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What You Need to Know to Prevent Cancer

What You Need to Know to Prevent Cancer

Cancer is the term used to describe more than 100 diseases, all of them relating to your body's most basic biological structural - the cell. Normally, there's a delicate balance between normal cell replication and uncontrolled growth that occurs throughout our lifetime. However, if the balance is disrupted, cancer might occur. Most genes are damaged during a person's lifetime due to a variety of factors including:
Carcinogens: that damage genes, such as those found in cigarette smoke or charcoal-roasted meats.
Excess radiation: that can occur from too much sun. Sun exposure that is intense enough to cause a burn can also damage the genes in skin and can result in skin cancer.
Viruses: such as the HPV virus which is spread by unsafe sexual practices. This virus damages genes and causes most cases of cervical cancer.
High levels of hormones: such as estrogen and insulin, which over time increase the risk for cancer. (Obese people and people with type 2 diabetes have high insulin levels.)
Occupational exposure: to chemicals, including asbestos, benzene, and certain dyes, can damage genes and cause cancer.
Lifestyle factors: that affect the health and immune system, increasing the risk for cancer. These factors include having an inactive lifestyle, being obese, eating very few fruits and vegetables, and eating a lot of saturated fats and red meats. Most cancers can be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle, taking precautions against exposure to carcinogens and excess radiation from the sun, and getting regular preventive exams that can identify cancer early, while it is still treatable.
American Cancer Society. 2009.