Open Accessibility Menu

Cancer Prevention: What to Know to Lower Your Risk

Cancer Prevention: What to Know to Lower Your Risk

February is National Cancer Prevention Month and a good time to highlight ways to prevent or reduce your risk of developing the disease.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States behind heart disease.

More than 1.6 million new cancer cases arise each year in the U.S with more than 600,000 deaths a year, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So, what are the leading causes of preventable cancer deaths, and what can we do to lower the risk of cancer? We asked Morgan O’Brien, MD, of Shenandoah Oncology, a board-certified physician in Internal Medicine, Medical Oncology and Hematology who serves on Valley Health’s medical staff.

There are many causes of preventable cancer death, which means there is so much we can all do to help minimize our risk of malignancy: avoiding tobacco, wearing skin protection in the sun, and getting vaccinated for human papillomavirus, or HPV.

The most common preventable cause is tobacco smoke, both first and secondhand. So, avoiding tobacco and quitting can help dramatically reduce one’s cancer risk. Though easy to say, it is often hard to quit smoking, but thankfully there are tons of resources and even medications that can help.

Another common cause of cancer that we can all minimize is avoiding sun damage with sunblock and skin-protective clothing, which reduces the likelihood of melanoma.

In the recent years, one of the most exciting and easiest ways to avoid certain cancers, such as genitourinary cancers—those relating to the genital and urinary organs like bladder, kidney and testicular cancer—is to have the HPV vaccine series. This vaccine actually PREVENTS cancer! Data shows that it could prevent 33,700 of the 36,500 cancers caused by HPV each year! As the CDC says, that is a baseball stadium worth of cancer prevention each year with two to three simple injections!