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Worst Things to Do if Cancer Runs in Your Family

Be proactive about health by avoiding these habits.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

According to scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health, up to 75% of American cancer deaths can be prevented. "Knowing specifics about your family's health history can change the trajectory of your future," says Remington Fenter, MS. We know that many traits are inherited. These genetic markers are handed down through our DNA. Also inherited are genetic mutations – altered DNA segments that can predispose families to increased risk of conditions such as heart disease, sickle cell anemia, or breast, ovarian, and colon cancer." Here are five things you should never do if cancer runs in your family. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Don't Avoid Screenings

risk of cancer

Regular screenings are important for people with a family history of cancer. "I encourage patients of all ages to know their family history. It's extremely important that everyone know if a close relative was ever treated for colorectal cancer or advanced colon polyps," says David Liska, MD, a colorectal surgeon and expert in inherited colorectal cancer. "Take your health seriously, even if you're in your 20s when you might feel that nothing can go wrong."


Don't Neglect Your Diet

Man eating pizza having a takeaway at home relaxing resting

Eating a healthy, nutritious diet is incredibly important for cancer prevention, experts say. "Reduce your consumption of saturated fat and red meat, which may increase the risk of colon cancer and a more aggressive form of prostate cancer," says Harvard Health. "Increase your consumption of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains."


Don't Ignore Vitamin D Levels

Young Woman Taking Yellow Fish Oil Pill.

Research shows that getting enough Vitamin D can play a part in cancer prevention. "There are several studies that have related higher blood levels of 25-hydroxy-vitamin D and reduced-risk of many deadly cancers including colon, breast, and prostate cancer to name a few," says endocrinologist Michael F. Holick, PhD, MD. "The recommendation from the Endocrine Society practice guidelines is at least 1,500–2,000 units per day and if you are obese, you need two to three times more. I personally take 5,000 units of vitamin D every day and my blood level is in the range of 60 nanograms per milliliter. All of my patients are on between 3,000–5,000 units of vitamin D per day and they are all doing very well."


Don't Smoke

Hand stubbed out cigarette in a transparent ashtray on wooden table

According to the CDC, people who smoke are up to 30 times more likely to get cancer than people who don't smoke. "Even smoking a few cigarettes a day or smoking occasionally increases the risk of lung cancer," warns the CDC. "The more years a person smokes and the more cigarettes smoked each day, the more risk goes up."


Don't Skip Your Workouts

women take workout selfie in mirror

"Physical activity has been linked to a reduced risk of colon cancer," says Harvard Health. "Exercise also appears to reduce a woman's risk of breast and possibly reproductive cancers. Exercise will help protect you even if you don't lose weight."

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan
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