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How to prevent some cancers

Get preventive screenings

Screenings and routine exams 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.

Breast: 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. If you notice changes, it’s important to report them to your healthcare provider.

Cervix: 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.

Prostate: Men age 50 and older should have a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test and digital rectal exam every year.

Colon: Women and men should have their 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.

Skin: Skin checks should be part of your regular routine at home. 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 don’t go away or bleed. If you notice any changes, tell your healthcare provider.

Protect your skin

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

  • Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more .
  • 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, pants and long sleeves.
  • Do not use tanning beds or sunlamps.

Move each day

Research shows that it’s beneficial to exercise for 30 minutes at a moderate rate every day. This means working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat while you can still talk with someone else.

Focus on nutritious foods

Try to eat at least six to eight servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Choose whole grains instead of refined products. Eat less red or processed meat. Limit your daily alcohol intake. For men, this means no more than two drinks. For women? Stick to just one drink. Or none.

Quit smoking (or don't start)

Quitting smoking lowers the risk of getting and dying from cancer. Experts believe smoking causes up to 30 percent of all cancer deaths in the United States.

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