February is National Cancer Prevention Month

More than 40 percent of all cancers diagnosed and nearly half of all deaths from cancer in the United States can be attributed to preventable causes – things like smoking, excess body weight, physical inactivity, and excessive exposure to the sun. (Source: American Cancer Society)

February is National Cancer Prevention Month and provides the opportunity to educate patients and the public about how the choices they make every day can affect their health and risk for cancer.

Thanks to decades of research, several factors have been identified that increase a person’s risk of developing and/or dying from cancer. Given that several of these risk factors such as smoking, excess body weight, unhealthy diet, exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, and infection with certain pathogens can be avoided, many cases of cancer could potentially be prevented.

Prevent Cancer Foundation cites 7 steps to reduce the risk for cancer:

  1. Don’t use tobacco
  2. Protect your skin from the sun
  3. Eat a healthy diet
  4. Maintain a healthy weight and be physically active
  5. Practice safer sex and avoid risky behaviors
  6. Get immunized (HPV and hepatitis vaccines)
  7. Know your family medical history and get regular cancer screenings


Many cancer risk factors are also associated with other chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, respiratory diseases, and diabetes. Thus, public education and policy initiatives to reduce or eliminate exposure to potentially modifiable cancer risk factors have the potential to reduce the burden of several other diseases in addition to cancer.

The North Dakota Statewide Cancer Control Plan cites the overarching goal of preventing cancer by reducing risks and improving healthy behaviors. Objectives include decreasing adult obesity, increasing physical activity, improving sun safety, increasing the number of age-appropriate HPV vaccinations, and decreasing tobacco use. A comprehensive list of strategies to achieve these objectives are also noted. Prevention is key to NDCC’s mission of reducing the incidence and impact of cancer for all North Dakotans.

Check out these resources:

Preventing Cancer: Identifying Risk Factors | American Association for Cancer Research
Disparities in the Burden of Avoidable Cancer Risk Factors (Infographic) | American Association for Cancer Research
How to Prevent Cancer or Find it Early | CDC
Cancer Prevention Overview-Patient Version | National Cancer Institute
Cancer Prevention Overview-Healthcare Professional Version | National Cancer Institute
Stay Healthy—Reduce Your Risk of Cancer | American Cancer Society

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