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15 ways to reduce your cancer risk

Fred Hutch's Dr. Anne McTiernan offers tips on what you can do to help protect your health
Anne McTiernan
Dr. Anne McTiernan, a cancer prevention researcher in the Public Health Sciences Division at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Photo by Susie Fitzhugh for Fred Hutch

Wondering what steps you can take to reduce your cancer risk? Dr. Anne McTiernan, a cancer prevention researcher in the Public Health Sciences Division at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, offers the following tips:

  • Don’t smoke or use any tobacco products. 
  • Don’t smoke other products (i.e., marijuana). Research shows smoking anything increases the risk for lung cancer.
  • Minimize alcohol intake. For women, the recommendation is one drink a day or fewer. For men, no more than two drinks a day.
  • Keep your weight in a normal range (BMI under 25). Focus on nutritious foods like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Minimize intake of sugary drinks and calorie-dense foods.
  • Limit consumption of red meats. This includes beef, pork, and lamb. Also, avoid processed meats.
  • Don't use supplements to try to protect against cancer. 
  • Be physically active. Aim for at least 30 minutes a day of moderate-intensity exercise.
  • Limit sun exposure. Cover up and use sunscreen.
  • Avoid unnecessary X-ray or CT scan tests. These tests involve radiation that can cause cancers.
  • Avoid menopausal hormone-replacement therapy.
  • If you have kids, breast-feed your babies for at least six months.
  • Get screened for cancer. Check with your doctor or health care provider about what type of screening is right for you. Screening finds cancer early, at more treatable stages, or can find growths before they become cancerous. Screenings are available and effective for breast, colorectal, cervix, skin and lung cancers. In addition, some men may benefit from prostate cancer screening.
  • Consider preventive vaccines (such as the HPV vaccine to prevent cervical cancer or the hepatitis B vaccine to lower the risk of liver cancer).
  • Know your risk. Medications to reduce the risk for breast, colon or prostate cancer are available for those at high risk.
  • Know your family history. For those with a strong family history of cancer or with precancerous conditions, additional prevention methods (including surgery) are available. Talk with your doctor or health care provider, who may refer you to a specialty clinic.
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Last Modified, September 21, 2021