Skip to main content

Five Lifesaving Steps You Can Take To Prevent Cancer

How To live longer and stay cancer-free

Think you can’t do anything about your chances of getting cancer? Truth is, there’s a lot you can do. You’ve got the power every single day to make a difference in your future health and stay well. According to the American Cancer Society, most cancers are caused by smoking, eating unhealthy food, too little exercise and too much sun. So here are five lifesaving things you can do—and encourage your family to do—to create a healthy way of life:

1. Eat right for life. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables—five servings daily, and limit the high-fat foods like burgers and fries. Choose whole grain rice, bread and pasta, and pass up the processed or refined grains. Cut back on processed meats too (cold cuts, bacon, hot dogs). Do you have to give up the foods you love—the pizza, brownies, ice cream? No, we’re not saying never, but we are saying use moderation with sweets and other temptations. And as for weight, skinny is out as much as overweight; healthy is in. Find out what’s a healthy weight for you and stay within that range. To check body mass index (fat measurement) visit the American Cancer Society website at

2.Exercise. Get up and get moving. It’s really important. Regular physical activity can improve your odds of not getting cancer. Just 30 minutes or more of aerobic activity such as: brisk walking, biking, playing sports, yard work (and yes, mowing the lawn counts!) on most days can make a huge difference.

3. Pass up the smokes and alcohol. You’ve heard it before, but that doesn’t make it less true. Don’t use cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco. If you smoke now, quit. And remember, second-hand smoke can be just as harmful too.

4.Protect your skin. The sun’s rays can make your skin wrinkled and lead to skin cancer. So year-round, remember to protect yourself—wear sunscreen that’s SPF 15 or more, even on hazy days. And don’t stop there—add sunglasses, protective clothing like a long sleeve shirt, and grab a hat to shade your face and neck. Stay in the shade during the hottest part of the day. And tanning beds? We vote NO. They aren’t a safe alternative.

5. Get regular checkups and talk to your doctor about screening tests that could save your life. “It’s common for people to say, 'Why should I be tested for cancer when I feel fine?’” says Roberta Cahill, who is a member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe in South Dakota and works for the American Cancer Society. “But here’s the thing, some cancers do not cause symptoms—like colon cancer. They have no warning signs, until it has spread. So the best time to be tested is when you are feeling fine.” The good news is that there are tests that can find cancer early—so you can beat it.Think of it this way: A screening isn’t looking for disease, it’s looking for the way to protect you and prevent problems and keep you healthy.

Being healthy is about being proactive. If you do these five things, you can dramatically influence your odds of staying healthy. Take care of you, and your family, for the timeless generations to come. For more information, contact the American Cancer Society online or by calling (800) 227-2345.

About the American Cancer Society

At the ACS, our vision is a world with less cancer and more birthdays. As part of that vision, we are fighting cancer in every community, for every family, to help save lives. We recognize each community has different needs and we’re here to help everyone stay well and get well, to find cures, and to fight back against cancer.

About the Author

Charlotte Hofer is the public relations manager for the ACS in South Dakota. She is a member of the Native American Journalists Association, and her work for ACS focuses on cancer education to diverse populations through the media. Contact her at