"Preventing Cancer Learn How to Lower Your Risk"
National Institutes of Health • Department of Health and Human Services • newsinhealth.nih.gov 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 nih.gov/2008/February/ 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) newsinhealth.nih.gov cer. HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, Editor: Harrison Wein, Ph.D. National Institutes of Health raises the risk of certain cancers. email@example.com 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 https://list.nih.gov/cgi-bin/ lower them. Make sure to discuss wa?SUBED1=nihnewsinhealth-l&A=1 and follow the instructions or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. 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. nih.gov/2008/February/ docs/01features_02.htm 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 http://familyhistory.hhs.gov 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. nih.gov/2008/February/ 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 http://health.nih.gov