Preventative Medicine Specialist Questions Cancer

Can cancer be prevented?

In my family we have a history of cancer and it is worrying me a lot. Can cancer be prevented? I supposed the better question is, to what degree can cancer be prevented if at all? I know many doctors and researchers do not yet understand the complicated causes.

3 Answers

There are many research studies that show people with low vitamin D have a higher risk of cancer as well as autoimmune disease. To prevent this increased cancer risk vitamin D is better kept near the higher range than the lower range. If there is a high frequency of cancer in your family, there may be genetic mutations in one of more of their vitamin D processing proteins such as alpha-1-hydroxylase, which converts inactive vitamin D to active vitamin D, vitamin binding protein carrying vitamin D to the cells, and the vitamin D receptor.
1. Don't use tobacco: Smoking has been linked to various types of cancer — including cancer of the lung, mouth, throat, larynx, pancreas, bladder, cervix and kidney. Chewing tobacco has been linked to cancer of the oral cavity and pancreas. Even if you don't use tobacco, exposure to secondhand smoke might increase your risk of lung cancer.
2. Eat a healthy diet: Although making healthy selections at the grocery store and at mealtime can't guarantee cancer prevention, it might help reduce your risk. Consider these guidelines:
• Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
• Avoid obesity.
• If you choose to drink alcohol, do so only in moderation.
• Limit processed meats.
3. Maintain a healthy weight and be physically active
Maintaining a healthy weight might lower the risk of various types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, prostate, lung, colon and kidney.
Physical activity counts, too. In addition to helping you control your weight, physical activity on its own might lower the risk of breast cancer and colon cancer.
4. Protect yourself from the sun
Skin cancer is one of the most common kinds of cancer — and one of the most preventable. Try these tips:
• Avoid midday sun. Stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun's rays are strongest.
• Stay in the shade. When you're outdoors, stay in the shade as much as possible. Sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat help, too.
• Cover exposed areas. Wear tightly woven, loosefitting clothing that covers as much of your skin as possible. Opt for bright or dark colors, which reflect more ultraviolet radiation than pastels or bleached cotton.
• Don't skimp on sunscreen. Use generous amounts of sunscreen when you're outdoors, and reapply often.
• Avoid tanning beds and sunlamps. These are just as damaging as natural sunlight.
5. Get immunized
Cancer prevention includes protection from certain viral infections. Talk to your doctor about immunization against:
• Hepatitis B. Hepatitis B can increase the risk of developing liver cancer. The hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for certain high-risk adults — such as adults who are sexually active but not in a mutually monogamous relationship, people with sexually transmitted infections, intravenous drug users, men who have sex with men, and health care or public safety workers who might be exposed to infected blood or body fluids.
• Human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that can lead to cervical and other genital cancers as well as squamous cell cancers of the head and neck. The HPV vaccine is recommended for girls and boys ages 11 and 12. It is also available to both men and women age 26 or younger who didn't have the vaccine as adolescents.
6. Avoid risky behaviors
Another effective cancer prevention tactic is to avoid risky behaviors that can lead to infections that, in turn, might increase the risk of cancer. For example:
• Practice safe sex. Limit your number of sexual partners, and use a condom when you have sex. The more sexual partners you have in your lifetime, the more likely you are to contract a sexually transmitted infection — such as HIV or HPV. People who have HIV or AIDS have a higher risk of cancer of the anus, liver and lung. HPV is most often associated with cervical cancer, but it might also increase the risk of cancer of the anus, penis, throat, vulva and vagina.
• Don't share needles. Sharing needles with an infected drug user can lead to HIV, as well as hepatitis B and hepatitis C — which can increase the risk of liver cancer. If you're concerned about drug abuse or addiction, seek professional help.
7. Get regular medical care
Regular self-exams and screenings for various types of cancers — such as cancer of the skin, colon, cervix and breast — can increase your chances of discovering cancer early, when treatment is most likely to be successful. Ask your doctor about the best cancer screening schedule for you.

The risk of certain cancers can be reduced. Not smoking and avoiding second-hand smoke is the number 1 thing you can do to reduce your risk of cancer. Knowing your family history and getting the best form of screening for that type of cancer is another way to reduce risk. Screening can take many forms, such as with a mammogram (breast cancer), colonoscopy (colon cancer), chest X-ray (lung cancer), or skin checks by your physician (basal and squamous cell cancers and melanoma). Eating well, regular exercise, and staying at your optimum weight will also reduce your risk of cancer.