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Ask the Medical Expert Archives 2000-2004

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Cancer Prevention
April 2000

Q. What can I do to prevent cancer?

A. We often hope we can "prevent" a disease. Actually, this is a bit complex. Most things that we do as part of "preventive medicine" decrease the chances of a disease or decrease the chances of dying from a disease. For example, mammograms do not prevent breast cancer. However, they do decrease the chance a woman will die from breast cancer.

There is little that can be done to guarantee a cancer will not occur in any individual. Even lung cancer, which is strongly associated with cigarette smoking, can occur in a person who is not a smoker. Certain screening tests, such as Pap smears and mammograms, can find a cancer early, and there are general rules to help decrease your chances of getting a cancer.

The American Cancer Society's web site has a great section on preventing cancer and risk factors (see http://www3.cancer.org/cancerinfo/load_cont.asp?st=pr&ct=1). This section is split into some general thoughts (like tobacco use and sun exposure) to certain environmental risks and a section on nutrition and diet.

In my opinion it is never too late to start living healthy. A good diet, low in fat and high in fruits and vegetables, is a great place to begin.

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