Health Myths: Get the Facts
You may be making health decisions based on incorrect or outdated
information. Make sure that your sources for health information are current and
accurate. Also, check with your health care provider if you have any questions
about living a healthier life.
You CAN take simple steps everyday to protect yourself against illness and
disease. It is important to get appropriate health screenings to find potential
problems early and get proper treatment to prevent more serious problems later.
Know that the health choices you make can also impact the health of others.
Myth: Cancer cannot be prevented.
Fact: Scientists estimate that as many as 50 percent or more of
cancer deaths in the United States are caused by social and environmental
conditions and unhealthy choices. These conditions and choices can result in an
unhealthy diet, obesity, or unhealthy human behaviors such as smoking and
physical inactivity. We now know more about how to prevent many cancers
including cancers of the lung, cervix, colon, rectum, and skin.
In general, the factors that can help prevent cancer include:
- not using cigarettes or other tobacco products
- avoiding second-hand smoke
- not drinking too much alcohol
- avoiding weight gain and maintaining a healthy weight
- eating five or more daily servings of fruits and vegetables and a low-fat
- balancing calories with physical activity
- being physically active
- protecting skin from sunlight
- supporting community efforts to develop a healthy social and physical
- Researchers estimate that a fourth to a third of breast cancers in
postmenopausal women may be due to physical inactivity and
- Mammography is the best available method to detect breast cancer in its
earliest, most treatable stage— an average of 1 to 4 years before a woman can
feel a lump. Women aged 40 years or older should have a screening mammogram
every 1 to 2 years.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Limiting weight gain during childhood and
adulthood is likely to reduce the risk of breast cancer. Losing weight if
overweight may also reduce risk.
- Regular physical activity is likely to reduce the risk of breast
- Community efforts to increase physical activity, such as school-based
physical education programs and creation of walking trails, can contribute to
increased physical activity in your community.
- Cervical cancer can usually be prevented if women are screened regularly at
least every three years with a test called the Pap test. The Pap test can find
abnormal cells in the cervix. These cells may, over time, turn into cancer, and
could take many years to happen. If the results of a Pap test show there are
abnormal cells that could become cancerous, a woman can be treated. In most
cases, this treatment prevents cervical cancer from developing.
- Pap tests can also find cervical cancer early. When it is found early, the
chance of being cured is very high. When it is found early and treated,
cervical cancer is highly curable. The most important thing you can do to avoid
getting cervical cancer is to have regular Pap tests.
- Abnormal cells in the cervix and cervical cancer don't always cause
symptoms, especially at first. That's why getting tested for cervical cancer is
important, even if there are no symptoms.
- Community efforts to increase access to and use of cancer screening can
lead to greater cancer screening in your community.