Research studies have shown that some types of cancer are linked to
an individual genetics (traits inherited from biological
parents), lifestyle, and environmental exposures, although causes for a large
proportion of cancers remain unknown. Some risk factors for cancer can be
modified (see below). Other factors, such as family history, cannot be altered.
However, finding out about family history and genetic risks for cancer can
help with early detection and better treatment. The May 26, 2004, issue of JAMA includes several articles about cancer.
Cigarette smoking is the number one preventable cause of cancer. Cigarette
smoking is linked to many different kinds of cancer and at least one third
of all cancer deaths. More than 40 compounds in cigarette smoke have been
identified as carcinogenic cancer-causing).
Obesity and overweight have been linked to development of several cancers,
including breast, colon, and uterine. Eating healthful foods in smaller portions
can help to reduce or maintain weight in a healthful range.
Eat at least 5 servings of fruit and vegetables every day.
Limit your intake of saturated fats from meats, full-fat dairy
products, and processed foods.
Include high-fiber choices (whole-grain breads and cereals, raw
fruits and vegetables).
Avoid foods that have been charred or blackened because they may
have higher levels of carcinogens.
Excessive alcohol use has been shown to cause esophageal cancer and
oral cancers and has been linked to development of other types of cancers
Exposure to sun and tanning beds is a risk factor for skin cancer.
Stay out of the sun during high-exposure times (10 AM-4 PM).
Use sunscreen with SPF (sun protection
factor) of at least 15.
Wear protective clothing, including sunglasses.
Avoid tanning in either natural or artificial sunlight.
Physical inactivity has been linked to development of several cancers,
including colon and breast cancer. Regular exercise reduces these risks and
brings many health benefits.
Some type of regular exercise should be done most days of the week for
at least 30 minutes. Even small efforts to increase your daily physical activity
can be helpful (taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking farther
away and walking, taking walks with friends or a dog).
Be aware of radiation (x-ray) and chemical
hazards at your home or place of employment. Materials safety data sheets
(MSDSs) contain information about carcinogens and should be available if you
work with hazardous materials.
American Cancer Society 800/227-2345 http://www.cancer.org
National Cancer Institute 800/4-CANCERhttp://www.cancer.gov or http://www.nci.nih.gov
National Comprehensive Cancer Network 888/909-NCCN http://www.nccn.org
To find this and previous JAMA Patient Pages, go to the Patient Page
link on JAMA's Web site at http://www.jama.com. A Patient Page on stomach cancer was published in the January 14,
2004, issue; one on colon cancer screening was published in the March 12,
2003, issue; one on lung cancer was published in the January 15, 2003, issue;
one on ovarian cancer was published in the July 17, 2002, issue; and one on
cancer and children was published in the April 10, 2002, issue.
Sources: American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, National
Comprehensive Cancer Network
The JAMA Patient Page is a public service of JAMA. The information and recommendations appearing on this page are appropriate
in most instances, but they are not a substitute for medical diagnosis. For
specific information concerning your personal medical condition, JAMA suggests that you consult your physician. This page may be photocopied
noncommercially by physicians and other health care professionals to share
with patients. Any other print or online reproduction is subject to AMA approval.
To purchase bulk reprints, call 718/946-7424.
Torpy JM, Lynm C, Glass RM. Preventing Cancer. JAMA. 2004;291(20):2510. doi:10.1001/jama.291.20.2510