Reduce your risk

There are many ways you can reduce your cancer risk. Below are some of the most important things you can do to improve your health and prevent cancer.

Be smoke free

Smoking has been linked to various types of cancer, including cancer of the lung, bladder, cervix and kidney. Chewing tobacco has been linked to cancer of the oral cavity and pancreas. Even if you don’t use tobacco, exposure to secondhand smoke may increase your risk of lung cancer.

Avoiding tobacco, or deciding to stop using it, is one of the most important health decisions you can make. It’s also an important part of cancer prevention. 

You can ask your primary care provider about stop smoking products and other strategies for quitting. You can also learn more about quitting smoking or helping someone quit smoking by using the resources on the right side of this page.

Eat a healthy diet

Eating healthy foods may reduce your cancer risk. 

You should base your diet on fruits, vegetables and other foods from plant sources, such as whole grains and beans. You should also try to choose fewer high fat foods, especially those from animal sources. High fat diets tend to be higher in calories and may increase your risk of being overweight or obese. Being overweight or obese can increase your cancer risk.

You can learn more about eating a healthy diet by using the resources on the right side of this page.

Limit how much alcohol you drink

Drinking alcohol has been linked with cancer of the breast, colon, lung, kidney and liver. The risk of various types of cancer increases with the amount of alcohol you drink and the length of time you’ve been drinking regularly.

If you choose to drink alcohol, you should do so only in moderation.  Moderation means no more than two drinks per day for men and no more than one drink per day for women.

Maintain a healthy weight and be physically active

Maintaining a healthy weight might lower the risk of many types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, prostate, lung, colon and kidney. 

Physical activity, or exercise, can help you control your weight. Physical activity might also lower the risk of breast cancer and colon cancer. 

Adults who participate in any amount of physical activity gain some health benefits. For substantial health benefits, try to get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes a week of vigorous exercise. Moderate exercise includes walking, mowing the lawn, or playing doubles tennis.  Vigorous exercise includes jogging, hiking, shovelling snow or playing soccer.

Protect yourself from the sun

Skin cancer is one of the most common kinds of cancer, and one of the most preventable. Skin cancer is caused by harmful ultraviolet radiation (UV rays) from the sun. 

You can protect yourself from the sun by:

  • Staying out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s UV rays are strongest.
  • Staying in the shade as much as possible. 
  • Wearing tightly woven, loose clothing that covers as much of your skin as possible when you are outdoors. Bright or dark colors reflect more ultraviolet radiation and can help protect your skin. Sunglasses and a broad-rimmed hat can also help.
  • Using generous amounts of sunscreen.  You should reapply your sunscreen every two hours when you are outdoors. 
  • Avoiding tanning beds and sunlamps. These are just as damaging to your skin as natural sunlight.

Protect yourself from harmful diseases

Certain viruses can increase your cancer risk. For example:

  • Hepatitis B and C can increase the risk of developing liver cancer. 
  • The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) or AIDS can increase your risk of developing cancer of the anus, liver and lung.
  • The human papillomavirus (HPV) can lead to cervical and other genital cancers, and some cancers of the head and neck. 

Getting immunized means getting a needle containing a vaccine that can protect you against a virus. 

The hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for certain adults, such as adults who are sexually active but not in a monogamous relationship, people with sexually transmitted infections, intravenous drug users, men who have sex with men, and health care or public safety workers who might be exposed to infected blood or body fluids.

The HPV vaccine is available free of charge to girls in Grade 8 through school-based clinics.  The vaccine is given in three parts. If a girl misses one of her three vaccines during Grade 8, she can get her missed vaccine free of charge until Grade 12.  The HPV vaccine is also available to both men and women age 26 or younger who didn’t have the vaccine as adolescents.

You can also avoid behaviors that may put you at risk for infection with a harmful disease.  For example, you can:

  • Limit your number of sexual partners. The more sexual partners you have in your lifetime, the more likely you are to contract a sexually transmitted virus, such as HIV or HPV.
  • Use a condom when you have sex. 
  • Avoid sharing needle. If you’re concerned about drug abuse or addiction, seek professional help.

Get regular medical care

Your primary care provider can help you understand how to best improve and monitor your health.  

Regular medical care and checking for cancer can detect changes in your body at an early stage, before you feel ill or develop cancer.

You can learn more about all of the ways you can reduce your cancer risk by using the related resources on the right side of this page.