Healthy lifestyle choices

Research has shown that as many as 80% of cancer occurrences can be prevented through lifestyle and behavioral changes. Here’s a summary:


Do not smoke cigarettes or use any tobacco products, and stay away from second-hand smoke. Not only can smoking cause lung cancer, it is also a risk factor for cancer of the mouth, voice box (larynx), throat (pharynx), esophagus, bladder, kidney, pancreas, cervix, stomach, and some leukemias.


Use sunscreen of SPF 15 (minimum) every day of the year and wear protective clothing. Avoid exposure to sunlight, especially during peak hours of 10 am – 3 pm, and stay away from indoor tanning salons.


Stay at a healthy weight; don’t become obese.


Click here for an array of guidelines and health eating tips.


Get moving with regular physical least 30 minutes per day, three times a week – more if possible.


Avoid stress and learn to handle stressful situations. Make sure you get proper rest and find ways to relax and unwind.


Drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water per day.


Do not drink more than two alcoholic drinks per day if you are a male and one or less if you are a female.


Take supplements that have been shown, in research studies, to aid in the prevention of certain cancers.


Do not ask for an x-ray unless recommended by your dentist or physician. When x-rays are required, ask that a shield be placed over parts of your body not being x-rayed.

Check-ups and cancer screenings

Regular health check-ups are a must. In addition, know yourself, your family history, and your risks. Undergo tests that may detect cancers in their early stages as recommended for your age and family history. Here are some general guidelines:

General cancer

For most adults who have regular health exams, a cancer-related check-up should include health counseling, exams for cancers of the thyroid, oral cavity, skin, lymph nodes, testes, and ovaries, as well as for some non-malignant (non-cancerous) diseases.

Prostate cancer

Beginning at age 50, men should discuss the pros and cons of testing with their doctor to decide if testing is the right choice. Men who are African American or have a father or brother who had prostate cancer before age 65, should have this talk with their doctor starting at age 45. If men decide to be tested, they should have the PSA blood test with or without a rectal exam. Test frequency will depend on their PSA level.

Breast cancer

  • Yearly mammograms are recommended to begin at age 40, continuing as long as a woman is in good health
  • Clinical breast exam (CBE) should be done about every 3 years for women in their 20s and 30s and every year for women 40 and over
  • Women should be familiar with how their breasts normally look and feel and report any breast change promptly to their health care provider. Breast self-exam (BSE) is an option for women starting in their 20s.

Some women – because of their family history, a genetic tendency, or certain other factors – should be screened with MRI in addition to mammograms. (The number of women who fall into this category is small: less than 2% of all the women in the US.) Discuss your medical history with your doctor and whether you should have additional tests at an earlier age.

Cervical cancer

  • Cervical cancer screening (testing) should begin at age 21. Women under age 21 should not be tested.
  • Women between ages 21 and 29 should have a Pap test every 3 years. Now there is also a test called the HPV test. HPV testing should not be used in this age group unless it is needed after an abnormal Pap test result.
  • Women between the ages of 30 and 65 should have a Pap test plus an HPV test (called “co-testing”) every 5 years. This is the preferred approach, but it is also OK to have a Pap test alone every 3 years.
  • Women over age 65 who have had regular cervical cancer testing with normal results should not be tested for cervical cancer. Once testing is stopped, it should not be started again. Women with a history of a serious cervical pre-cancer should continue to be tested for at least 20 years after that diagnosis, even if testing continues past age 65.
  • A woman who has had her uterus removed (and also her cervix) for reasons not related to cervical cancer and who has no history of cervical cancer or serious pre-cancer should not be tested.
  • A woman who has been vaccinated against HPV should still follow the screening recommendations for her age group.

Some women – because of their history – may need to have a different screening schedule for cervical cancer. Please consult your doctor.

Uterine cancer

At the time of menopause, all women should be told about the risks and symptoms of endometrial cancer and should report any unexpected or irregular bleeding or spotting to their doctors.

Some women – because of their history – may need to consider having a yearly endometrial biopsy. Please talk with your doctor about your history.

Polyps and colorectal cancer

Beginning at age 50, both men and women should follow one of these testing schedules:

Tests that find polyps and cancer

  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years*, or
  • Colonoscopy every 10 years, or
  • Double-contrast barium enema every 5 years*, or
  • CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every 5 years*

Tests that primarily find cancer

  • Yearly fecal occult blood test (gFOBT)*,**, or
  • Yearly fecal immunochemical test (FIT) every year*,**, or

* If the test is positive, a colonoscopy should be done.

** The multiple stool take-home test should be used. One test done by the doctor in the office is not adequate for testing. A colonoscopy should be done if the test is positive.

The tests designed to find both early cancer and polyps are preferred if these tests are available to you and you are willing to have one of these more invasive tests. Talk to your doctor about which test is best for you.

Some people should be screened using a different schedule because of their personal history or family history. Talk with your doctor about your history and what colorectal cancer screening schedule is best for you.