February is cancer prevention month. Approximately 38.4 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, according to the National Cancer Institute.
However, there are several steps people can take to prevent cancer, according to Dr. Muhammad Memon, medical oncologist at Lewistown-Geisinger Hospital.
“There are many things that patients can do to help them not get cancer,” Memon said.
The primary prevention method, he explained, is screening.
“It has been proven in randomized trials that these tests can improve your life by detecting diseases earlier,” Memon said. He added, “Cancer is a deadly disease, unfortunately. The earlier you are diagnosed, the better the outcome.”
He explained a person’s likelihood of defeating cancer is much greater if it is caught at an earlier stage.
“Screening for breast cancer is recommended at 40 and above,” he said. “Mammograms (should be done) on a yearly basis.”
He added those with family histories of cancer may want to consider screening earlier than 40.
“Screenings for cervix, breast and colon cancer … should be done once every five to 10 years, usually starting around age 50,” he said.
Other than screenings, people can also prevent cancer by altering their lifestyle.
“People who are smoking have significant increases in contracting cancer,” Memon said. “Smoking causes many cancers, including mouth, lips, throat and lung cancer. It has been proven that people who stop smoking decrease their risk of developing cancer.”
Memon explained that for people that used to smoke, it takes around 10 years for their chance of developing cancer to return to normal.
Memon also said smoking can interfere with cancer treatment.
“Responding to treatment is lower if the patient continues to smoke (during treatment),” Memon said. “The chance of contracting cancer again is also much higher.”
There are other lifestyle changes that can help prevent cancer.
“It has been shown that people who are overweight increase their risk of cancer,” Memon said. “Eat healthy food … have a healthy diet, these things help prevent any kind of cancer.”
He also suggested limiting sun exposure and using sunscreen to prevent risk of contracting skin cancer and melanoma.
“Another prevention is we know that the vaccination against hepatitis can decrease the risk of hepatocolic carcinoma,” Memon said. He explained that in countries with high hepatitis rates, there are also high rates of liver and colon cancer, or hepatocolic carcinoma. Those who are vaccinated against hepatitis have a decreased chance of contracting liver cancer.
Memon also said there are some things that people say are preventative of cancer but have no scientific proof behind them.
“Most of the vitamins do not make any difference,” he said. “A lot of people are taking vitamin C and vitamin D to decrease the risk, but unfortunately there is not any scientific evidence to my knowledge that has proven (those vitamins) decrease the risk of cancer.”
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