Prevention of Cancer

Prevention of Cancer


Some people are born with mutations in genes involved in regulating the cell cycle. For example in colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon) some people have mutations in the mismatch repair genes. Mismatch repair genes fix damaged DNA. If they are not working properly it enhances a person’s risk of getting cancer. People who have a close family member who got cancer when they were under 40 years of age need to be regularly tested for damaged genes.

The risk of developing any one of the many types of cancer can be reduced by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and avoiding smoking and alcohol. The sooner cancer is detected the easier it is to treat. Therefore it is also advisable for people to get regular screenings. Here are some guidelines to lower your risk of developing cancer:

  • Avoid smoking: avoid smoking cigarettes and avoid enclosed areas where people smoke (this avoids passive smoking).
  • Avoid alcohol: limit alcohol, as excessive alcohol consumption can lead to increased risk of oesophageal, liver and breast cancer.
  • Healthy diet: avoid (or limit) very processed foods or burnt food, both of which contain carcinogens.
  • Regular physical activity: partake in physical activity on a regular basis. Regular exercise improves general health and helps one to maintain an ideal body weight, thereby lowering the risk of many cancers.
  • Sun protection: limit exposure to the sun and damage by ultraviolet radiation. Try to stay out of the sun between 10 am and 3 pm, wear high SPF sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB, and wear a hat, sunglasses, and protective clothing.
  • Regular screenings: cell or tissue abnormalities can sometimes be detected before they become cancerous. Regular pap smears can prevent cervical abnormalities developing into cervical cancer and getting moles and skin conditions checked can prevent dangerous skin cancer. Cancer can also be detected at the early treatable stages by going for regular mammograms (for breast cancer), or prostate exams (for prostate cancer) as adults. The frequency of these exams will be age and risk dependent.
Ways to decrease cancer risk
Avoid smokingAvoid excessive alcohol consumptionEat a healthy diet
Regular physical activitySun protectionRegular screenings

Investigation: Cancer and Smoking


Investigating the relationship of smoking and cancer.


Look at the graph below and answer the questions that follow:



  1. In what year was the first incidence of lung cancer seen in male smokers?
  2. How many years was this after the introduction of cigarettes?
  3. In which year did the average number of cigarettes smoked per year reach a peak?
  4. Approximate how many years it takes most male smokers to develop cancer? Clue: Compare the number of years seen between the two line graphs for 1000, 2000, 3000 and 4000 cigarettes per year. Add the years together and divide by 4 to get the average time (in years) taken for smokers to develop cancer.
  5. What can you say about the shape of the two graphs? Do they look similar or different? What does this mean?
  6. What was the death rate from lung cancer in 1950? Express your answer as a percentage and show your working.
  7. Suggest a reason why the number of cigarettes smoked shows a decrease after 1945.

Investigation: Research on Cancer


To research and present information on one of the human cancers

Resources required

  1. Science journals such as “New Scientist”, “Scientific American” and any other journals you can find.
  2. Use the Internet widely including the websites below:
    • Howard Hughes Medical Institute: contains links for educators and learners on a variety of approaches to determining causes and potential cures for cancer:
    • Whitehead Institute for cancer research. This is one of the world’s leading cancer research labs where you can find interactive videos, links to other resources and information about a variety of cancers:


Using the resources available, you are required to research ONE of the cancers affecting humans. In particular you are required to:

  1. Write a report under the following main headings:
    • Discuss the major causes of the cancer: discuss cancer with respect to its genetic and/or environmental causes and how the cancer spreads within a particular individual.
    • Describe the common beliefs and attitudes concerning the particular cancer you have chosen to research: present the popular (common) attitudes people have about cancer, its treatment and how cancer is caused in the first place.
    • Describe the major forms of treatment available : what are the major treatments available. Provide an analysis of these under the sub-headings “Modern biotechnological methods” and “Traditional methods”.
    • Describe the prevalence of the cancer type: prevalence refers to how common a cancer is in a particular location. Provide statistics in the form of histograms and pie charts of how prevalent the cancer is in different age groups, races and genders.
  2. At the end of your report, provide a complete list of references of websites, articles and other sources of information used in compiling the report.
  3. Include any pictures, diagrams and information that you think may be relevant to your report.

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This is a lesson from the tutorial, Introducing the Cell and you are encouraged to log in or register, so that you can track your progress.

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