Although there is no guaranteed way to prevent cancer, people can reduce their risk (chance) of developing cancer by: 

  • not using tobacco products
  • choosing foods with less fat and eating more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains
  • exercising regularly and maintaining a lean weight
  • avoiding the harmful rays of the sun, using sunscreen, and wearing clothing that protects the skin
  • talking with a doctor about the possible benefits of drugs proven to reduce the risk of certain cancers

Although many risk factors can be avoided, some, such as inherited conditions, are unavoidable. Still, it is helpful to be aware of them. It is also important to keep in mind that not everyone with a particular risk factor for cancer actually gets the disease; in fact, most do not. People who have an increased likelihood of developing cancer can help protect themselves by avoiding risk factors (see Question 2) whenever possible and by getting regular checkups so that, if cancer develops, it is likely to be found and treated early. Treatment is often more effective when cancer is detected early. Screening exams, such as sigmoidoscopy or the fecal occult blood test, mammography, and the Pap test, can detect precancerous conditions (which can be treated before they turn into cancer) and early-stage cancer.

The NCI is conducting many cancer prevention studies to explore ways to reduce the risk of developing cancer. These studies are evaluating dietary supplements, chemopreventive agents,nutrition, personal behaviors, and other factors that may prevent cancer.