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Preventing Cancer

Many types of cancer are linked to lifestyle. Healthy lifestyle choices can help lower your risk for cancer and many other diseases. They can also improve your overall health.

Woman breaking cigarette.

Stop smoking

  • Talk with your healthcare provider about aids for quitting. This can include nicotine patches and some prescription medicines.

  • Get help from ex-smokers.

  • Create a plan for quitting.

  • Pick a quit date and stick to it.

For more information and support with quitting tobacco

Call VA’s tobacco quitline at 1-855-QUIT-VET (I-855-784-8838), sign up for VA’s SmokefreeVET text messaging program, and visit and   

Stay at a healthy weight

  • Talk with your healthcare provider for help if you need to lose weight. Losing even a little weight is good for you.

  • Your healthcare provider may want you to take a look at the MOVE! Weight Management Program to help you lose weight.

  • Once you're at a healthy weight, take steps to maintain it.

Keep active

  • Get regular physical activity.

  • Take walks, garden, or do other activities you enjoy each day.

  • Do errands on foot or bike, not by car.

  • Join a walking or biking club.

  • Limit the time you spend sitting to do things. This includes watching TV, playing video games, or using a computer.

Eat a healthy diet

  • Eat fewer red meats and processed meats.

  • Eat at least 2.5 cups of fruits and vegetables daily, especially leafy greens.

  • Eat more whole grains instead of refined grain foods.

  • Limit alcohol to 2 drinks a day if  you're a man and 1 drink a day if you're a woman.

  • Limit high-calorie foods and drinks.

  • Read food labels to be more aware of calories and portion sizes.

Protect yourself from hazards

  • When outside during the day, use sunscreen that has a broad-spectrum SPF 30 or greater.

  • When out in sunlight, wear a hat and sunglasses.

  • Seek shade in the middle of the day when the sun is strongest.

  • Be aware of all hazardous products at work or in your home.

  • When working with hazardous products, wear protective clothing.

Cancer screenings and catch up immunizations

Regular screening can help prevent some types of cancer, such as cervical and colorectal cancer.  Regular screening for these types of cancer can find and remove abnormal areas before they become cancer. For some other types of cancer, screening may help find cancer early, when it's small. This is when treatment is most likely to be work better. Here are some ways you can screen for certain types of cancers:

  • Breast cancer. Breast self-awareness and mammograms.

  • Skin cancer. Self-exam or professional exam, of any skin changes that might be cancer.

  • Cervical cancer. Pap test, HPV test and for those who did not receive HPV immunization during early adolescence, it can be administered to 'catch-up' those 18-26 years old.

  • Colorectal cancer. Screening for blood in stool, and colonoscopy or other tests to look inside the colon.

  • Prostate cancer. Talk with your healthcare provider about the harms and benefits about screening for prostate cancer to make an individualized decision.

  • Testicular cancer. Self-exam and professional exams.

  • Lung cancer. Annual low-dose CT scan (for current or past smokers) based on guidelines by the US Preventive Services Task Force.

Talk with your healthcare provider about your family history and your cancer risk. Together you can decide on the cancer screening and any applicable immunization plan that's best for you. For more information, see the VHA Recommendation Charts for Men and Women.


Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 6/1/2020
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
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