Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Is cancer prevention possible or is it unavoidable?"
Will it strike when it strikes? Is there anything I can do about it? I'm 33 right now. I'm more frightened of cancer than I am anything else.
Cancer is defined as a broad category of human disease wherein there is abnormal and unlimited proliferation of human cells derived from a single mutated cell. Cancer can occur in virtually any tissue, but is more common in tissues that have high cell turnover such the GI tract and glandular tissues like the thyroid, breast, prostate, etc. Cancer is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the United States. Some of the most common cancers are those of the breast, prostate, colon, and lung. The most important steps an individual can take towards reducing the risk of developing cancer are actually fairly straight forward. A healthy, low-risk lifestyle is paramount. If you do not smoke, drink alcohol, or use illicit drugs you have already taken a significant step towards reducing your risk for cancer. Eating a diet low in fat and high in fiber has been found to be important in reducing the risk for colon cancer. Also consuming certain meats, especially red meats and smoked meats, has been shown to be correlated with certain cancers of the GI tract, so if possible these may be avoided or consumed in moderation. Maintaining a healthy weight is also important, not only to reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, but also to reduce the risk of certain cancers. Another very important way to decrease your risk of morbidity or mortality from cancer is to see a primary care physician regularly so that they can recommend the appropriate screening, such as breast exams, mammograms, and Pap smears for women; prostate exams and PSA screening for men; and screening colonoscopy for both sexes. If you live a healthy, low-risk lifestyle and visit a primary care physician annually; you are doing the only things that everyone can do that have been definitively proven to reduce the morbidity and mortality due to cancer. I would recommend you make an annual appointment with a primary care physician and bring up these concerns in person, as there is no substitute for thorough examination by a knowledgeable physician in determining your risk for cancer and what steps you may be able to take to prevent it.
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