Preventing Cancer Across a Lifetime
There are many kinds of cancer, most caused by a combination of factors over time. These can include—
- Genetic factors you get from your parents, such as certain genes related to breast cancer.
- Environmental factors, such as sunlight, radon, or pollution.
- Personal habits, such as smoking or drinking alcohol.
- Workplace factors, such as exposure to certain chemicals.
- The food you eat and medicines you take.
You can’t change some risk factors, such as your genes. But you can completely or partially avoid other risk factors—for example, by not smoking or quitting smoking, by not drinking or limiting the amount of alcohol you drink, and by protecting your skin from the sun. Daily habits like these can make a difference over time in your overall health and your risk of developing cancer.
Some behaviors linked to cancer risk typically start during youth, making interventions focused on young people particularly important. For example, most smokers start during their preteen or teen years, so using antismoking interventions for youth can help keep kids from smoking and prevent many future cancers. However, it’s never too late to reap the benefits of healthy changes. Efforts to adopt healthy habits, avoid harmful exposures, and manage chronic conditions like diabetes and obesity can reduce a person’s cancer risk even when started at older ages.
A Lifetime Approach to Preventing Cancer
CDC scientists and other experts created the Cancer Prevention Across the Lifespan workgroup to explore ways to reduce cancer risk at different ages. This workgroup studies scientific literature and works with other experts to find opportunities at every age to reduce cancer risk.
- Prenatal and early childhood (ages 7 years and younger).
- Adolescence (ages 8 through 18 years).
- Early adulthood (ages 19 through 44 years).
- Midlife (ages 45 through 64 years).
- Older adulthood (ages 65 years and older).
Shoemaker ML, Holman DM, Henley SJ, White MC. News from CDC: applying a life course approach to primary cancer prevention.external icon Translational Behavioral Medicine 2015;5(2):131–133.