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Most Preventable Cancers: April 30, 2013

The choices we make could be killing us when it comes to cancer. Most non-inherited cancers are linked to the foods we eat, our physical activity and lifestyle choices. Making changes, we may be able to change our risk. Topping the list of preventable cancers are skin cancers.

“There are very few people who have a genetic pre-deposition, but that’s pretty rare. Most people get them in middle age or above where they have had sun exposure- you know, the face, the chest, the arms,” says Dr. Lowell Hart, oncologist on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff. 

The top cancer killer in this country is lung cancer- claiming almost 160,000 lives a year. Between 80 and 90% of lung cancer deaths relate to lifestyle choice.

“Cigarette smoking everyone knows is the singles largest cause of preventable cancer,” says Dr. Bill Harwin, oncologist on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.

The CDC found that two-thirds of cancers are preventable. When you take tobacco off the table, the next major fueling factor is obesity. Studies connect it to a higher risk of breast cancer in post-menopausal women.

“Obesity has been known for a long time as one of many risk factors for breast cancer.  What’s particularly important is that women keep a low fat diet and make sure they exercise,” says Harwin.

Excess weight and low of physical activity also impact esophageal, colorectal, kidney, pancreatic and endometrial cancers.
“We think that there’s an element of inflammation that is established and becomes chronic in patients who are obese. And that inflammation can somehow affect the immune system,” says Dr. Frank Rodriguez, oncologist on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.
The vast majority of colon cancers can be prevented through screening and removal of precancerous polyps.

“Colonoscopies prevent 90% of colon cancers. If you get a colonoscopy, we see a polyp, we take it out- 90% of time you won’t get colon cancer,” says Dr. Janette Gaw, colorectal surgeon on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.

Both the PAP test and HPV vaccine are decreasing the number of cervical cancer cases.  Adding it to the growing list of preventable cancers.