Everyday Steps to Help Lower Your Cancer Risk

Every April the American Cancer Society and other organizations work together to raise awareness about cancer among minorities in honor of National Minority Health Month and National Minority Cancer Awareness Week, celebrated this year April 17-23. While minority groups in the United States continue to bear a greater cancer burden than whites, there are things everyone can do to help reduce their cancer risk or improve their chances of beating the disease if they do get it.

1. Get regular cancer screening tests.
Regular screening tests can catch some cancers early, when they’re more treatable. With a few cancers, these tests can even prevent cancer from developing in the first place. Talk with your doctor about the tests for colon, prostate, breast, and cervical cancers.

2. Control your weight.
Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for many cancers, including breast, colorectal, uterine, esophageal, and kidney. You can control your weight by exercising regularly and eating more healthfully.

3. Exercise regularly.
Physical activity has been shown to lower the risk of several types of cancer, including breast, prostate, and colon cancer. It also reduces the risk of other serious diseases like diabetes and heart disease. The Society recommends adults get at least 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity on 5 or more days a week; 45 minutes to an hour is ideal.

4. Eat healthfully.
Eat at least 5 servings of vegetables (including legumes) and fruits each day. Aim for at least 3 servings of whole grains each day. Cutting back on processed and red meats may also help reduce the risk of colon and prostate cancers.

5. Stop smoking.
Smoking damages nearly every organ in the human body, is linked to at least 15 different cancers, and accounts for some 30 percent of all cancer deaths. Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your loved ones.

Reviewed by: Members of the ACS Medical Content Staff


March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month

ColonCancerAwareness_rgb_SMALL_edited-1.jpgColorectal cancer (commonly referred to as colon cancer) can be easily prevented; yet it remains the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in men and women in the United States and will claim approximately 49,920 American lives this year. In Nebraska, 950 individuals will be diagnosed with colon cancer this year, and 350 will die from the disease. According to the American Cancer Society, the nation’s leading voluntary health organization, many of those lives could be saved if people better understood the risks for the disease and got tested regularly. Colon cancer screening tests identify suspicious or pre-cancerous polyps, which can be removed before they develop into a serious health problem.

“Routine colon cancer testing can actually prevent the disease from occurring,” said Mike Lefler, Director of Communications for the Nebraska Region of the American Cancer Society. “Societal roadblocks, however, need to be overcome to make this the norm. Many people find colon cancer an embarrassing topic to discuss, even with their doctors. For a variety of reasons, many doctors do not discuss the issue with patients at risk for the disease, including those 50 or older and African Americans.”

Preventing colon cancer altogether through testing is the ideal outcome, but early detection of the disease also yields important health benefits. Nationally, people whose colon cancers are found at an early stage through testing have five-year survival rates of 90 percent. However, only 39 percent of colon cancers are detected in the earliest stages. Of those whose cancers are found at the late stage, the five-year survival rate is less than 10 percent.

This March, as the natin observes the 2010 National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, the American Cancer Society is boosting efforts to increase colon cancer testing and to eliminate the taboo associated with talking about the disease – for the public and the medical community.

Both men and women are at risk for colon cancer. Personal risk varies, so your doctor can help you make informed decisions about when to begin testing and the most appropriate testing method for you. Factors associated with increased risk for colon cancer include:

  • Age – most diagnosed are 50 or older
  • Race – African Americans are at greater risk
  • Personal or family history of colon cancer
  • Personal or family history of intestinal polyps
  • Personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative or Crohn’s colitis)
  • Certain genetic factors (familial adenomatous polyposis, Gardner’s syndrome, hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer, Ashkenazi Jewish descent)
  • Smoking or use of other tobacco products
  • Physical inactivity
  • Diets high in red meat

For information about colon cancer detection and prevention, call toll-free anytime 1-800-ACS-2345 or visit the American Cancer Society Web site at http://www.cancer.org.

National Women’s Health Week is May 10-16

National Women’s Health Week, which is May 10-16 and Mother’s Day, are perfect opportunities to remind female friends and family about the importance of talking to their doctor about cancer screenings, such as mammograms.


Mammography can detect breast cancer at an early stage when treatment may be more effective. Mammography x-rays are quick, easy, and safe. In fact, mammograms use less radiation than a dentist’s x-ray. Recent evidence has confirmed that mammograms offer substantial benefit for women starting in their 40s. Women can feel confident about the benefits associated with regular mammograms for finding cancer early.  Often a woman and her doctor may not feel a lump until it is the size of a pea. But a mammogram can find cancers when they are very small, often several years before a lump or change can be felt. As women grow older, their chances of having breast cancer will increase. Almost half of all breast cancer occurs in women 65 and older; more than three-quarters of them occur in women 50 and older.


According to the American Cancer Society in 2008, an estimated 182,460 new cases of invasive breast cancer were expected to occur among women in the U.S.; and approximately 40,480 women died of the disease. Among Hispanic women, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer; an estimated 14,300 Hispanic women were expected to be diagnosed in 2006. In 2007 an estimated 19,010 African American women were to be diagnosed with breast cancer and 5,830 were expected to succumb of the disease.


Another disease women should be aware of and visit with their doctor about is cervical cancer. According to the Society most cervical precancers develop slowly, so nearly all cases can be prevented if a woman is screened regularly. An estimated 11,070 cases of invasive cervical cancer were diagnosed in 2008. Incidence rates have decreased steadily over the past several decades in both white and African American women. In 2006 an estimated 2,000 Hispanic women in the United States were to be diagnosed with cervical cancer and 350 die from it. As Pap screening has become more common, pre-invasive lesions of the cervix are detected far more frequently than invasive cancer. As a result, mortality rates have declined steadily due to prevention and early detection.


Numerous studies have shown that early detection saves lives and increases treatment options. The following Society guidelines are for the early detection of cancer for people without symptoms. Some people are at higher risk for certain cancers and may need to have tests more frequently. Talk with your health care professional to find out how these guidelines relate to you.


Cancer-related Checkup

This exam should include health counseling and depending on a person’s age, might include examinations for cancers of the thyroid, oral cavity, skin, lymph nodes, and ovaries, as well as for some nonmalignant diseases.





Ÿ         Women age 40 and older should have an annual mammogram and clinical breast exam (CBE) performed by a health care professional during a periodic health exam. Women in their 20s and 30s should have a CBE about every three years. Breast self-exam is an option for women starting in their 20s.


Ÿ         Women at increased risk (family history, genetic tendency, past breast cancer) should consult their doctor about the benefits and limitations of starting mammography screening earlier, having additional tests, or having more frequent exams.


Ÿ         Women should report any breast changes promptly to their health care providers.


Ÿ         Screening MRI is recommended for women with an approximately 20-25 percent or greater lifetime risk of breast cancer, including women with a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer and women who were treated for Hodgkin disease.



Ÿ         Cervix — Annual testing with regular Pap tests or every two years using liquid-based tests should start approximately three years after a woman begins having vaginal intercourse, but no later than 21 years of age. At or after age 30, women with three or more consecutive normal test results, may get screened every two to three years. Cervical cancer screening with HPV DNA testing and conventional or liquid-based cytology could be performed every three years.


Alternatively, cervical cancer testing with HPV DNA testing and conventional or liquid-based cytology could be performed every three years. Doctors may suggest regular screenings if a woman has certain risk factors, such as HIV infection or a weak immune system. Women age 70 and older who have had three or more consecutive normal Pap tests in the last 10 years may choose to stop cervical cancer testing.Testing after total hysterectomy (with removal of the cervix) is not necessary unless the surgery was done as a treatment for cervical cancer.


Ÿ        Endometrium — Beginning at age 35, women with or at high risk for hereditary non- polyposis colon cancer should be offered endometrial biopsy annually to screen for endometrial cancer. At the time of menopause all women should be informed about the risks and symptoms of endometrial cancer and strongly encouraged to report any unexpected bleeding or spotting to their physicians.



Colon & Rectum

Beginning at age 50, men and women should follow one of the examination schedules below:


Tests That Detect Adenomatous Polyps and Cancer

·        Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years, or

·        Colonoscopy every 10 years, or

·        Double contrast barium enema (DCBE) every 5 years, or

·        CT colonography (CTC) every 5 years

Tests That Primarily Detect Cancer

·        Annual guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) with high test sensitivity for cancer, or

·        Annual fecal immunochemical test (FIT) with high test sensitivity for cancer, or

·        Stool DNA test (sDNA), with high sensitivity for cancer, interval uncertain.


People at moderate or high risk for colon cancer should talk with their doctor about a different testing schedule.


For more information on cancer prevention and detection, contact your American Cancer

Society at 1-800-ACS-2345 or visit their Web site at www.cancer.org.