shed even a few pounds.

    Eat well. Make sure you get plenty of fruits, veggies, and whole grains. They have fiber, which is linked to a lower risk of colon cancer.

    Look for foods with beta-carotene, lycopene, and vitamins A, C, and E. They're types of "antioxidants," which may play a role in preventing cancer.

    Today on WebMD

    man holding lung xray
    What you need to know.
    stem cells
    How they work for blood cancers.
    woman wearing pink ribbon
    Separate fact from fiction.
    Colorectal cancer cells
    Symptoms, screening tests, and more.
    Jennifer Goodman Linn self-portrait
    what is your cancer risk
    colorectal cancer treatment advances
    breast cancer overview slideshow
    prostate cancer overview
    lung cancer overview slideshow
    ovarian cancer overview slideshow
    Actor Michael Douglas