How lifestyle changes, screening and vaccination can help prevent cancer

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In 2016, there were 1,685,210 new cancer cases diagnosed in the U.S., and 595,690 people died from cancer, according to estimates from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Research shows that roughly half of all cancer cases could be prevented by basic lifestyle changes, such as smoking cessation, exercise, screening and vaccination, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). February is National Cancer Prevention Month and the perfect time to take important steps to reduce your cancer risk.

Change your lifestyle

Quit smoking

Tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of cancer in the world and is responsible for 6 million deaths (from cancer and other diseases) worldwide each year, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS), smoking cigarettes kills more Americans than alcohol, car accidents, HIV, guns, and illegal drugs combined. The University of Chicago Medicine's Courage To Quit program uses evidence-based smoking cessation methods including behavioral skills, cognitive skills, and prescription and over-the-counter medications to help participants successfully quit smoking. The program, which is sponsored by the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago, was developed by recent study of smokers aged 18-35, King found that seeing someone use an e-cigarette or vape pen (often used as a substitute for tobacco products) produced "an immediate, significant and lasting increase in the desire to smoke." "The regulations in the U.S. on when and where somebody can use an e-cigarette are not yet standard," King said. "But we do know that, so far, the use of e-cigarettes has not had a major direct impact on smoking cessation efforts above and beyond public health messages and taxes." For additional support contact the Illinois Tobacco Quitline at 1-866-QUIT-YES and melanoma (the deadliest type of skin cancer) will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2017 and more than 9,500 Americans will die from melanoma. Most skin cancers, including melanoma, are caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun and man-made sources such as tanning beds. UV rays can damage the DNA in our skin cells, which can lead to cancer. People can limit exposure to UV rays by avoiding extended periods of time in the sun, using protective clothing and sunscreen, and stopping use of tanning beds. "For our own health and that of our loved ones, we all need to exercise healthy sun habits regarding sun screen use and regular skin evaluation," said Jason Luke, MD, assistant professor of medicine. "Skin screening by individuals and dermatologists facilitates the bedrock of melanoma and all skin cancer prevention. For melanoma we have a simple system of the ABCDE: Asymmetry, Boarder irregularity, Color change, Diameter increase, Evolution (change from normal) of moles." The UChicago Medicine offers prevention and early detection tools, including mole mapping. This technique uses digital photography to track changes in moles, which can be an early sign of melanoma. recommended for women between the ages of 21 and 65 years old. Cervical cancer is often caused by persistent infection with high-risk strains of human papillomavirus (HPV). For women older than 30, co-testing with Pap and HPV tests is recommended. Importantly, older women with risk factors may also need to be screened. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S., according to the CDC guidelines recommend 11- to 12-year-old (up to age 14) boys and girls receive two doses of the vaccine at least six months apart, and adolescents and young adults 15-27 years of age should complete the full three-dose series. "Sadly, most women who develop cervical cancer are patients who have not had a Pap smear for many years as they did not realize they were at risk or they lacked access to care," said HPV vaccination.

Colon cancer

If all adults 50 or older were screened for colon cancer as recommended, the death rate from this disease would be cut in half, according to the Fecal Occult Blood Testing (FOBT) or Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT). Talk to your doctor to determine which option is right for you. ACS, more people die from lung cancer every year than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined. The only recommended screening test for lung cancer is a low-dose computed tomography (CT) scan, a type of x-ray that provides detailed pictures of the lungs. Yearly screening is recommended for people who have a history of heavy smoking, smoke now or have quit within the last 15 years, and are between 55 and 80 years old. The scan is quick, painless and non-invasive. The University of Chicago Medicine's multidisciplinary lung cancer prevention and treatment team offers lung cancer screening to eligible individuals. Learn if you are eligible for lung cancer screening.

Liver cancer

More than 750,000 people are diagnosed with liver cancer across the globe each year, according to the CDC. Worldwide, the most significant risk factor for liver cancer is chronic infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV). People at high risk should be tested for these infections and monitored for liver disease. The