Reducing cancer risk

Blackberries

Doctors can't always explain why one person gets cancer and another doesn't. Your genes, age, sex, race, lifestyle, and environment can all play a role.

There's no way to guarantee protection against cancer or having it return after treatment, but you can lower your risk of getting some of the types of cancer. Here's how:

Learn more about other lifestyle changes that may prevent cancer.

Stay at a healthy weight

If you're very overweight, your chances of getting some forms of cancer are higher. People who carry extra fat around their waist may be at higher risk.

Screening — a vital step

Nurses looking at a clipboardFinding cancer early often improves the chance of it responding to treatment or being cured. For example, the number of deaths from breast cancer has been steadily declining over the last few years, in part because of better screening and diagnosis at an early stage.

No matter how busy you are, make time to get screened. Find out which cancer screening tests you might need.

Seven warning signs to notice

You're your own best friend when it comes to early detection. Be on the lookout for common warning signs. These signs may not mean you have cancer — only your doctor can tell for sure if you do — but you should report them to your doctor promptly.

1. unusual bleeding or discharge from any body opening
2. a lump or thickening in your breast or elsewhere
3. a sore that doesn't heal
4. ongoing change in your bowel or bladder habits
5. ongoing hoarseness or cough
6. ongoing indigestion or difficulty in swallowing
7. a change in a wart or mole

Reviewed by: Michael Russin, MD, February 2016
Additional Kaiser Permanente reviewers

© 2016 Kaiser Permanente

A shoulder to lean on

Find out about support groups, classes, and other services and online communities that can help you cope with cancer.

My health manager

Email your doctor's office, get test results, refill your prescriptions, and more, all from the comfort of your home.

Research and clinical trials

Learn about cancer research and clinical trials at Kaiser Permanente and other organizations.