MSD Manual

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Quick Facts

Prevention of Cancer

By

The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Jul 2021| Content last modified Jul 2021
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What can I do to prevent cancer?

There's no way to be sure you'll never get cancer. However, some things can lower the risk of certain cancers:

  • Don't smoke and avoid being around smoke: Lung, kidney, bladder, head, neck, mouth, and tongue cancer

  • Don't use smokeless tobacco (snuff or chew): Head, neck, mouth, and tongue cancer

  • Don't drink too much alcohol: Head, neck, liver, and esophageal (the tube that connects your throat to your stomach) cancer

  • Avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight and use sunscreen: Skin cancer

  • Be careful at work so you don't come in contact with chemicals that can cause cancer: Various cancers

Get vaccines that can prevent types of cancer that are caused by viruses:

Not everyone needs the vaccines, so talk to your doctor about whether you do.

Screening tests to find cancer early aren't really prevention. However, cancer treatment works best when started early. Talk to your doctor about whether you should have screening tests such as the following:

Other tests may be appropriate if you have increased risk of certain cancers (for example, a cancer that runs in your family).

What other actions may help prevent cancer?

Doctors don't know for sure whether diet and physical activity will keep you from getting cancer, but they may help. In any case, these things are good for you to do:

  • Eat a diet of low-fat foods, such as lean meats and low-fat dairy products

  • Limit how much processed meat, such as deli meat, you eat

  • Eat lots of fruits and vegetables

  • Eat lots of whole-grain foods, such as brown rice

  • Get physical activity

  • Keep your weight at a healthy level

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