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Health library

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Reviewed 12/1/2020

6 ways to avoid cancer

About 40% of cancer cases can be prevented by following six basic steps.

Pull the levers to get tips about each cancer prevention behavior.


  • Smoking is the No. 1 risk factor for cancer.
  • Every death from tobacco is preventable.
  • Every form of tobacco causes cancer.


  • The HPV vaccine protects against cervical, throat, anal and other cancers.
  • The hepatitis B vaccine can protect against liver cancer.


  • Limit sedentary behavior.
  • Be physically active at least 30 minutes daily.
  • Get up and move around regularly.


  • Eat whole grains.
  • Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and legumes (such as beans).
  • Limit how much red meat you eat.
  • Avoid processed meats.
  • Limit sodium.


  • Limit high-calorie foods.
  • Avoid excess fat around the waist.
  • Fill your plate with plant-based foods.
  • Stay lean, but not underweight.
  • Avoid sugary drinks.


  • Seek shade whenever you can.
  • Use sunscreen to block harmful UVA and UVB rays.
  • Choose high-SPF sunscreen with broad-spectrum protection.
  • Avoid sunbeds and tanning booths.
  • Wear a broad-brimmed hat and wraparound sunglasses.

Learn the myths and facts behind cancer prevention by taking this quiz.

Sources: American Cancer Society; American Institute for Cancer Research; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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