Cancer Prevention

The American Cancer Society predicts one in two men—and one in three women—is likely to develop cancer in their lifetime. Here are five ways to reduce your risk for this common disease:

Get preventive screenings

Screenings and routine exams can help detect many cancers before they spread. Cancer of the breast, cervix, prostate, colon and skin have proven screening methods that increase chances of survival.

The leading cancer among women is breast cancer. Women survive 95 percent of the time when it is found early. Prostate cancer is No. 1 among men. When it is found early, 99 percent of men with prostate cancer survive.

For women


  • Women should start having mammograms at age 40 or earlier if there is a family history or increased risk
  • Clinical breast exams and self exams should start at age 20. Report any changes to your healthcare provider.


  • Women age 21 and older should have a Pap smear every two years until age 30. After three negative tests in a row, this test can be done every three years.
  • Factors that increase risk of cervical cancer include:
  • Having more than one sex partner
  • Having sex for the first time at a young age
  • Using birth control pills
  • Smoking

For men


  • Men age 50 and older should have a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test and digital rectal exam every year.
  • You may be at higher risk if:
    • You are African American
    • Your father or brother had prostate cancer before age 65
    • You are age 50 or older
  • Talk to your doctor about the best timing and screening tool for you.

For men and women


  • Have your first colonoscopy at age 50 and then once every 10 years, or have a flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years with annual stool samples.
  • Screening should begin sooner than age 50 if there is a family history of colon cancer.


  • Make skin checks part of your routine. Get to know your moles and other spots and bumps. Changes in their number, size, shape, color and texture could be signs of skin cancer. Watch for newly crusted or scaly areas that persist or bleed. Talk to your healthcare provider if you notice any changes.

Have regular checkups. Perform monthly self-exams. Know your body. Be aware of changes. Call your primary care provider if you have questions or need to schedule an office visit.

Protect your skin

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. It is also easy to prevent. To lower your risk:

  • Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or greater. Broad-spectrum sunscreens block rays that cause deep tissue damage (UVA - long wavelength) and sunburn (UVB - short wavelength).
  • Avoid the sun's strongest rays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • If you cannot stay out of the sun, protect yourself with a wide-brimmed hat, long pants and long sleeves.
  • Do not use tanning beds or sunlamps.

Learn about the early warning signs of skin cancer.

Get moving each day

Research shows that 30 minutes of daily exercise at a moderate rate is best. This means working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat while you can still talk with someone else. Try brisk walking, swimming laps or riding a bike. The more hours you are active, the lower your risk of cancer.

Ready to get active? Visit our wellness site to learn about physical activity programs for all ages.

Eat healthy

  • Eat lighter and leaner. Try to eat at least 6-8 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Choose whole grains instead of refined products. Eat less red or processed meat.
  • Maintain a healthy weight throughout your life. People who weigh more than they should have higher levels of estrogen and insulin—both are linked with tumor growth.
  • Limit your daily alcohol intake. Men should have no more than two drinks. Women should have just one drink.
  • Get health recipes and nutrition advice.

Don't smoke or quit smoking

Quitting smoking lowers the risk of getting and dying from cancer. Experts believe smoking causes 30 percent of all cancer deaths in this country.

Are you ready for a tobacco-free life? Learn about our smoking cessation programs and support groups.

Love + Medicine

Every day, Gundersen Health System delivers great medicine plus a little something extra—we call it Love + Medicine.

Share Your Story