Cancer Prevention

About 40% of U.S. cancer cases may be avoidable by making healthier lifestyle choices. Use these prevention tips to reduce the odds of cancer affecting your life. 

Cancer Prevention Tips

Avoid Tobacco & Secondhand Smoke

Tobacco use is linked to at least 12 types of cancer throughout the body. Using tobacco in any form ― or being exposed to secondhand smoke ― increases your risk of developing cancer and other diseases. Tobacco smoke contains cancer-causing chemicals (carcinogens) and nicotine, a highly addictive substance.

The National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society offer free resources to help you stop using tobacco.

Are E-cigarettes Safe?

E-cigarettes (electronic cigarettes) carry some of the same health risks as tobacco. Cancer-causing chemicals (and usually nicotine) are heated into a vapor that’s inhaled into the lungs. Using e-cigarettes is often referred to as “vaping.”

While research into e-cigarette safety is ongoing, some studies suggest vaping may cause loss of lung function and abnormal cell growth in the bronchi of the lungs.

Adopt Healthy Eating Habits

Good nutrition makes a big difference to your overall health, including your cancer risk. These healthy-eating habits can help lower your risk of cancer and other serious illnesses.

Choose Lean Proteins

Opt for lean proteins like fish, poultry or tofu to improve your overall nutrition. Limit your intake of red meat and processed meats. It’s also best to avoid cooking meats at high temperatures. Try baking, roasting and braising instead.

Incorporate Plant-Based Foods

Try eating more “meatless” meals by cooking with beans, tofu, legumes, nuts and seeds. Aim for a plate with half vegetables (cooked or raw), a quarter lean protein and a quarter whole grains. Make sure you’re eating fruits daily — especially whole fruits in a variety of colors.

Avoid Processed & Refined Sugar

Limit your intake of sugar-sweetened beverages, sugary foods, cereals and snacks for healthy weight control.

Limit Alcohol

Limit your alcohol intake to no more than one drink per day for women and two for men. Consider choosing water or green tea instead of alcoholic beverages.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

Being overweight or obese increases your risk of many types of cancer. Body mass index (BMI) is a tool for measuring whether you’re at a healthy weight for your height. A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is ideal, and a score of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight. A BMI over 30 indicates obesity.

If you’re overweight or obese, talk with your Mercy provider about weight loss strategies and treatments.

Get Regular Exercise

For healthy adults, exercising at least 150 minutes a week (including two days of strength training) can improve overall health and increase lean muscle. Strive to be as active as possible throughout your day and limit sedentary behaviors. Make simple changes like parking your car farther away, taking the stairs and walking during work breaks. 

Reduce Stress

Learning to manage chronic psychological stress can help you lead a more balanced and healthier life. Getting enough sleep, deep breathing and meditation, setting limits for yourself to avoid stress and exhaustion, yoga, and alternative therapies such as acupuncture, aromatherapy, and massage all help support a healthy immune system.

Be Safe in the Sun

Getting too much sun increases your exposure to harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays, which may lead to skin cancer. Try to limit your sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when rays are strongest. Wear wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses and clothing that covers as much skin as possible. Apply a daily sunscreen to your face and ears with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. Use SPF 30 or greater when you’re outdoors, even if it’s cloudy ― and reapply every two hours.

Get Vaccinated

Human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis B virus cause infections that can lead to cancers of the cervix, throat and liver. Ask your Mercy doctor if you should receive these vaccines.

See Your Doctor Regularly

Regular visits with your Mercy primary care provider can help you identify cancer early, even before symptoms appear. The frequency of visits depends on your age and current health, so be sure to ask your doctor. And If you have chronic medical conditions, take medications or have ongoing concerns, you may need to see a Mercy provider more frequently. 

Do Your Self-Exams

Many cancers are highly treatable when caught early, so it’s essential to keep up with self-exams. Everyone should examine their skin from head-to-toe each month, looking for new, changing or unusual areas of the skin. Beginning at age 19, women should perform regular breast self-exams to check for lumps or abnormalities. And men should perform monthly testicular self-exams to check for lumps or other irregularities.

Get Preventive Cancer Screenings

Screening recommendations may vary based on your age, race, gender, medical history and whether you’re experiencing cancer signs or symptoms.

Not sure which screenings you need or when? Just ask your Mercy provider. Depending on your overall health and risk factors, your doctor may recommend a different screening schedule. 

Cancer Screenings

Mercy offers many types of screening tests to detect and prevent a wide range of cancers.

Learn more