Many individuals fear a cancer diagnosis for themselves or their loved ones, and want to know whether or not cancer can be prevented. Unfortunately, the answer to this is a bit complicated. While cancer is not just about bad luck and genetics, there is actually no guaranteed or proven way to prevent it (especially because anyone of any age can be diagnosed with cancer). Here’s what you need to know:
- There are many things that contribute to cancer risk, including genetics, lifestyle, and environment. Unfortunately, many patients are not aware of what the potential risks are.
- Cancer is caused by damage to DNA. Things like tobacco chemicals and UV rays can damage DNA. When there is too much damage to a cell’s DNA, it can multiply out of control—and cancer is the result.
- Damaged DNA can be inherited from parents, and we see this in cancers that are more closely linked to genetics, like breast and ovarian cancers.
- Scientists estimate that many cases of cancer could be prevented by things like healthy weight, avoiding tobacco, eating a balanced diet, being safe in the sun, staying active, and avoiding workplace dangers.
Think of it this way: it is possible to smoke and never be diagnosed with lung cancer, while a non-smoker does develop lung cancer. However, this scenario is less likely than a regular smoker developing lung cancer. So while you cannot guarantee cancer prevention by making lifestyle changes, you can still shift the odds in your favor. Just as you can never guarantee that you will never get into a car accident, you can reduce your risks by being a careful driver. As an added benefit, making positive lifestyle changes can improve other areas of your life and health as well.
Above all, remember to improve your chances of responding to treatment by catching warning signs early with cancer screenings, such as mammograms, colonoscopies, prostate exams, mole checks, and pap smears.