Cancer refers to a broad group of diseases in which body cells grow out of control and are or become malignant (harmful).

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States (heart disease is first). Current estimates say that 30 percent of all Americans will develop some kind of cancer in their lifetimes. The most common forms are cancer of the skin, lungs, colon and rectum, breast, prostate, urinary tract, and uterus.

Exactly what causes all cancers has not yet been found. Evidence suggests, however, that cancer could result from complex interactions of viruses, a person’s genetic make-up, their immune status and their exposure to other risk factors that may promote cancer.

These risk factors include:

  • Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, nuclear radiation, X-rays, and radon.
  • Use of tobacco and/or alcohol (for some cancers).
  • Use of certain medicines such as DES (a synthetic estrogen).
  • Polluted air and water.
  • Dietary factors such as a high fat diet, specific food preservatives, namely nitrates and nitrites; char-broiling and char-grilling meats.
  • Exposure to a variety of chemicals such as asbestos, benzenes, VC (vinyl chloride), wood dust, some ingredients of cigarette smoke, etc.).


  • Do not smoke, use tobacco products or inhale second hand smoke.
  • Limit your exposure to known carcinogens such as asbestos, radon, and other workplace chemicals as well as pesticides and herbicides.
  • Have X-rays only when necessary.
  • Limit your exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, sun lamps and tanning booths. Protect your skin from the sun’s UV rays with sunscreen (applied frequently and containing a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher) and protective clothing (sun hats, long sleeves, etc.).
  • Reduce stress. Emotional stress may weaken the immune system that is relied on to fight off stray cancer cells.

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Written by American Institute for Preventive Medicine

Explore Wellness in 2021