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2/23/23 – Is Cancer Preventable?

Last updated: March 2, 2023

Hi, I’m Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman, the Health Officer for Anne Arundel County. Welcome to our Weekly Health Update. February is National Cancer Prevention Month. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in Anne Arundel County, so let’s talk about what you can do to prevent cancer and live a healthier life.

Is cancer preventable?
In the United States, more than 40% of all cancers and nearly half of all cancer deaths are due to preventable causes. This includes things like smoking, being overweight, physical inactivity, and excessive exposure to the sun.

What can I do?
There are a number of things you can do to lower your risk of getting cancer. Make healthy choices such as eating healthy and being physically active. Get vaccinated for vaccine preventable cancers. And get recommended cancer screenings because when you catch cancer early, it’s easier to treat.

What are some healthy choices I can make?

  • If you smoke, quit. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. Smoking and secondhand smoke cause 90% of lung cancer deaths in the United States. The use of tobacco products is linked to cancers of the larynx, mouth and throat, esophagus, and other organ systems in your body. Contact us at the Health Department for programs to help you to quit smoking.
    Maintain a healthy weight. Overweight and obesity are associated with a range of cancers. Maintaining a healthy weight through physical activity and healthy eating reduces your risk for cancer.
  • Protect your skin from the sun. Skin cancer is the most common and preventable cancer in the United States. Use adequate sun protection year-round and never use indoor tanning beds.
  • Limit your alcohol intake. Heavy drinking and binge-drinking increase the risk of breast, liver, colon, and other cancers.

How do vaccines help prevent cancer?
HPV, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C are viruses which can cause cancer. If left untreated, HPV can lead to cervical cancer and Hepatitis B and C can lead to liver cancer. There’s a vaccine for each of these viruses which offers protection from infection, which then decreases your chance of getting cancer. Additionally, each of these viruses can be passed on through sexual activity, so practice safer sex.

How do screenings play a role in preventing cancer?
It’s important to know your family health history and get regular cancer screenings. Knowing your family health history can help you and your doctor determine which screening tests are needed and when. Regular cancer screenings are essential to detect cancer or precancerous conditions before symptoms occur, when they’re easier to treat.

We can connect residents who qualify for cancer screenings, so if you have questions, call us or visit aahealth.org.

Stay safe and be kind to yourself and others. We’ll see you next week.

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