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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You may be making health decisions based on incorrect or outdated information.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 diet
  • balancing calories with physical activity
  • being physically active
  • protecting skin from sunlight
  • supporting community efforts to develop a healthy social and physical environment

Breast Cancer

  • Researchers estimate that a fourth to a third of breast cancers in postmenopausal women may be due to physical inactivity and overweight/obesity.*
  • 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 cancer.
  • 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

  • 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.

WebMD Public Information from the CDC

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