It’s Cancer Prevention Month – How Will You Reduce Your Risk?

Story by Lynne Hayes

The new year is always a great time for a fresh start, a new chapter, and a change of attitude. It’s one of the reasons why the American Association for Cancer Research designates February as National Cancer Prevention Month.

It’s the perfect time to take stock of your health and your lifestyle and ask yourself if you’re doing all you can to help prevent illness and disease, including several types of cancer.

Many of us falsely believe that we don’t have the power to fend off the big “C”, but that’s not the case. In fact, cancer prevention actually begins with YOU.

As an example, while fewer Americans are smoking thanks to educational campaigns over the last 5 decades, today, three out of 10 cancer deaths are still caused by cigarette smoking, and lung cancer is still the leading cause of cancer-related deaths for both men and women.

The decision to stop smoking – and to engage in a healthier lifestyle – is on every individual’s shoulders – and the life you save is your own.

Three Preventive Measures You Can Take Starting Now

Medical experts recommend that everyone adopt three key actions in 2024 (and beyond) to reduce their cancer risk:

  1. Make healthier lifestyle choices – Research has shown that more than 40 percent of cancer cases (other than non-melanoma skin cancer) can be attributed to our own behaviors – smoking, carrying excess body weight, lack of physical activity, and excessive exposure to the sun, among others. Put another way, four out of 10 cancer cases are associated with preventable risk factors. The fixes are easy to follow and very effective: wear sunscreen, limit your alcohol consumption, choose a healthy diet, quit smoking, maintain a healthy weight, and stay active.


  1. Stay up to date on vaccines – Many of us still don’t get the vaccines known to prevent certain types of cancer. Two examples include the HPV vaccine (recommended for preteens through age 26) which prevents cancers such as cervical cancer which is caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), a very common sexually transmitted infection. Additionally, the Hepatitis B vaccine (recommended for all adults once in their lifetime) which protects against a liver disease that can lead to liver cancer.


  1. Go for regular screening tests – Modern medicine has given us numerous ways to monitor our “inside” health, and we all owe it to ourselves to take advantage of screenings which may find cancers of the cervix, colon, breast, lung, prostate, thyroid, and others early, when treatments can be most effective. The American Cancer Society has set guidelines for recommended screenings by age. Of course, it’s always a good idea to consult with your primary care physician to learn what’s best for you based on your health history.

Closing your eyes to cancer risks won’t make them go away. Awareness, education, and positive action are all your best defenses against this disease. Last year, it was estimated that 2 million people were diagnosed with cancer (other than non-melanoma skin cancer) and that more than 600,000 of them died from their disease. Now that you know more about the steps you can take to better protect yourself, let’s make 2024 the year those numbers plummet – and you have your healthiest year ever.

Ready to test your cancer knowledge? Take the short Cancer Prevention Quiz and check your expertise.