12 Cancer Prevention Tips for People of All Ages

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Cancer kills one of every four people in the United States and is the second leading cause of death. Yet, many common forms of cancer are preventable. People at every stage of life can lower their risk of some common forms of cancer by making healthy choices, promoting protective behaviors, and reducing harmful exposures.

February is Cancer Prevention Month, and Dr. Michelle S. Williams, assistant professor in the Department of Global and Community Health at George Mason University, says it is an ideal time for everyone – regardless of age - to assess their own habits to lower their risk of cancer.


Why is cancer awareness important at any age?

“Many people are not aware that health behaviors, such as what you eat and how much sleep you get, can affect their risk for certain types of cancer,” said Williams. “Individuals can reduce their risk for several types by making healthy lifestyle choices throughout their lifetime.”

Tips for people of all ages to increase cancer prevention and lower risk factors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  1. Complete the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine series (ages 9-26)
  2. Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables
  3. Get enough physical activity
  4. Maintain a healthy weight
  5. Use sun protection when outdoors
  6. Get enough sleep
  7. Learn your family health history (and share with your doctor)
  8. Avoid intentional tanning
  9. Avoid tobacco products and secondhand smoke
  10. Limit alcohol and sugar-sweetened drinks
  11. Limit radiation dose during medical imaging procedures
  12. Screen regularly for certain types of cancer (age dependent)

Though specific tips can vary by age, people of all ages can reduce their risk of certain cancers. For young adults and adolescents, Williams recommends the HPV vaccine to help prevent many types of cancer.

“Approximately 80% of adults will acquire an HPV infection in their lifetime. The HPV vaccine is highly effective at preventing HPV-related cancers. Therefore, females and males between the ages of 9 to 26 should get the vaccine,” said Williams. HPV is associated with several types of cancers in females and males including, cancer of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and oropharynx (back of the throat).

Williams is currently doing research in the US and in Ghana, West Africa is to increase women’s awareness about breast and cervical cancer and increase women’s participation in cancer screening and healthy lifestyle behaviors.

Michelle Williams, PhD, MSPH, MPH, MCHES, assistant professor in the Department of Global and Community Health at George Mason University, has expertise in culturally appropriate health behavior interventions for cancer prevention and control to lead to a reduction in cancer disparities. She can be reached at mwill29@gmu.edu.

For more information, contact Michelle Thompson at 703-993-3485 or mthomp7@gmu.edu.

About George Mason

George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls more than 39,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Mason has grown rapidly over the past half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity, and commitment to accessibility.

About the College of Health and Human Services

George Mason University's College of Health and Human Services prepares students to become leaders and shape the public's health through academic excellence, research of consequence, community outreach, and interprofessional clinical practice. George Mason is the fastest-growing Research I institution in the country. The College enrolls more than 1,900 undergraduate and 1,300 graduate students in its nationally-recognized offerings, including 6 undergraduate degrees, 13 graduate degrees, and 6 certificate programs. The college is transitioning to a college of public health in the near future. For more information, visit https://chhs.gmu.edu/.