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Cancer Nutrition Network for Texans

18 Ways to Decrease Your Cancer Risk


  1. Don’t breathe smoke. To avoid secondhand smoke, ban smoking in your house and car.
  2. Exercise for 30 minutes daily. Physical activity for at least half an hour five days a week maybe reduce your risk of several cancers, notably colon and breast cancer. Forty-five minutes a day of moderate to vigorous exercise may lead to even greater protection against breast and colorectal cancers.
  3. Eat your colors. Different colored produce contains different phytonutrients. Foods rich in cancer-fighting phytonutrients include red peppers and tomatoes, white onions and garlic, blueberries and plums, yellow peppers and sweet potatoes, and green peas and broccoli. Try to eat a variety of colors.
  4. Avoid pesticide residues. Washing or peeling produce and removing the outer leaves of leafy vegetables will reduce your exposure to these chemicals.
  5. Avoid charred meat. You can reduce your exposure by removing fat before cooking and by trimming away any charred portions.
  6. Eat the right fish. While fatty fish is a healthy source of protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, some species accumulate contaminants from polluted rivers and lakes. So it’s best to limit consumptions of wild-caught fatty freshwater fish such as carp, catfish, bass, and trout, prime candidates for high PCB contamination.
  7. Limit your red-meat consumption. A diet heavy in red meat – eating it as the main dish most days of the week – has been linked with an increased risk of some cancers, notably cancer of the colon.
  8. Go easy on fried foods.
  9. Consider avoiding alcohol. Studies show that even a drink or two a day of wine, beer, or liquor can slightly increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer; 2 to 5 drinks a day ups the risk 1.5 times that or teetotalers.
  10. Avoid unnecessary X-rays. It’s OK to inform your doctors and dentists that you don’t want X-rays unless they are truly medically necessary. If you change dentists, bring a copy of your most recent dental X-rays with you and ask that they be put on file.
  11. Request lowest-dose imaging. Ask your radiologist to use the lowest radiation dose necessary to get a clear image. It’s especially important if computed tomography, popularly known as a CT scan, is ordered for a child or any small-framed individual, say Consumers Union’s medical consultants. Federal health authorities recently raised a concern that children are being exposed to too much radiation, and said a single CT scan can deliver as much radiation as 100 standard X-rays.
  12. Protect your skin. In the warmer months, avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when it’s strongest, and remember that you can still get burned on cloudy days.
  13. Listen to air-pollution reports. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Bethesda, Md., advises against exercising outdoors near high traffic areas and on polluted days. If you have breathing problems, try to stay indoors during smog alerts.
  14. Check for asbestos. If you live in a home built before 1980, there may be insulation or other material containing the carcinogen asbestos. If the material has deteriorated to the point where fibers could escape into the air, it should be removed by a qualified contractor. Otherwise, it’s usually best to leave it alone.
  15. Assess your workplace. Talk to your doctor and employer about concerns or contact the Occupational Safety & Health Administration ( for workplace safety information.
  16. Check your water report. Many reports are posted at
  17. Check for infection. Three infections are increasingly linked with the following cancers: 1) Stomach cancer, ulcer-causing bacterium, H.pylori, 2) Cervical cancer, human papillomavirus (HPV), and 3) Liver cancer, Hepatitis C.
  18. Check your house for radon. Homes with radon concentration exceeding 4 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/l) reduce concentrations by creating better ventilation in basements.

“18 ways to decrease your cancer risk” first appeared in Consumer Reports, a publication of Consumer’s Union, Volume 15, Number 5, pages 3 – 6 and was a result of the collaboration of several scientists, nationwide, including Dr. William Au, Ph.D, professor, Division of Environmental Toxicology, Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston.