6 Daily Habits That Help Prevent Cancer

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Nancy LeBrun on November 10, 2020
  • couple-power-walking-in-park
    The Cancer Risks You Can Control
    What if you could stop cancer before it begins? Experts say the majority of cancers in the United States are preventable, and that simply making healthy lifestyle choices can reduce the risk of developing many forms of the disease. These daily do’s and don’ts may sound familiar, but the evidence is strong that following these steps each day can help keep you cancer-free down the road. 
  • Colleagues taking smoke break outdoors
    1. Don’t smoke, and if you do, quit.
    Lung cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer in the United States—responsible for about 30% of all cancer deaths—and it’s also the most preventable. If you stop using tobacco, your risk drops, no matter how old you are or how much you use. There is no safe level of smoke, whether it’s from cigarettes, pipes, or even secondhand. Using tobacco is a risk factor for many other types of cancer too, including leukemia, bladder, kidney and pancreatic cancer. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do, ask your doctor about ways to help you quit for good.
  • woman-stretching-on-exercise-mat
    2. Maintain a healthy weight.
    You probably know obesity can lead to many health conditions like heart disease and diabetes, but you may not be aware it also increases the risk for several kinds of cancer, including colon and breast cancer. Experts think fatty tissue may disturb the balance of certain hormones, which can lead to the development of tumors. If you are overweight or obese, don’t wait to start a safe weight loss program. Reducing your waistline means reducing your cancer risk, too.
  • basketball-player-dunking
    3. Be active.
    There is convincing evidence that physical activity lowers the risk of colon and breast cancer. Staying active may also reduce the chance of prostate, lung, and endometrial (lining of the uterus) cancer. Despite the many benefits of being active, more than 50% of Americans aren’t getting the recommended amount of regular physical activity. Shoot for 30 minutes a day, five days a week of moderate activity or 20 minutes, three times a week of vigorous activity or exercise.
  • Salmon fish fillet with fresh herbs
    4. Eat healthy foods.
    Eating plenty of fruit and non-starchy vegetables (think broccoli, spinach, carrots, cucumbers) may protect against oral, esophageal and stomach cancer, and fruit may also protect against lung cancer. Stay away from processed meats like most hot dogs, bacon and lunchmeats, which raise your risk of colorectal cancer. The link between cancer and red meat like beef, veal and lamb is less clear, but for several health reasons, it’s better to keep the amount of red meat you eat to about 18 ounces per week.
  • Man drinking pint of beer
    5. Moderate your alcohol intake.
    You may have heard red wine lowers your risk of getting cancer, but there’s no scientific basis for the claim. In fact, heavy drinking increases your chances of developing oral, throat, and esophageal cancers as well as liver, breast, and colorectal cancers. The more you drink, the higher your risk. If you drink, keep your alcohol consumption moderate: up to two drinks a day for men and up to one drink a day for women. 
  • Sun shinning in blue sky
    7. Avoid too much sun.
    Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer; more than 3 million people a year are diagnosed with at least one cancerous lesion. Cases of melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, will top 75,000 in the United States in 2016. The biggest cause of skin cancer is exposure to too much UV light, whether from the sun or tanning beds. So stay away from the suntan parlors, and head for the shade between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun is at its most intense. Put on a shirt, hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen to lower your exposure to harmful radiation if you’re heading outdoors for more than a few minutes. A few extra steps now could save you a cancer diagnosis in the future.
6 Daily Habits That Help Prevent Cancer


  1. Diet and Physical Activity: What’s the Cancer Connection? American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/dietandphysicalactivity/diet-and-physical-activity
  2. Cancer prevention: 7 tips to reduce your risk. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/cancer-prevention/art-20044816
  3. Cancer Prevention and Treatment. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/cancer
  4. Risk Factors: Tobacco. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/tobacco
  5. Tobacco-related Cancer Fact Sheet. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/tobaccocancer/tobacco-related-cancer-fact-sheet
  6. Skin Cancer Facts. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/sunanduvexposure/skin-cancer-facts
  7. Common Questions About Diet and Cancer. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/healthy/eathealthygetactive/acsguidelinesonnutritionphysicalactivityforcancerprevention/acs-guidelines-on-nutrition-and-physical-activity-for-cancer-prevention-common-questions
  8. Recommendations – red meat. American Institute for Cancer Research. http://www.aicr.org/reduce-your-cancer-risk/recommendations-for-cancer-prevention/recommendations_05...

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Last Review Date: 2020 Nov 10
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.