Cancer Prevention: 5 Tips to Help Reduce Your Risk

January 26, 2024
Colorful fruits and vegetables are layered on a plate around a bowl of chocolate hummus

Prevention is always preferred to treatment when it comes to warding off illness and disease. Following a healthy lifestyle can help lower your risk of cancer and other diseases.


February is National Cancer Prevention Awareness Month, a great time to make sure you and your loved ones are taking steps to maintain good health now and year-round.

Here are 5 tips you can start practicing today:


1. Follow a healthy diet and exercise routine.

Eating nutritious foods and getting daily exercise are proactive ways to help keep cancer at bay. A healthy diet and regular exercise program can also help you feel better and maintain good overall health. Here are a few tips to get started: 

  • Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans. These foods are loaded with vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fiber. All these things play a key role in promoting a healthy lifestyle.
  • Limit your intake of red meats, such as beef, pork, and lamb. Eating no more than 12-18 ounces per week helps prevent the onset of colorectal cancer.
  • Maintain a healthy weight for your height and lifestyle. Talk with your health care provider about the right weight range for you.
  • Follow recommended guidelines for physical activity: 150 minutes of moderate activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, per week. Stick to your exercise plan by establishing a support system and setting realistic goals. Talk with your health care provider about what types of exercise are best for your individual needs.
Watch our 20-minute gentle exercise video ― a good class to do prior to starting treatment or after being cleared to do weight-bearing physical activity from your doctor. Stop by our Mind Body Studio for other free guided exercise and meditation videos.


2. Do not smoke or use tobacco products.

Smoking harms the lungs and may lead to cancer. People who smoke more cigarettes or smoke for more years have a higher risk of developing lung cancer. Smoking and tobacco use can also lead to cancers of the mouth, throat, and larynx. Less common cancers caused by smoking and tobacco use include bladder, esophagus, and kidney. Smoking also exposes your loved ones to second-hand smoke. People who have regular exposure to second-hand smoke also have a high risk of developing lung cancer.

Quitting smoking helps decrease your risk of cancer. For example, 5-10 years after quitting, the risk of developing mouth, throat, or larynx cancers is cut in half. The risk of developing lung cancer is cut in half 10-15 years after quitting.


3. Take advantage of available cancer screenings.

Getting regular cancer screenings can provide peace of mind if you are cancer-free. Screenings also can detect some cancers in their early stages, when they may be more easily treated. Certain cancer screenings are available depending on your age, gender, family history, and lifestyle habits, such as tobacco use. Routine cancer screenings are currently available for:

  • Breast cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Skin cancer

Talk to your primary care provider to see which cancer screenings you are eligible for and when.


“I had no signs, no symptoms. The only way my cancer was found was because of a mammogram. … It was an invasive cancer that was growing at a very quick rate. … I am grateful that I was able to have a mammogram and catch it quickly and get into my treatment quickly. And right now, I am cancer-free.”

— Jennifer




4. Limit exposure to sunlight and radiation.

Exposure to radiation, including sunlight, can lead to the development of different types of cancer. Frequent unprotected exposure can lead to skin cancer. When you are in the sunlight for extended periods of time, use sunscreen and wear a wide-brim hat and a long-sleeve shirt. A less common source of radiation is radon, which can be found in your home and can cause lung cancer. Some everyday sources of radiation such as microwaves and cell phones do not increase the risk of cancer. 


Discover More: The #1 Thing You Can Do to Prevent Skin Cancer


5. Abstain from drinking alcohol, or drink it in moderation.

For cancer prevention, it’s best not to drink alcohol. Alcohol in any form — beer, wine, or liquor — has been linked to 7 different cancers. These cancers include liver, colorectal, mouth, throat, voice box, esophagus, and breast. People who choose to consume alcohol should limit these beverages to no more than 1 drink per day for a woman and 2 drinks per day for a man.


While healthy lifestyle choices can’t guarantee cancer prevention, they can help lower the risk of getting cancer. Staying informed, such as understanding risk factors, is a key step in cancer awareness and prevention. Here are a few resources to help you learn more about cancer: