Prevention


Cancer prevention is defined as active measures to decrease the risk of cancer. The vast majority of cancer cases are due to environmental risk factors, and many, but not all, of these environmental factors are controllable lifestyle choices. Thus, cancer is considered a largely preventable disease. Greater than 30% of cancer deaths could be prevented by avoiding risk factors including: tobacco, overweight / obesity, an insufficient diet, physical inactivity, alcohol, sexually transmitted infections, and air pollution. Not all environmental causes are controllable, such as naturally occurring background radiation, and other cases of cancer are caused through hereditary genetic disorders, and thus it is not possible to prevent all cases of cancer.   1. Dietary While many dietary recommendations have been proposed to reduce the risk of cancer, few have significant supporting scientific evidence. The primary dietary factors that increase risk are obesity and alcohol consumption; with a diet low in fruits and vegetables and high in red meat being implicated but not confirmed. Consumption of coffee is associated with a reduced risk of liver cancer. Studies have linked consumption of red or processed meat to an increased risk of breast cancer, colon cancer, and pancreatic cancer, a phenomenon which could be due to the presence of carcinogens in meats cooked at high temperatures. Dietary recommendations for cancer prevention typically include an emphasis on vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and fish, and an avoidance of red meat, animal fats and refined carbohydrates. However, these recommendations are based on relatively limited evidence.   2. Medication The concept that medications can be used to prevent cancer is attractive, and evidence supports their use in a few defined circumstances. In the general population NSAIDs reduce the risk of colorectal cancer however due to the cardiovascular and gastrointestinal side effects they cause overall harm when used for prevention. Aspirin has been found to reduce the risk of death from cancer by about 7%. COX-2 inhibitor may decrease the rate of polyp formation in people with familial adenomatous polyposis however are associated with the same adverse effects as NSAIDs. Daily use of tamoxifen or raloxifene has been demonstrated to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer in high-risk women. The benefit verses harm for 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor such as finasteride is not clear. Vitamins have not been found to be effective at preventing cancer, although low blood levels of vitamin D are correlated with increased cancer risk. Whether this relationship is causal and vitamin D supplementation is protective is not determined. Beta-carotene supplementation has been found to increase lung cancer rates in those who are high risk. Folic acid supplementation has not been found effective in preventing colon cancer and may increase colon polyps.   3. Vaccination Vaccines have been developed that prevent some infection by some viruses. Human papillomavirus vaccine (Gardasil and Cervarix) decreases the risk of developing cervical cancer. The hepatitis B vaccine prevents infection with hepatitis B virus and thus decreases the risk of liver cancer.