Preventing Cancer Learn How to Lower Your Risk by smithhaleey


									National Institutes of Health • Department of Health and Human Services •                         February 2008

Preventing Cancer
Learn How to Lower Your Risk
Do you know people who’ve                                                                                     that about 90%
smoked their whole lives and                                                                                  of cancers are
thrived well into old age without                                                                             due to factors in
any sign of lung cancer? Or some-                                                                             the environment.
one who never seemed to go                                                                                    Something other
near fruits and veggies but lived                                                                            than our genes are
a long, full life? When you think of                                                                         triggers.”
them, you might decide that can-                                                                                So what are the
cer will come when it comes and                                                                              environmental
there’s nothing you can do about it.                                                                        factors? Milner
That’s where you’d be wrong.                                                                               explains, “The air
   There will always be someone you                                                                       we breathe, the
know whose health flies in the face                                                                     water we drink and
of conventional medical wisdom. But                                                                    the food we eat are all
clinical studies of cancer risks can                                                                  environmental factors.”
involve thousands of people and last                                                                    The greatest cancer
several years. They give scientists a                                                               risk factor through the
far broader perspective on cancer risk                                                            air comes from cigarette
and prevention than you could ever                                                              smoke. Cigarette smok-
get yourself.                                                                                ing is the leading preventable
   You might also believe there’s little                                                 cause of death in the United States.
you can do to lower your cancer risk       change                                      It leads to an estimated 438,000
because you’ve heard that genes            the genes you                               deaths—or about 1 out of every 5
play a role in many cancers. It’s          inherited from your                         deaths—each year. Some people
true that people who have certain          parents, you can change factors in          are particularly susceptible to lung
versions of particular genes can be        the environment.                            cancer from smoking. A recent NIH-
more susceptible to some cancers              Not all people are equally suscep-       funded study found that both African
and the factors in the environment         tible to a given type of cancer, and        Americans and Native Hawaiians had
that trigger them. While you can’t         different people will get different         significantly greater risks of lung can-
                                           benefits from cancer prevention             cer related to smoking than whites,
                                           strategies. But there are several gen-      Hispanics and Japanese Americans.
        Definitions                        eral lifestyle changes that research-                           continued on page 2
                                           ers have proven lower your risk of
 Genes                                     cancer. There are others they suspect
 Stretches of DNA, a substance you         may lower your risk. Researchers are
 inherit from your parents. Genes          studying those further. So why not            Inside News
 affect characteristics like height,       make some changes now and lower               1 Preventing Cancer
 eye color and how likely you are to       the chance you’ll have to go through
 develop certain cancers.                  a rough, costly and potentially fatal         3 Soothing the Sting of Shingles
 Environment                               battle with cancer?                           4 Health Capsules
 Everything outside the body that             “On average, about 30 to 35%                  n    Brain Injuries and PTSD Risk
 affects you, such as the air you          of cancers relate to smoking,” says
                                                                                                 Sealing Out Tooth Decay
 breathe, the food you eat and water       Dr. John A. Milner of NIH’s National             n

 you drink.                                Cancer Institute. “About 30 to 35%               n    Web Site: My Family Health Portrait
                                           relate to diet. Overall, it’s estimated
 2 February 2008                                                 NIH News in Health

                                                          n Be active and maintain a healthy                              Web Links
              Wise Choices                                  weight. Be physically active for
              Preventing Cancer:                            at least 30 minutes on 5 or more                        For links to more information
              Steps You Can Take                            days each week.
                                                                                                                   about what you can do to lower
                                                          n Avoid UV radiation from the sun,                        your risk for cancer, see this
  n Don’t smoke. Quit now if you                            sunlamps and tanning booths.
                                                                                                                             story online:
    do. For help, explore the NIH                         n Avoid chemicals and other                                  n http://newsinhealth.
    News in Health links online                             substances that raise your
    or call the National Cancer                                                                             
                                                            risk of getting cancer. Follow
    Institute’s Smoking Quitline at                         instructions and safety tips on the                       docs/01features_01.htm
    1-877-44U-QUIT.                                         products you use.
  n Eat well. A healthy diet                                                                                     comes from the sun, sunlamps
                                                          n Avoid and treat infections that
    includes whole-grain                                                                                         and tanning booths, causes skin
                                                            can cause cancer. Talk to your
    breads and cereals and 5                                                                                     damage that can lead to skin cancer.
                                                            doctor about avoiding viruses
    to 9 servings of fruits and                             that cause cancer, and about any                     Limit your time in the sun, use sun
    vegetables every day.                                   stomach problems.                                    protection and avoid other sources
                                                                                                                 of UV radiation.
                                                                                                                    Some chemicals and other sub-
continued from page 1                                     have also reported links between                       stances can raise your risk of getting
So don’t smoke, and avoid second-                         obesity and cancers of the gallblad-                   cancer. People who have certain
hand smoke, too.                                          der, ovaries and pancreas. Physical                    jobs—such as painters, construction
   People who have a poor diet, don’t                     activity can help control your weight                  workers and those in the chemical
get enough physical activity or are                       and reduce body fat. Most scientists                   industry—have an increased risk of
overweight may be at increased risk                       agree that adults should engage in                     cancer. You can be exposed to haz-
of several types of cancer. Studies                       moderate physical activity (such as                    ardous chemicals in your home as
suggest that people who eat high-fat                      brisk walking) for at least 30 minutes                 well. Follow instructions and safety
diets with few fruits and vegetables                      on 5 or more days each week.                           tips to avoid or reduce contact with
have an increased risk of cancers of                        Ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which                    harmful substances such as pesti-
the colon, uterus and prostate. Be                                                                               cides, used engine oil, solvents and
sure to eat 5 to 9 servings of fruits                                                                            other chemicals.
and vegetables every day along with                                                                                 Some bacteria and viruses may
whole-grain breads and cereals.                                       Definition                                 also increase the risk of develop-
Limit foods that are high in fat, such                                                                           ing cancer. If you have a stomach
as butter, whole milk and fried foods.
                                                           Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation                            ulcer, it could be a sign that you have
                                                           Invisible rays that are part of the                   bacteria that can also cause stomach
   Lack of physical activity and being
                                                           energy that comes from the sun.                       cancer. Human papillomaviruses
overweight are risk factors for can-
                                                           Sun lamps and tanning beds also                       (HPVs) are the main cause of cervical
cers of the breast, colon, esophagus,
                                                           make UV radiation.                                    cancer and may also be a risk factor
kidney and uterus. Some studies
                                                                                                                 for other types of cancer. Hepatitis B
                                                                                                                 or C infections can lead to liver can-
  NIH News in Health (ISSN 1556-3898)                                                       cer. HIV, the virus that causes AIDS,
  Editor: Harrison Wein, Ph.D.                            National Institutes of Health                          raises the risk of certain cancers.                                        Office of Communications                               Don’t have unprotected sex or share
  Tel: 301-435-7489 Fax: 301-480-4026                     & Public Liaison                                       needles, and consider getting the
  Assistant Editor:                                       Building 31, Room 5B64                                 vaccines for hepatitis B and HPV.
  Vicki Contie                                            Bethesda, MD 20892-2094                                   It’s important to talk to a health
                                                                                                                 professional about your specific
  Contributors: Vicki Contie, Margaret Georgiann (illustrations) and Harrison Wein
                                                                                                                 cancer risks and what you can do to
  Get email updates when new issues are posted online. Go to                       lower them. Make sure to discuss
  wa?SUBED1=nihnewsinhealth-l&A=1 and follow the instructions or send an email to listserv@list.nih.             the cancers that people in your
  gov with the words “Subscribe NIHNewsInHealth-L” in the message body.
                                                                                                                 family have had. Your doctor can
  Get print copies free of charge within the U.S. for display in offices, libraries or clinics. Please contact
  us for more information. You can also download copies for printing at our web site.
                                                                                                                 also help you figure out if you have
  Reprint our articles. Material published in NIH News in Health is not copyrighted. We encourage you
                                                                                                                 particular risks because of your
  to reprint our articles and illustrations in print or web publications. Please acknowledge NIH News in         lifestyle. Together, you can put
  Health as the source and send us copies of your publication.                                                   together a plan to lower your risk of
                                                                                                                 getting cancer. n
                                            NIH News in Health                                           February 2008 3

Soothing the Sting of Shingles
When a Childhood Virus Comes Back to Bite You
It’s an unpleasant part of childhood      shingles is a painful, itchy red
you can never really leave behind.        rash with fluid-filled blisters,
Even when chickenpox is gone, the         which generally appear on
virus that causes it stays with you for   just 1 side of the body or
life, hidden and inactive in your nerve   face. The rash looks similar to
cells. As you get older, the virus may    chickenpox and can last from
make a second, unwelcome appear-          3 to 5 weeks. After the rash
ance and cause a painful disease          fades, the pain sometimes
called shingles. The second time          persists for months or years.
around can be far more complicated        This lingering nerve pain, called
and miserable than the first.             post-herpetic neuralgia, affects nearly
    Once you’ve had chickenpox,           1 out of every 3 older people with
caused by the varicella-zoster virus,     shingles. The pain can be so severe
you’re unlikely to get it again, thanks   that even the gentlest touch or
to your immune system. But as you         breeze can feel excruciating.
get older, the virus may re-emerge           It’s impossible to “catch” shingles
and cause shingles, also known as         from someone else. But a person
herpes zoster. Shingles can strike at     with an active shingles rash can
any age, but it usually affects adults    pass the varicella-zoster virus to
after age 50. Each year more than         someone who’s never had chicken-
1 million Americans get shingles or       pox or a chickenpox vaccine. If that
its complications.                        happens, the other person would get
    The most obvious symptom of           chickenpox, not shingles.
                                             Fortunately, a new vaccine is
                                          now available to prevent shingles.
        Definition                        A large clinical study showed that
                                          the Zostavax vaccine could cut the        people did get shingles, they gener-
 Immune System                            risk of getting shingles in half. NIH     ally had less pain and discomfort, and
 The system that protects your body       researchers helped with the clinical      the risk of post-herpetic neuralgia
 from invading viruses, bacteria and      testing, which involved more than         was cut by two-thirds.
 other microscopic threats.               38,000 older adults. When vaccinated         The U.S. Centers for Disease Control
                                                                                    and Prevention now recommends
                                                                                    that all adults get the vaccine at age
                                                                                    60 or older, but only if they have a
           Wise Choices                                                             healthy immune system. Unfortu-
           Feeling Better                 n Antidepressants, anticonvulsants        nately, the vaccine is expensive, and
           with Shingles                    or analgesics to reduce pain.           the costs are not always covered by
                                                                                    health insurance. If you’re consider-
  See your doctor at the first sign of    Things you can do:                        ing it, be sure to discuss the pros and
  shingles. It often begins as burn-
  ing or shooting pain and tingling       n Get enough rest and eat well-           cons of the vaccine with your doctor
  or itching on 1 side of the body,         balanced meals.                         and check with your insurance pro-
  followed by a blistering rash. Early                                              vider about coverage. n
                                          n Try to relax. Stress can make the
  treatment can help shorten the            pain worse.
  length of infection and reduce the
  risk of other problems. Your doctor     n Dip a washcloth in cool water                    Web Links
  may prescribe:                            and apply it to your blisters to
                                            ease the pain.                              For links to more information
  n Antiviral drugs to help kill the      n Do things that take your mind                     about shingles, see
    varicella-zoster virus.                 off your pain. Watch TV, read                      this story online:
  n Steroids to lessen pain and             books, talk with friends or work               n http://newsinhealth.

    shorten the time you’re sick.           on a hobby.                         
 4 February 2008                             NIH News in Health

 Health Capsules
Brain Injuries and PTSD Risk                                                                 Featured Web Site
Scientists have found that combat          15 veterans with amygdala dam-
                                                                                             My Family
veterans injured in certain brain          age developed PTSD. The other
regions are less likely to later develop   brain region, a part of the prefrontal            Health Portrait
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).     cortex, is involved in higher mental
The findings suggest that PTSD             functions and planning. Only about
might be treated by trying to reduce       18% of veterans with damage to this      Tracing the illnesses suffered by your
brain activity in these regions.           region developed PTSD. In con-           parents, grandparents and other blood
   PTSD is a chronic anxiety disorder      trast, PTSD affected at least 40% of     relatives can help your doctor predict
that affects millions of Americans.        veterans with injury to other brain      the disorders you may be at risk for, and
Many traumatic events can trigger it,      regions or no brain injury at all.       help you take action to keep you and
including assault, rape, traffic acci-        This study looked only at male        your family healthy. This Web-based
dents and military combat. People          veterans, but the scientists believe     tool, developed by the U.S. Surgeon
with PTSD relive their traumatic           their findings might also apply to       General and NIH, helps you build a
experiences through repeated night-        other types of people and trauma.        drawing of your family tree and a chart
mares and flashbacks that may seem         Future PTSD treatments may try           of your family health history that you
real. They may become emotionally          to suppress activity in the 2 brain      can print and share with your family
numb. They may startle easily and be       regions, possibly through drugs or       members and doctor.
constantly on guard.                       pacemaker-like devices. n
   NIH scientists and their colleagues
studied how changes in the brain
can affect PTSD. They analyzed brain
scans from nearly 250 Vietnam War
                                                    Web Links
veterans who had been in com-
                                            For links to more information from
bat. About 200 had received head
wounds while fighting. The rest had          NIH about post-traumatic stress
no head injuries.                           disorder and dental sealants, visit
   The researchers found that vet-          this Health Capsules page online:
                                                   n http://newsinhealth.
erans rarely got PTSD if they had
injuries in either of 2 brain regions.  
One region, the amygdala, plays a                  docs/02capsules.htm
role in fear and anxiety. None of the

Sealing Out Tooth Decay
When you eat or drink foods that           and germs get stuck in their rough           Many people still don’t know
contain sugar, germs in your mouth         and uneven chewing surfaces, and         about sealants. In fact, only 30% of
use the sugar to make acids. Over          toothbrush bristles can’t always get     children in the United States have
time, the acids can cause tooth decay,     them clean. That’s where sealants        sealants on their teeth.
or cavities.                               come in.                                     Children should get sealants on
  Fluoride in toothpaste and                  Sealants are thin, plastic coatings   their permanent molars as soon
drinking water can protect the             painted on the chewing surfaces of       as the teeth come in, before decay
smooth surfaces of teeth, but back         back teeth to keep out germs and         attacks them. Teenagers and young
teeth need extra protection. Food          food. They prevent cavities from         adults who are prone to decay may
                                           forming. And if a small cavity is        also need sealants. Sealants can
                                           accidentally covered by a sealant,       save you time and money in the
        Definition                         the decay won’t spread because new       long run by helping you avoid the
                                           germs are sealed out and germs           fillings, crowns and caps used to fix
 Cavities                                  trapped inside are sealed off from       decayed teeth. Talk to your dentist
 Small holes in teeth caused by decay.     their food supply.                       about sealants for your family. n

                     For more health information from NIH, visit           

To top